High Arch Treatment

 •  February 04, 2021

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What are high arches?

The arch of the foot is the part that curves up off the ground when you put your foot down. For some people this arch is low and almost flat. A flat arch can cause a lot of issues and an arch with a gentle curve is considered to be more healthy. But for other people the arch can be high and have a steep rise to it. This can be similarly problematic and is associated with a number of other foot conditions as well as general discomfort.

flat foot test

How can you tell if you have a high arch?

Although a doctor will be able to determine if the height of your arch is concerning, there is a widely accepted way to get a sense of your arch height at home. Place a piece of paper on the ground, preferably a paper that will show water marks easily like construction paper, and dampen a washcloth. Rub the entire bottom of your foot with the washcloth so that it is wet but not dripping, and step on the paper. Try to stand as normally as possible without putting additional weight or pressure on the foot that is making the print. Then remove your foot from the paper and look at the pattern on the paper. If the entire footprint is on the paper like a large rectangle or block, you may have flat feet. If the middle of the footprint narrows but does not disappear, you probably have a typical arch. However, if you only see the heel and the ball of the foot or just a very thin line connecting them, it is likely you have a high arch. That is a good enough indication that you should seek a professional opinion from a doctor.

Causes

Having a high arch is not the result of wearing high heels or tight shoes. Some people are just born with high arches. There are also several conditions that are associated with high arches such as:

•  Cerebral palsy

• Muscular dystrophy

• Stroke

•  Spina bifida

• Polio

However, having high arches does not necessarily mean that you have an underlying condition. High arches can be present in the absence of other diagnoses, with seemingly no cause other than anatomical anomaly. Having said that, high arches can also be the cause of other foot deformities including claw toes, hammer toes, and ankle instability. Because a high arch can put a larger than typical amount of pressure on the ball of the foot, the foot must try to compensate in ways that can strain the structures around it. Left untreated, high arches can become painful and lead to further problems down the road.

night splint

Treatments

There are many treatment options for high arches and most of them are minimally invasive. High arch shoe insoles and orthotic devices can sometimes ease the pain and discomfort of the foot but will not change the shape of the arch. They help by distributing the pressure that is carried by the ball of the foot and therefore easing some of the stress in that area. Not all shoe insoles and inserts are created equal, though, and it is important to look for a pair that specifies it offers pressure distribution and not just cushioning. For some, this intervention is enough to go about normal activity. Other treatments for acute pain include applying ice to the sore area or using over-the-counter pain medications. For chronic pain due to high arches, some people have found success with the consistent use of night splints. The splints are worn over the calf of the leg and the foot and work to stretch the arch of the foot. During the day, specialized shoes are also an option. For very severe cases, a doctor may recommend surgery to permanently correct the arch, though this is not commonly needed.

In the end, the safe thing to do if you suspect you have high arches is to visit your doctor. While high arches in themselves are not necessarily a reason to panic, there are so many other conditions associated with this presentation of the arch that it's better to be checked by a physician and be told that you are fine than to ignore it and end up worse off later down the line.

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