Foot Shape: Which One Do You Have?
You’ve heard of palm readers, but did you know that some people say that you can learn things about your personality from the shape of your foot? If your second toe is longer than your other toes, they claim, you are creative, energetic, and love to make mischief; if your toes are all the same length you are patient, reliable, and honest, and if your toes are widely spaced you have a touch of wanderlust.
The jury may still be out on the accuracy of “foot reading”, but it is true that feet come in many shapes and sizes—and that the shape of your foot can give some clues to your long-term foot health. The better you understand your own unique feet, the better you’ll be able to care for them through the many steps and stages of your life.
One of the most important differences between feet is in the curvature of the arch. Arches can be high, neutral, or flat; and while environmental factors play a part, the basic shape of your arch is most often determined by genetics. You can usually tell what kind of arch you have just by looking at your foot, but another simple test is to step on a dry concrete sidewalk or a piece of absorbent paper with wet feet and look at the footprints you leave behind.
A high arch, also known as a cavus foot, will leave almost no arch impression—often just showing the toes and the heel. A high arch is only a problem if it leads to too much pressure on the ball and heel of the foot, which means less-than-effective shock absorption and the risk of strained joints and muscles. The best treatment for high arches is shoes or shoe inserts with extra cushioning to compensate.
A flat arch—sometimes called a “fallen arch”–will leave a footprint showing almost the whole foot. Flat feet often begin in childhood when the tendons that pull an arch upward never fully tighten; flat feet are generally not in and of themselves painful but, like high arches, over time they can change the way you walk and lead to problems in your ankles or legs.
The footprint of a normal arch will be half-filled in the middle. A normal arch is the most common and the most desirable of foot shapes, but as you age and maybe put on a few pounds, that normal arch could begin to flatten out. You can help preserve your nice arch by wearing shoes with plenty of support.
Another way your feet are unique is in their type and degree of pronation—a fancy word for the amount your foot rolls side to side when you walk or run. A little pronation is normal, but if your foot and ankle roll too far inward your feet are overpronated, which can lead to radiating pain from the arch to the ankle, shin splints and knee problems. The opposite problem is underpronation, also known as supination, where the foot and ankle roll too far outward and can cause ankle injuries and Achilles tendonitis. Overpronation often accompanies flat feet and underpronation is sometimes caused by high arches; in both cases, once again, the right shoe and the right orthotic can go a long way towards solving the problem.
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