A normal, or neutral arch, is defined as an arch that is neither flat nor high. Often a neutral arch is also normal in its characteristics, such as having a normal range of motion in the different joints of the foot and at the ankle. At first glance one might think that this foot would be pain free but this is not necessarily the case.
A neutral arch put under abnormal stresses will still falter. After about 6 hours of time on our feet, the muscles in the lower legs and feet fatigue and become overused. When this occurs, the muscles have to work harder to do the same job as they were previously. For example, the tibialis posterior, which helps control the motion in the arch, can’t do its job in the same way and therefore more motion will occur through the arch as we walk. Generally, this occurs as overpronation through the midfoot. As the arch collapses the other muscles in the lower legs have to work harder to do their job. Also, muscles higher up the leg try to compensate and rotate the leg in the opposite direction. This can lead to knee pain or IT band tightness.
Often people think they have a neutral, or normal arch, but in fact when they stand the arch collapses and in turn when they walk overpronation occurs and the foot acts like a flat foot. Check for callusing on the side of the big toe which may indicate your foot is overpronating when you are walking. Another sign that there is too much motion occurring in your gait is callusing on the tips of the toes. To help stabilize the foot our toes grab the ground to create a more stable base.
If your neutral foot has limited range of motion, this may mean that your foot doesn’t absorb shock well. When a foot doesn’t absorb shock, the ground reaction forces that should be absorbed through the foot transfer up the chain. You may find that you experience ankle pain or shin splints that can occur when there is not proper shock absorption happening at the foot. While the knees and low back are further up the chain, they can certainly be affected by what is happening, or not happening, at the foot level.
Footwear recommendations for a neutral arch will vary depending on the way that the foot acts when you walk. One feature that is recommended is a heel counter. A heel counter helps hold the heel in place. A strong shank is also important. The shank stiffens the middle of the shoe and makes it resistant to bending and twisting. Shoes used for walking or running should also have ample cushioning. Cushioning provides protection and shock absorption for the feet. A Canadian Certified Pedorthist can help you determine which shoes are right for you and if an issue arises from your foot type, a Canadian Certified Pedorthist can give recommendations to help you move more comfortably.
Benefits of Orthotics
If you experience pain or discomfort in your day to day lifestyle or during activity, you may consider off the shelf insoles or custom made orthotics. These devices help to control excessive motion as well as absorb shock. Custom made orthotics can be made from a variety of material which is chosen to provide you and your feet with the best features to treat your specific issues.
Schedule an appointment with your local Canadian Certified Pedorthist to learn more about your foot type and what footwear and treatments are best for you.
By Jasmine Basner, C. Ped (C)