Runners Guide To High Arches

While some feel that flat feet are the only bio-mechnaical issue that runners can face. In this guide, we take a look at high arches and how they can affect you as a runner.

You have high arches, that’s a good thing, right? Wrong. Just when you thought your high and mighty foot arches were preferable to having pavement-slapping flat feet, it turns out that they too can cause a myriad of problems for you as a runner. In this article, we answer your questions on the issues surrounding high-arched feet.

What Are High Arches?

The medical term for very high arches is pes cavus, but not all cavus feet are the same. As the name suggests, a large gap is visible between the arch of a cavus foot and the floor, but the height of the arch will vary from one person to the next.

… and What Causes Them?

If you have high arches, much greater pressure is placed on the ball and heel of each foot as you stand or walk and this can lead to pain in your feet and legs in everyday life.

Other problems include a tendency for toes on a cavus foot to curl under, known as clawing, and this increases the potential to suffer from corns on the toes or callouses on the ball of the foot as it can be difficult to find shoes that fit comfortably.

But, depending on the severity, not everyone with high arches experiences pain, and it can be something that only becomes problematic when those feet take up running!

High Arch Implications for Runners

High-arched feet are less effective shock absorbers compared to normal feet, meaning the shock generated by each heel strike as you walk or run travels up through the ankles, knees and hips and into the lower back instead.

When you put this together with the added pressure on the ball and heel of a high-arched foot and then throw a high-impact activity into the mix, something is going to give.

Potential problems include:

  • Joint pain – the repetitive shock transmitted from the foot as it strikes the ground can lead to joint pain in the ankles, knees and hips.
  • Shin splints and stress fractures – the inability to absorb the shock can lead to stress fractures in the bones of the feet or shin splints as mileage increases.
  • Plantar fasciitis – the soft tissues forming the sole of the foot are put under huge strain when a high-arched foot strikes the ground. The stretch created with each running stride can lead to plantar fasciitis and the associated heel pain.
  • Ankle sprains – high arches can cause the whole foot to tilt onto its outer edge, creating pressure points through the uneven distribution of weight and also making you more susceptible to ankle sprains as your foot is less stable.
  • Achilles tendonitis – the outward tilt of a high-arched foot can also lead to strain on the Achilles tendon as you run.

You Have High Arches and You Want to Run, Now What?

The potential problems listed above make grim reading if you have high arches, but they don’t represent the end of the road if you’re a runner. Preventing overuse injuries and protecting your feet and joints comes down to kitting yourself out with appropriate running shoes.

Other Options

Orthotic insoles can provide the additional support your feet need without having to invest in new running shoes. Off-the-shelf or custom insoles can help to stabilise the foot, provide additional shock absorption, and relieve pressure points by spreading the weight load more evenly across the foot.

An appointment with a podiatrist or sports therapist is recommended to get the best solution for your feet.

Exercises designed to build strength and increase the flexibility of your feet can provide a long-term solution to staying pain-free as you run. Here are a few examples:

  • Foot Stretch – Sit straight-legged on the floor and loop a towel around the soles of your feet, adjusting it to put the pressure on the balls of your feet. Flex your feet so that your toes point towards you and then increase the stretch by pulling gently on the towel.
  • Toe Drumming – Sitting or standing, place your feet flat on the floor and then raise your toes. Allow your toes to return to the floor one at a time, creating an effect that’s similar to drumming your fingers on a table. This might take a little practise!
  • Toe Squeeze – Place your fingers between your toes and then squeeze your toes as hard as you can against them. With practise, you’ll be able to hold the squeeze for 10 seconds before relaxing and then repeating the squeeze.

Make sure you watch this great video by Robin DuFour for some more great foot exercises.

So, there you have it. High arches can be problematic, but they needn’t prevent you from running. High-tail your high arches to a specialist running shop today – but don’t become Forrest Gump tomorrow. Whatever your running level, follow a progressive training programme to ensure you stay injury free.