“The arch of the foot functions to absorb shock, store it, and then convert that energy into propulsion during the gait cycle,” explains Austin-based podiatrist, Anne Sharkey, DPM. “Arch supports in shoes can help by improving shock absorption, posture, and stability.”
Janine Ferrigno-Taddeo, DPM, agrees. “Arch support is important for keeping your feet and body aligned to help prevent injury,” she adds. “Proper arch support helps reduce overpronation and absorb shock, and orthotics help create an equal distribution of pressure as we walk or run.”
It’s also important to understand that some degree of pronation is normal and necessary for efficient gait dynamics. Your shoes should provide just the right amount of arch support for your foot shape specifically. Podiatrists say a common sign of too much arch support is if your shoes cause discomfort or you notice existing symptoms worsening with wear.
So, how do you know how much lift you need? Sharkey confirms that both flat-footed people and those with high arches will benefit from the right level of arch support. What this means will depend on your foot type—but as a general rule, you should seek a shoe that aims to bring the ground up to meet your arch. If you’re unable to find that in an orthopedic off-the-shelf model, your best bet is to consult with a podiatrist for a customized evaluation and, possibly, custom orthotic inserts. “High arches tend to do best with custom or semi-custom orthotics, due to the need to have devices that conform well to the foot,” Sharkey explains.