When you look at your feet, do your soles have a large curve? When you’re standing, can you see a space under the arch of your foot from one side to the other? Pes cavus is the medical term for a high arch, it is the opposite of pes planus or flat feet. High arches are seen in about 10% of the population. This is normal foot type in itself, but it is one that has some inherent issues that come with this condition.
This foot type may lead to pain in the feet, knees, hips or lower back. If the foot is rigid, or stiff and doesn’t allow much movement within the foot, there will likely be an issue with shock absorption. Without proper shock absorption occurring in the feet, another area of the lower limb, such as the ankle or knee will absorb this additional shock and this can lead to pain.
Sometimes a high arch is combined with a flexible foot, and therefore acts more like a flat foot. Since there is too much movement within the joints of the foot issues may arise as the high arch flattens when you stand and walk. Common issues may include plantar fasciitis (heel pain) or medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints).
Conditions to Watch for in High Arched Feet
Toe conditions: Hammertoes (bent toes) or claw toes (toes clenched like a fist) are commonly seen with high arches. The toes act to help stabilize our feet and because there is less of the foot structure actually touching the ground in a high arched foot, your toes may have to work to grip the ground and help increase the stability of the foot.
Callusing: One of the issues that you can experience with a high arched foot is callusing. You should watch for calluses on the ball, side or heel of the foot. High arched feet touch the ground at the heel, big toe and little toe so this can lead to calluses at these 3 points due to the high pressures in these areas. Care needs to be taken to deal with the calluses that form to prevent worsening long-term problems such as sesamoiditis.
Metatarsalgia: Metatarsalgia is a blanket term used to describe pain in the ball of the foot. A Canadian Certified Pedorthist will help to get to the route cause of the pain. With high arches, the forefoot takes a lot of the weight and you could find that the fat pad that is made to protect the ball of foot (metatarsal heads) can be shifted forward or even thin out over time. This leaves the metatarsal heads more exposed. There are many different types of forefoot conditions that can be identified and treated with the help of your Canadian Certified Pedorthist.
Ankle pain: High arched feet are often poor shock absorbers. The rigid nature of the foot can lead to ankle pain as the midfoot does not absorb shock properly when you are walking or running. High arched feet are sometimes called C-shaped, for the curved shape that they have. The often increases pressure on the outside of the foot and can create instability. An unstable foot due to the heel tilting inward leaves the foot type prone to ankle sprains.
Finding shoes that are deep enough for your foot instep can be a challenge at some stores! In general, laced shoes are easier to fit you than slip on shoes. If you need slip on shoes, elastic gore in the upper can help you get your foot in and out of the shoe.
Make sure that the shoes you choose fit the foot by taking the insole out of the shoe and putting your foot on it. You don’t want to see any part of your foot hanging over any part of the insole. Sometimes with high arches, the foot can have a larger than average inward bend (in-flare). If the shoe is straighter than the foot, the toes can hang over one side or the other. This causes increased wear on the outside of the shoe and potentially ankle injuries with this foot type.
How Orthotics can Help
Canadian Certified Pedorthists are specialized in the manufacturing of custom made orthotics and have access to a wide variety of materials to make your orthotics. As discussed earlier, high arched feet often are not great at shock absorption so using materials that provide your feet with cushioning and shock absorption are often very important. Orthotics can relieve pressure from the sore spots on the foot and help stop callus formation by offloading the areas of high pressure. With proper shoes and a good orthotic the goal is to equalize the pressure on the bottom of the foot. Pressure on the bottom of the foot that was in just 3 spots is spread out over the foot more evenly.
Schedule an appointment with your local Canadian Certified Pedorthist to learn more about your foot type and what footwear and treatments are best for you.
By: Jim Pattison, C. Ped (C)