You will more often than not hear of the use of functional orthotics with those having flat feet. People are under the misconception that if you have a high arch your foot is more stable and better fitted for the daily wear and tear we subject our feet to. In the distant past, it was “flat feet” that even kept people out of the army.
In my many years in podiatric practice, while I have seen my fair share of patients with flat feet and their problems, I have also seen a significant population of people with high arches having aches and pains that at times far surpass those of flat feet.
While there are differences in degrees of high arch feet, suffice it to say that in general the foot of a high arch person does not have the same amount of “ground contact” as that of a flat footed person. This can make the foot quite unstable, when coming into contact with the ground. The more surface area that contacts the ground, the more the force is spread out across the bottom of the foot. (Imagine a pyramid vs. a square. The square is more stable as the ground pressure is more equally distributed.)
Problems with High Arches
Over time, a high arch foot will usually develop painful calluses on the balls of the feet as well as causing painful heels as the foot is unable to properly absorb and distribute the forces of walking. What a functional orthotic actually does is to help the foot to better come into contact with the ground as it more evenly distributes the pressure of each step. As an analogy I like to say it is like a pillow that is not only supporting the head but the neck and shoulders as well. The simple act of proper placement of a “metatarsal pad” behind the metatarsal heads works to support and distribute the ground force across all of the metatarsals. This is a very simplistic way of looking at it, as a functional orthotic actually controls the foot in all 3 of the body’s cardinal planes. By doing this, it also controls the movement of the sub-tailor and mid-tarsal joints. (This is what distinguishes a “functional” orthotic from an “over the counter” type of device.)
Orthotics Can Help End Pain in High Arches
Though it is hard to imagine how a custom fit orthotic device can make the life of a high arched person more comfortable on a daily basis, let me reassure you that a properly designed functional orthotic , usually combined with a properly fitted shoe, can make a once painful experience of just walking to get the mail into a pleasurable thing of joy…