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To define easily the foot’s arch, it is the curved part of the foot, the inner raised area. It is composed by bones, ligaments and tendons.The arch assures main and critical functions such as weight bearing and repartition, assist ambulation and propulsion (the fact of walking and running) and overall balance.
As we all know, feet are an underestimated, yet crucial part of the body: they are taken care of, most of the time, only when a problem occurs and prevention is rarely on sight.
The arch is a sensitive part of the foot that is no exception to the rule, and you can imagine the consequences of ignoring and paying little attention to an arched part of the body bearing all of the weight.
One of the most well-known foot arch pathologies is plantar fasciitis: it’s basically pain that covers the foot bottom area and runs from the heels up to the toes. It can be related to different causes like standing or walking a lot during the day, overweight, strain on your muscles because of too much (bad) exercising or unadapted shoes.
To help recover from plantar fasciitis, usually time is your best ally, alongside to rest. You can also take some pain killers (what prescribed by your doctor) and get additional external support like heel pads or arch support. In this article we are going to go through a little bit deeper into arch support and how beneficial it can be in facts.
Prevent fallen arches
Indeed this is very specific and arguable function as not everyone will suffer from fallen arches (flat feet) and it’s difficult to define parameters that will determine if you are prone to suffer from this, however, for people who would face feet problems or happen to have very soft tissues or are suffering from another kind of foot problem, podiatrists may recommend to use arch support that is typically found as an insole, semi-flexible, whose inner middle is slightly lifted to help the arch support. Those insoles can be bought in specialised shops, pharmacies and retails but can also be custom-made. The insoles in the shops are usually affordable, the custom-made ones are a bit pricey: better check with your insurance policy on validate the investment.
Plantar fasciitis or general foot pain can be handicapping and limit you ambulation and overall ability to move, but it’s unlikely somebody will stay immobilized by a foot pain, so using an arch support can reduce the pain sensation and help in gaining back mobility.
Provide support during exercise
In your daily life, your body mass is already supported by four feet, when you are exercising, the weight is increased and requires further shock absorption by your feet, that’s why it’s critical to have adapted footwear and additional support if needed.
Achieve overall balance
Have you noticed how differently you walk when you are barefoot, on high heels or walking on an unstable surface such as sand ? The arch is responsible to help you stay on your feet and balanced. It’s important to bring it some support when needed (physical condition or simply age)
Not for the long term
This type of non-invasive external support is good to recover from injury, to assist during sport practice or be used daily upon medical recommendation, however, it should not be worn all the time without medical advice or physical need: providing consistent support can make some of the small muscles become “lazy”, as they won’t be solicited anymore, hence, it’s better not to wear indeterminately arch support -if not needed- and make the muscles work and stay strong.
Whether it is custom-made orthotic inserts or insoles bought in a shop can be very useful, the studies available show great results and life improvement for people that suffer particular feet problems (neuropathy due to diabetes or plantar fasciitis), however, the studies focus less on “regular” healthy people and the impact and benefits that an external arch support could potentially bring. It’s advised to use it when needed, not for an extended use, and if it’s the case, you should be under medical supervision. Indeed, for the seniors this can be a real help in the daily life.
As for the choice of the arch support, you have four main types of devices :
- Custom-made orthotic insert: the most personalized and medically-driven option. The podiatrist will analyse and measure foot in order to create the most suitable arch support. It will typically full foot coverage
- Gel inserts: they are very convenient cause usually they are pretty small and are meant to fill up the area between the arch and the foot. As it’s gel, they are the most discreet option, especially for the ladies who still want to wear relatively open shoes.
Here’s are few examples:
– Arch support insoles Pu Gel
– Dr. Foot’s arch support insole
– Dr Scholl dreamwalk hidden arch support
- Arch support insert: the regular insert that you can buy in the shops or online. They are usually semi-flexible and fit for several foot sizes.They are really adapted for occasional purposes like sports or recovering from a foot injury.
Here’s a few examples:
– Powerstep full length orthotic shoe insole
– Samurai Insoles ® orthotics for flat feet
– Envelop full length orthotics
- Cushioned arch support: the fluffy looking ones. Those arch support can be worn with shoes or at home barefoot and even with flip-flops and other kind of home footwear as the come with an elastic that you pass through your foot. Probably not recommended for people suffering from neuropathy or poor blood circulation as the pressure caused by the elastic around the foot is unsuitable, but indeed a nice and easy to wear at home.
The most popular on the market are :
– Strutz cushioned arch support
– DR JK kit for plantar fasciitis