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Health

Good footing: The importance of knowing your type

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Putting one foot in front of the other can seem like a pretty simple task. But there is actually a lot that goes into this, as the foot is one of the most complex structures of the human body.

There are 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments that connect to the foot and make it function, according to this week’s “Take Care” guest, podiatrist Dr. Neal Blitz. Blitz is a reconstructive foot and ankle surgeon, the creator of the bunionplasty bunion surgery procedure, and a fellow of the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons.

Blitz says the bones of the feet are arranged in an arch, designed to do two things: support our body weight and be a shock absorber for daily living.

So if you have an arch that’s too high or too low, it can cause problems, not just with your feet, but other parts of your body as well.

“The foot really does play a role in your overall alignment and just your overall health,” Blitz said, also making the point that if you have a bad foot it prevents you from being active.

Although athletes may look more into depth about how their feet operate, focusing on how they function with activity, Blitz says for the average person it’s most important to know your arch type. Knowing your arch type can allow you to buy the proper shoes and provide you with knowledge on how to care for your feet.

To learn your arch type, there’s a simple test you can do: look at your footprint. Blitz mentions the “wet test,” which is just wetting your foot and stepping on a brown paper bag.

“A normal arch is one where about half of the arch touches the ground,” Blitz said. “This is ideal because the foot has good structural stability, and again, is also able to absorb impact properly.”

To know if you have a low arch, Blitz says almost your whole foot will touch the ground. This arch type can cause problems with your tendons, as well as cause bunions and hammer toes. As for a high arch, Blitz says this footprint will have the middle virtually missing. This can cause weak ankles and make it easier to get sprains and stress fractures in both the ankle and the leg, according to Blitz.

Unfortunately, Blitz says most shoes are tailored toward a normal arch type, and it can be difficult to find shoes that properly support a low or high arch. However, if you do have a high or low arch, Blitz mentions some tips to keep in mind when buying shoes.

  • Make sure shoes feel comfortable
  • If you have a low arch avoid high heels and flat shoes with no support
  • If you have a high arch, make sure your shoes have some sort of cushion

“It’s definitely possible to need foot surgery from wearing the wrong shoes,” Blitz said.
Along with looking for certain characteristics in shoes that will support your arch type, Blitz also says orthotic shoe inserts could be something to consider. There are two types of inserts, over-the-counter inserts and custom inserts which require a prescription.

Over-the-counter inserts will generally help anyone who has foot problems and are a good place to start, according to Blitz. But if you feel like the generic option just isn’t doing it for you, that may be when you want to look into seeing a health professional for a prescription insert.

“They are molded to your foot and they can be medically adjusted for your foot type,” Blitz said.