Runners with High Arches

Flat feet get a lot of hype as they make running hard, but if you have high arches, running can be equally challenging, even painful. Running without proper shoes and care can lead to problems with your knees and hips. Moreover, if you don’t have the right knowledge, buying the right shoes can be a cumbersome experience despite there being a wide variety of good options available on the market.

What causes high arches?

The biggest cause of high arches is bad genetics, i.e. natural orthopedic shape which usually runs in the family. Also, neuromuscular disorders such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndrome can cause tendon loss, leading to high arches. Although not very common, another cause of high arches can be neurological, and in this case, one arch is usually higher than the other. It’s almost impossible to control the occurrence of high arches, however, you can do a few things to mitigate their impact. 

Common issues caused by high arches

When running, your knee and hip joints experience intense shock each time the foot lands on the ground. The key to absorbing shock is pronation of the feet, i.e. the rotation of your foot after it hits the ground. In neutral stride, the foot turns slightly inward which offers optimal shock absorption. Excessive rotation inward is called over-pronation, and foot turning outwards is supination. Both over-pronation and supination can lead to injuries, especially for runners with high arches. The most common issues include discomfort due to high-arched feet, shin splints or fracture, joint pain, back degeneration, ankle plantar stiffness, knee hyperextension, hip pain, and Achilles tendonitis.

How to avoid injury

Warming up and starting slow are the keys to sprinting long distances for anybody, but its importance is paramount for high-arched runners. Stretching your legs and back before hitting the trail or road can also be beneficial. Once you’re ready to go, these two things can minimize the chances of an injury and help you run better:

1- Running barefoot

Running barefoot has many benefits. The earliest humans used to walk, run, and hunt barefooted. This is why when running barefoot, the nerve endings at plantar aspect (sole) of the feet, that communicate with your brain, get triggered better but are hampered when using thickly cushioned shoes.

Several scientific studies have proven the advantages of walking and running barefoot. For example, this study published in the National Library of Medicine showed that earthing or walking barefooted influences your physiological processes and can increase relaxation. What’s more, the subjects who ran barefoot got better night sleep as compared to those who ran in shoes.

Another huge benefit of barefoot running is impact moderating behavior that improves your overall posture. It reduces the risk of injury, speeds up the recovery process, and helps your spine adjust to the shocks reducing the risk of back injury.

Last but not the least, barefoot running encourages the forefoot stride which is the ideal style of running for people with high arches. Forefoot strides absorb maximum shock as compared to when you land on your heel. On the flip, when using thickly cushioned shoes, you’re always going to land on your heel instead of your forefoot.

However, this does not mean you should run barefoot all the time. In fact, running at moderate pace for about 5 to 10 minutes before and/or after you run in your shoes can bring all the benefits. It goes without saying to be careful while running barefoot outside and choose your terrain wisely to ensure your feet don’t get injured.

2- Choosing the right type of shoes

Most traditional running shoes come with a lot of cushioning at the heel because that’s the part of your foot that lands on the ground first when running. However, that approach is not ideal for people with high arches as it can lead to complications. Try to find shoes that mimic barefoot running. There are two ideal types of such shoes, the minimalist and barefoot shoes. And if you have high arches, make sure there is ample cushioning under the arch, or the heel and ball of your foot will have to bear a lot more impact. The right size is also very important; make sure your shoes are snug everywhere, but tight nowhere.

Final words

As you grow older, your high arches might start to fall which can be painful and impede your running. Several other factors such as weight gain, injury to the tendons and ligaments around the feet, and wearing wrong shoes can also cause the arches to fall.

-By Joe Flemming

One Response to Runners with High Arches

  1. Hanna Harris June 9, 2019 at 1:51 am #

    Hi, I was born with inverted feet with high arches both sides of feet ( as well as dislocated sacroiliacs ). Whenever I have run on forefoot I have suffered extreme shin splints ALWAYS. Also the so called proper running stride causes excessive arch tension.
    I have tried all sorts of therapies and running styles inc barefoot and have discovered the best technique is heel to forefoot strike with attention on allowing knees to “spring” and maintaining a long upright stride.
    In fact my over all joint hypermobility has led me to study fitness.
    I would go as far as to say that forefoot stride woul be worse on calves and Achilles as it forces an eccentric contraction.
    I think it all comes down to dynamic wight distribution and engaging the whole body.
    Just saying 🙃

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