Most people, it’s safe to say, decide to buy a shoe based on numerous factors that don’t include orthopedic health. They’ll choose a shoe because of the cost, material, brand, or design, but rarely does it occur to the consumer to think about the arch support the shoe provides.
This is a shame, because arguably, this ought to be a shopper’s number one concern: how is it going to make my feet feel? Will it eliminate foot pain, or end up causing it? Luckily, there are a number of different types of arches found in shoes meant to protect the natural shape of a human foot arch so that your feet are protected and happy.
Common types of arch support systems include orthotics, arch cushions, cushion insoles, and sport insoles.
Perhaps the most popular type of arch support is orthotic arch support. Orthotics have insoles with rigid arch supports to make sure that your feet don’t flatten, which can cause injury to tendons. With an insole that includes a rigid built-in arch support, the natural shape of your arch is preserved while walking and standing, which is better for your feet.
Another popular type of arch support is arch cushions. Arch cushions are great for people who have less severe arches and little to no foot pain. They still have prominent built-in arches, but these are typically made from foam rather than plastic or rigid gel, so they’re somewhat softer than typical orthotics. These are great for people with high arches whose feet are too sensitive for plastic-based orthotic inserts or insoles.
Cushion insoles are another popular choice. These are made with comfort in mind first, then arch support. While they still include a slight arch, the arches are soft and squishy like the rest of the sole for optimal comfort. These arch supports are great for people who spend long hours on their feet, as they are the most comfortable option while still keeping feet in good form.
Another type entirely is used for sports shoes like running shoes, tennis shoes, and cleats. The insole and arches on these shoes are dependent on the needs of the athlete who wears them. For instance, an insole built for a marathoner is going to be different than that of a cyclist who is attached to his bike.
Runner's World Magazine suggests a test to find out what kind of arch you have. You can do this simple and informative test by dipping your feet in water or paint and stepping on butcher paper. If you have high arches, there will be a skinny line connecting the ball of your foot to your heel, and if you have lower arches, that connector will be wider, as more of your foot touches the paper.
Once you know what kind of arch you have, you can purchase shoes accordingly--a higher or stiffer insole for high arches, or a softer insole for lower arches.
Once you get to know your own arches, you’ll be amazed at what a difference an arch and insole match can make. Help yourself to prevent foot pain by finding some shoes with perfect insoles for you.