Foot Arch Types

Designed to absorb shock and prevent injury, your foot’s arch is made up of tarsal and metatarsal bones, along with supporting ligaments and tendons. Foot arches are classified into three different categories, all of which present their own challenges. Learn the characteristics of each type by reading below.


Low Arch or Flat Feet

Low foot arches are very close to the ground with only a little bit of space in between. In some cases, there may be no arch definition whatsoever, in which case you are said to have flat feet. However, the term flat feet is often used to describe those with low arches as well, since people with low arches and flat feet tend to experience similar problems.

Fallen arches may result in a low arch or flat foot as well. This may happen if you experience trauma to the foot, or the posterior tibial tendon that supports your arch becomes weakened.

If you have low arches, your footprint will reveal almost all of your foot. You will see little or no curvature in the arch area.

Problems with Low Arches

According to the Institute of Preventive Foot Health, around 8 percent of American adults have flat feet. Another 4 percent have been diagnosed with fallen arches. A flat foot or low arch leaves your foot very flexible and may cause you to over-pronate while running or walking. Accordingly, a few issues you may notice from having low arches or flat feet include:

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Heel spurs
  • Bunions
  • Post-tibial tendonitis
  • Knee problems

High Arch

Approximately 20% of the population has high foot arches, meaning that it sits higher off the ground than usual. This can leave you with a very stiff foot that doesn’t move much when you walk. You can tell that you have a high arch by looking at your footprint. If you mostly see the heel and ball of your foot with very little space in between, you have high arches.

Since your foot doesn’t move much, a high arch can place additional stress on the heel and ankle. As such, you may notice more heel and ankle pain, and may also experience other problems such as:

  • Strained arches
  • Claw toes
  • Metatarsalgia, or pain in the ball of your foot
  • Plantar fasciitis

Medium Arches

The ideal-shaped foot has medium foot arches, which are characterized by a well-defined arch that is neither too high nor too low. If you have medium arches, your footprint will have a gentle curve in the middle and a well-defined heel and ball. Your foot will also have some flexibility, yet will not be as pliable as if you had flat feet. Approximately 60% of the population has this type of arch.

Just because you have a medium arch does not mean you will not experience foot trouble. Quite often, those with perfect arches will still notice pain in the heel or ball of their foot from repetitive stress or wearing the wrong shoes. If you have medium arches, see that your shoes fit properly and have the right amount of cushioning in the arch and sole for whatever activity you are performing.

Support for Low and High Arches

Those with low or high arches are unable to properly absorb shock, and may, therefore, need additional arch support. You may also wish to have your shoes custom fitted for better alignment and greater comfort.

The right shoes can help you prevent injury, but may not completely solve all your foot problems. In many cases, physical therapy can help you strengthen the tendons in your arch, thereby increasing your range of motion and preventing further damage. To find out if physical therapy is right for you, please contact Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation at 570-208-2787, or send us an email at