(This article is for education purposes only and not intended as medical advice.)
Conventional wisdoms might say that if you have high arches you need to have a shoe with high arch support. Yet, most runners shoes never get a shoe with high arches. They get a neutral support shoes that allows the foot to move without arch support. These shoes tend to have soft cushioning.
Zero Drop Shoes are generally good for most people with high arches. If zero drop shoes have minimal cushioning it’s recommended to gain foot strength first. A zero drop shoe can help with foot muscle development which may help reduce pain in some people with high arches.
Choosing a zero drop shoe may help strengthen your foot and help your foot feel better overall, although some people with high arches may still benefit from orthotic arch support. In, addition, foot exercises can help relieve some issues over time. Consult your doctor for how to best move forward.
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High Arches and Choosing the Right Shoes
A high arch can be genetic, where you’re born with it, from neuromuscular/neurological issues, or it can occur in athletes that haven’t stretched their foot muscles enough. You may have foot problems associated with having a high arch such as plantar fasciitis, hammertoes, arch stiffness, knee pain, metatarsalgia, etc.
If you have high arches you probably have seen wear on the outside edges of your shoe. This occurs with those who have high arches because their ankles tend to lean out (under-pronate or supinate) because of their high arch.
When deciding on the shoes you should wear, it can important to consult your doctor to get the right diagnosis and to help you choose different options that may be available to you. They may recommend a specific type of shoe, an orthotic, or exercising your feet.
You may be looking for shoes that reduce the amount of pain in your feet and other joints. Having high arches usually means most of the weight is placed on the heel and ball of the foot and less impact is placed on the arch. Shoes with more cushioning tend to help reduce the impact that occurs with those with high arches.
So should you get a zero drop shoe? Many people with high arches can benefit from a zero-drop shoe because they can help strengthen their feet. Stronger foot muscles can absorb more energy from impacts and can help reduce the impact on the heel and ball of the foot when walking, running, or other activities.
Zero Drop Shoes Help Distribute Weight Better
Cushioning Changes Weight Distribution
A lot of runners love to have a thick cushion in the heel of their running shoe because then they can land on their heel and not feel the impact of the landing much at all. This might seem like a good idea at first but over time it may lead to less foot strength.
A thicker midsole feels so soft and seems to prevent injuries, but when runners wear them they get into the habit of impacting the ground harder on their heel. They can tend to land straight-legged when taking longer strides. This can reduce muscle activation, weaken the foot, and impact the knees.
The cushioning prevents the arch and the muscles from doing their job, so feet tend to get weaker over time if they are in a shoe with lots of cushion. Injuries occur with longer runs.
Zero drop shoes can have a lot of cushioning but tend to have less. They tend to allow more midfoot and forefoot landings when running. This helps the arch absorb and reduce the level of energy needed when running.
These shoes put the heel and the ball of the foot on an even plane so it’s as if they are on a flat surface. This lets the arch do its job more often and helps the muscles activate more as well.
More Even Weight Distribution
A zero drop shoe tends to “move, bend, and flex in a more natural way”(Link – I wrote an article about zero drop shoes for walking). This helps your muscles activate more and get stronger. You tend to walk more naturally and this can help your foot, ankle, and bone alignment.
You put pressure on the heel less and the entire foot more. Your foot is positioned just like a barefoot walker, on a level surface. This helps you walk in a more natural biomechanical way.
You benefit from more muscle use and since your heel is not longer lifted high, your Achilles tendon and plantar facia can function as intended. (If you have pain in your Achilles tendon or have plantar fasciitis don’t use zero drop shoes; you need to heal first and slowly gain foot strength.)
Zero drop shoes usually have a wide toes box, so your toes get used more, helping you gain better control and foot strength.
If you have medical issues with your feet, a zero drop shoe may not be what you need at first. Your feet need to stronger like an active walker or runner. Then using a zero drop shoe will likely benefit you.
Also, if you have a shoe with a high drop and don’t try going to a zero drop shoe right away; transition slowly. Your foot needs time to get used to them and adjust. Spend a little more time each week in your zero drop shoes, but not so much that your feet hurt.
Zero Drop Shoes Help With Muscle Development
If you have flat feet or high arches, the more muscles you develop in your feet, the more likely your muscles can absorb impacts even if your arch is too low or too high. Many people have feet that hurt because they just don’t have any muscles that can support the arch area.
- Arch Supports
If your doctor says you have a medical issue with your foot (i.e. plantar fasciitis, etc.) then try to resolve this issue first before using zero drop shoes. (Here’s an article about ways to treat plantar fasciitis)
Sometimes you need arch support because of medical issues with your feet. People find that arch support for high arches tends to help them. Yet, you may not always need them for the rest of your life.
- Muscle Development With High Arches
You could start developing your foot muscles to improve your foot strength and this may help your feet feel less pain and function better.
Lots of cushion in shoes does not help with muscle development, but a zero drop shoe is a step in the right direction. Some zero drop shoes do have lots of cushion while others are more minimal. Either way, your foot will likely benefit from more use of your muscles in a zero drop shoe.
“It comes down to support and form” (See my article – Does Barefoot Running Heal Injuries?). When we walk the muscles in our arch help create structure, just like a building.
- Muscles are the Main Ingredient for Healthy Feet
Imagine a brick and mortar wall that has little to no steel rebar in it. With a few shakes or impacts with the wall, it will start to crack. The weight of the wall is too much for just the bricks and mortar to handle by themselves. It needs steel rebar to hold it together and keep it strong.
Our foot is similar to a wall. We have “26 bones, 30 joints”, and lots of ligaments. (arthritis.org) This keeps our foot supported, flexible, and held together, but we can forget about the “29 muscles” in the foot. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
These muscles are like the steel rebar in a wall. If they are small and weak, the wall will not stay together under pressure. If our muscles are strong and flexible, they can hold take on a lot of the pressure that comes with walking and running.
- What Happens to Muscles in a Zero Drop Shoe?
Zero drop shoes will activate your muscles more than a shoe with an incline from toe to heel.
Since you will tend to land less on your heel your knee will bend more and your leg muscles can absorb a little more impact from running.
You will land on your mid to forefoot when running which will help with softer landings.
When walking you will roll your foot more naturally likely helping with activating your muscles more often.
- Not All High Arches Will Respond Well to Zero Drop Shoes
Sometimes your bones are just stuck. They won’t move much at the joints and your arch will always be high. A zero drop shoe may not help this type of arch enough. It’s likely that people with permanently high arches will benefit from lots of muscle development to see improvements to their foot health, and at some point, a zero drop shoe may be helpful.
This video give information about identifying arch type and they talk about high arch shoe choices.
- With a high arch, you will likely want to take it slowly and get your foot used to activating its muscles a little more each day. You don’t want to overdo it and cause an injury.
- Zero drop shoes are generally good for high arches.
- Consult with your doctor to get the right diagnosis for your high arches.
- Select a zero drop shoe with more cushion if your foot muscles are weaker, and less cushion if your feet are stronger.
- Wear zero drop shoes if you don’t have any preexisting conditions (plantar fasciitis, etc.) to help your feet get stronger and this may help your feet feel better over time.
- Stronger foot muscles mean your foot can take impacts better.
- Take it slow when transitioning to a zero drop shoe.
Thanks for visiting Helpshoe.com
runrepeat.com – Arch support Study
youtube.com – Information about the impact of footwear on our feet