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Arch support

The concept of the arches of the foot and the need for arch support has been debated for a very long time. There are so many misconceptions about arches and arch support.
There are generally considered to be two arches in the foot the longitudinal arch is the obvious one and is the one most people mean when they say foot arch.
There is a large amount of misinformation about arches and the support of arches with arch supports. When people talk about arches they generally are talking of the long arch that runs from the heel to the toes. They forget about the transverse arch as this is less obvious to the average patient. The transverse arch runs across the midfoot. There are several misconceptions about the anterior transverse metatarsal arch there should be none all metatarsal heads should bear weight, so there is no arch across the ball of the foot. There are metatarsal pads designed for the support of this arch, but while these sorts of pads are helpful to treat several conditions, they should not be used to support an arch that does not exist.
The concept of the arches that is often used is flawed pictures are often seen as the arches being solid structures that do not move. The foot is dynamic and during walking is always moving. The arch is going up and down this is normal. So, while a fallen arch may not be a problem, it is how the arch functions during dynamic walking that is important. The height of the arch is not necessarily a problem it is how the foot functions that can be the problem. There are a lot of people with high and low arches that never have problems. A pronated foot will obviously lower the arch, by rolling in at the ankles, this can cause problems. There are a wide range of underlying causes for the arch lowering such as foot pronation.  Too much emphasis gets placed on the static height of the arch and not enough on how the foot may function during walking and running.
Devices such as functional foot orthotics are used to alter foot function,  the foots own arch support mechanism is often called the windlass mechanism. The idea of foot orthotics, which may look like good old fashioned arch supports, is to facilitate this mechanism. Foot orthotics are not an expensive name for arch supports custom foot orthoses are quite different in design and how they function.
Those with arches that are low do not always have problems. They will often have problems if they have a foot that is over pronated . The symptoms can vary from mild pain  in the aches and the forefoot to heel spurs. There are a number of exercises that have been suggested as helping fallen arches, but the evidence is that they do not help.
If the cause of the problem is contributed to by weak muscles, then the exercises will help that is  why the diagnosis of the cause is so important after examining your gait your Podiatrist will normally be able to correctly diagnose the cause of your pain.
Tight calf muscles are a common cause of a pronated foot this does cause the arch to lower or fall, so stretching these muscles plays a very important role. Do not believe anyone when they say that arch supports or foot orthotics weaken the foot. There is no evidence to support this. The use of foot orthotics is the mainstay of the treatment of what some consider to be fallen arches. Not all foot orthotics are the same and there are as many different variables that can go into them as there are feet, hence the importance of proper diagnosis. Custom orthotics will only help if the symptoms are due to abnormal foot function. If you feel like you may need Arch Support visit your Podiatrist.

 

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Page last updated 14 October, 2007