Moving to barefoot or minimalist shoes is about letting your feet do their natural thing, reconnecting your brain to your body, and the natural world around you.
It’s pretty awesome.
But are your high arches putting you off?
High arches can sometimes lead to aches and pains and other issues like shin splints and plantar fasciitis. How do you know if your arches are high? Step onto a piece of cardboard with wet feet, and check out your footprint. A high arch means you’ll only see the imprint of your forefoot and heel. A moderately high arch will show a thin line down the outer side of your foot. It’s a fairly common trait, which, if they’re not caused by an underlying illness, is probably down to your genes. What you do for your high arches though – that’s up to you. And because traditional podiatrists often push people with high arches into (expensive) orthotic inserts and ‘supportive’ shoes which actively weaken the foot’s muscles, it’s worth considering whether the problem is really the so-called solution…
What matters isn’t how HIGH your arches are but how STRONG they are.
Especially with high arches, strength is important: strong feet are less likely to be painful feet with restricted movement. ‘Support’ muscles with inserts and they stop working. After all, when does immobilizing a muscle make it stronger? (Never)
2. HOW you walk (and run) is more important than how high your arches are.
Wearing barefoot shoes can help develop a better walking and running gait, as your feet cannot land out in front of you in a crushing heel-strike. (Particularly bad for high arches). Better gait also means stronger feet – and body! So going barefoot might help you move better and build up foot strength, regardless of how high your arches are.
3. There are some studies that support barefoot being beneficial for arch strength.
While there is still a lot of research to be done, there are a few interesting studies to note. One Indian study compares regularly shod and unshod schoolkids and found the unshod kids had overall wider feet (a sign of foot strength) and presented with fewer flat feet. Another study found positive changes in the arches of people who increased their barefoot activity. A third study found that barefoot running did reduce the pronation of runners – something that can cause pain for people with high arches.