Boost Your Run – The Essential Guide to Choosing the Right Foot Arch Support

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

Ever wondered about foot arch supports for running and how they can impact your performance?

Well, you’re in the right place to uncover the secrets of arch support and why it’s a hot topic in the running community.

In today’s article, I’ll explain how arch support can make your runs smoother and help prevent those pesky injuries. So, lace up your running shoes, and let’s dive into the world of arch support together!

Anatomy of The Foot

Your feet are quite the complex construction zone, housing a total of 28 bones! These bones are neatly arranged to create both longitudinal and transverse arches, all held together with the help of various muscles and ligaments.

Today, our spotlight shines on the arch, a remarkable structure located on the underside of your foot, stretching from the heel to the ball. This arch is like a spring, doing double duty by supporting your body weight and cushioning the impact generated while you move.

Arches aren’t just there to look fancy; they’re workhorses in the locomotion department. They provide the energy needed to propel your body forward, making walking, running, and other activities possible.

What’s more?

Lack of support in the arch can potentially make your body more susceptible to injuries and various conditions, beginning right at the arch itself.

The Arches

Your foot has three arches: medial longitudinal, lateral longitudinal, and anterior transverse arch. These arches are shaped by the tarsal and metatarsal bones.

Let me explain each.

Arches are classified into three main types: flat, neutral, and high.

The Lateral Arch

Now that we’re getting acquainted with the foot’s anatomy, let’s zoom in on the lateral arch. This is one of the two longitudinal arches found in your foot, with its partner being the medial arch. Together, they create a dynamic support system that keeps you on your toes—literally!

The lateral arch is formed by the cooperation between the proximal end of the metatarsals (those long bones in the front part of your foot) and the tarsal bones (the ones found in the midfoot region). It’s worth noting that the lateral arch is the flatter of the two longitudinal arches.

When you stand, the lateral arch makes direct contact with the ground. This arch consists of several key players: the calcaneus (your heel bone), the cuboid bone, and the fourth and fifth metatarsals (those foot bones leading to your pinky toe).

Medial Arch

The medial arch stands tall as one of the two longitudinal arches in your foot. It rises gracefully from the ground, contrasting with the flatter lateral arch. This arch is a bit like the hero of your foot’s structural story.

So, who’s on the roster of the medial arch? It’s a star-studded cast, featuring the calcaneus (the heel bone), navicular bone, talus bone, the first, second, and third metatarsals (the long bones leading to your big and middle toes), and the three cuneiform bones (small wedge-shaped bones in your midfoot).

Transverse Arch

The transverse arch plays a critical role in your foot’s structure and function, particularly in the forefoot region.

What constructs this arch? The key players are the bases of the metatarsal bones, the cuboid bone, and the trio of cuneiform bones. Together, they form a sturdy foundation, allowing your foot to adapt and bear weight effectively.

Just like a river with its source and mouth, the transverse arch can be divided into two parts: proximal and distal. These divisions enhance the arch’s flexibility and responsiveness, allowing it to adapt to various surfaces and pressures.

The Bones Of The Arch

To truly appreciate the grandeur of the arch, one must understand its structural elements. In the world of foot anatomy, several bones come together like masterful artisans to craft the elegant arch, providing support, stability, and adaptability. Let’s meet these key players:

  • Navicular: This boat-shaped bone nestled between the talus and the cuneiforms is a cornerstone of the medial arch. Its strategic location and unique shape contribute to arch elevation.
  • Calcaneus: As the largest tarsal bone, the calcaneus forms the heel, and its position is pivotal for weight-bearing and shock absorption.
  • Medial Three Metatarsals: These metatarsal bones, from the first to the third, contribute their strength to the medial arch, helping it withstand the rigors of daily movement.
  • Talus: The talus bone, perched between the leg and the calcaneus, acts as a vital link in transmitting forces from the lower leg to the foot, ensuring proper weight distribution.
  • Cuneiforms: The trio of cuneiform bones plays a harmonious role in shaping and supporting the arch, working closely with the metatarsals and other neighboring bones.
  • Sesamoid Bones: These small, embedded bones under the metatarsal heads are like hidden gems, enhancing joint flexibility and reducing friction.

Each bone in this ensemble has its unique characteristics and purpose, much like the instruments in an orchestra, contributing to the symphony of movement that is the arch.

running at 50

What Is Foot Arch Support For Running

Arch support, in the realm of running, refers to a variety of aids and devices designed to bolster and cushion the natural arches of your feet. These aids come in various forms, from simple pads to intricately crafted orthotics tailored to your unique foot contours.

Two Paths to Comfort:

Arch support for runners can take two primary routes:

  • Built-in Support: Some running shoes are crafted with arch support tailored to specific arch types. For instance, shoes with ample cushioning are ideal for high arches, while stability shoes suit neutral arches. Those with low arches may benefit from motion-control shoes. These built-in features aim to provide the necessary support for your feet during the run.
  • Custom or Over-the-Counter Inserts: When the arch support integrated into your running shoes falls short, additional inserts can come to the rescue. These inserts are available in two main forms:
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) Inserts: These readily available, non-prescription inserts can be conveniently purchased at running stores. They offer a general level of arch support and are designed to cater to various foot types.
  • Custom-Made Orthotics: When precision and personalized support are required, custom orthotics, designed by specialists such as podiatrists, can be your go-to choice. These inserts are meticulously crafted to match the contours of your feet, ensuring optimal support and comfort.

Additional Resource – Here’s how many miles should a beginner run

The Importance of Arch Support For Running

If you’re a runner, then arch support is something you should consider.  Here are some of the reasons:

Protect Against Injury

Remember, your feet weren’t designed to endure the constant pounding of hard, flat surfaces. Neglecting proper support while running can increase the risk of discomfort and injury, affecting not only your feet but also your ankles, knees, hips, and back.

Some runners make the mistake of choosing running shoes based on style rather than functionality. However, research shows that cushioned insoles can significantly reduce the impact forces your feet experience while running. So, prioritize support and function over looks when selecting your running shoes.

Additional resource – Running shoes for plantar fasciitis

Extra Support

Extra support from arch supports can be a real game-changer for runners who require specialized assistance, particularly those with flat feet or a history of plantar fasciitis. These supports can help alleviate discomfort and prevent further damage, which is crucial for those dealing with knee, hip, and back alignment issues.

Reduce Pain

Reducing pain is a common motivation for runners to try arch support. Research has indicated that it can be effective in soothing foot pain. As a runner, foot pain can be incredibly uncomfortable and make weight-bearing activities challenging. Arch support can be a valuable tool in managing and alleviating this pain.

Distributed Pressure

Effective arch support can help distribute pressure more evenly across the feet, relieving some of the stress on the ball of the foot and the heel. This can significantly improve comfort and reduce the risk of discomfort and pain during physical activities like running.

Additional guide – How to prevent Foot pain in runners

How To Determine Arch Height

As I’ve mentioned earlier, arches vary from person to person. Overall, arch types are broken down into three main classes: high, neutral, and low.

There are also many ways to determine your arch type. These include

The Wet Test

Determining your arch type is relatively easy and can be done using the wet paper towel test.

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Wet your feet.
  • Step onto a dry surface like a piece of paper towel or a sidewalk.
  • Examine the footprint left by your foot.

Here’s what your footprint can reveal about your arch type:

  • If you see your entire foot with no narrowing in the middle (the arch), you likely have flat feet, which is often associated with overpronation in running.
  • If you see a thin strip connecting the balls of your feet and heels, you probably have a high arch, which is often associated with underpronation (supination) during running.
  • If you see the balls of your feet, heels, and some of the middle part of your foot, you likely have a neutral or medium arch.

At A Store

Visiting a specialized running store is another great way to determine your arch type and get expert advice. The knowledgeable staff at these stores can assist you in the following ways:

  • Analyzing Your Arch Type: They can assess your arch type by observing your gait and foot shape and conducting tests to identify whether you have flat feet, high arches, or neutral arches.
  • Recommending Appropriate Shoes: Based on your arch type and running style, they can recommend running shoes that provide the right amount of support and cushioning. This ensures a comfortable and injury-free running experience.
  • Providing Running Tips: Running store staff often have valuable insights into running techniques and training strategies that align with your arch type. They can offer guidance on how to run more efficiently and reduce the risk of injuries.

At a Specialist/Doctor

Visiting a specialist or doctor is one of the most accurate methods to determine your arch height and type. They can conduct various tests and measurements to provide a precise assessment. Some of the common tests include:

  • Navicular Drop Test: This test involves measuring the height of the navicular bone while standing and then again while seated. The difference in height helps determine the degree of arch collapse.
  • Medial Longitudinal Arch Angle: This test assesses the angle formed by specific landmarks on your foot, providing information about the arch type.
  • Arch Height Index: The arch height index involves measuring the length and width of your foot, allowing for a more detailed analysis of arch height and shape.

But do you need one?

The need for arch support in running varies from one runner to another, and it’s a topic that garners different opinions among experts. There’s no definitive answer, as some experts advocate for arch support while others do not.

So, should you be concerned about arch support? It ultimately depends on your individual circumstances. If you have flat to low arches, you might find running in shoes with arch support or using orthotics more comfortable. An easy and cost-effective way to test this is by trying over-the-counter orthotics in a neutral shoe.

If you experience improved comfort and support, then incorporating arch support into your running routine may be beneficial. On the other hand, if you don’t notice any significant difference, you may not need arch supports, despite the claims made in advertisements targeting runners with flat or low arches.

Ultimately, the decision rests with you, and you should prioritize your comfort and running experience..

Guide To Foot Arch Support For Running – The Conclusion

There you have it! If you’re looking for a quick guide to arch support for runners, then today’s post should get you started on the right foot. The rest is just details.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below.

Thank you for dropping by.

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