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What to Know About High Arches

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 14, 2021

High arches in the feet can be a painful condition. It’s often due to genetics or a neurological problem.

Since the way you stand creates the base for your posture and skeletal makeup, having high arches can lead to structural problems in your body.

What Are High Arches?

A high arch, also called cavus foot, is when the arch of your foot is raised more than normal. It’s the opposite of flat feet. The arch is located on the bottom of your foot and runs from the toes all the way to your heel.

It’s common to discover high arches in the teenage years. That’s because when your body grows, your feet bear the extra weight. High arches can happen at any time in your life.

Symptoms of cavus foot are:

  • Foot pain when walking, standing, exercising, or playing sports
  • Difficulty finding shoes that fit properly
  • Shortened foot length
  • Claw-like, or bent toes when standing
  • The heel tilts inward, causing instability
  • Calluses on the ball of the foot, side, or heel

If you feel pain in your feet and suspect high arches may be to blame, you can perform a simple test at home to find out if you have high arches. You’ll just need water and a piece of sturdy paper or cardboard.

  1. Dip your foot in water.
  2. Step on the paper or cardboard.
  3. Examine your footprint.

If you mainly see your toes and heel, and little or none of the middle part of your foot, chances are you have a high arch.

Your healthcare provider can also perform tests that determine how severe your case of cavus foot is.

Your doctor might also test to see if your arches are flexible, or can be moved around. The following tests are available to see if your arches are high:

  • Foot X-ray
  • Spinal X-ray
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) test of the spine
  • Electromyography
  • Nerve conduction study

They may also do a genetic test to see if this can be passed on to your child.

It’s important to wear comfortable, proper shoes if you suffer from high arches. There is no one shoe that works best for everyone with a cavus foot. Make sure to select a shoe that provides extra padding and support. Custom inserts might help relieve pain.

Causes of High Arches

Cavus foot is usually caused by a neurological disorder, or inherited from your parent.

Neurological disorders or other conditions that commonly cause high arches are:

  • Spina bifida
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • Polio
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Stroke

It’s important to find out the cause of your high arches so your doctor can create a proper treatment plan. Cavus foot that’s caused by a neurological problem is likely to worsen with time. If it’s caused by your genetics, it’s likely to stay the same.

How to Manage High Arches

High arches can sometimes be managed by non-surgical methods. Treatment is usually determined by how flexible your feet are.

Common solutions for high arches are:

  • Orthotic devices. You can get devices that are made just for your foot. They’re worn inside your shoe to provide extra support.
  • Corrective shoes. Certain shoes, like high-tops, can lend support, help correct the way you walk, and relieve pain.
  • Brace. Your doctor could recommend you wear a brace around your foot and ankle for extra support.
  • Surgery. Surgery could be needed in severe cases.

Medical Treatments for High Arches

Any medical treatment is determined by the underlying cause of your high arches.

A doctor will make a diagnosis based on your current condition, arch flexibility, and progress with non-surgical devices.

In some cases, if non-surgical treatment doesn’t work, surgery is recommended. High arches can make walking and other activities very painful. Surgery might be needed to reduce the pain and help you walk properly in the future.

Surgery can also increase the stability of your foot, and avoid your stronger muscles compensating for the weaker ones, which can lead to imbalances.

Each case of high arches is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to surgical remedies. A surgeon will evaluate your individual case and make a recommendation.

In cases of genetic high arches, one surgery is usually enough to correct the problem.

If you have high arches due to a neurological issue, you might need more than one surgery to fully correct the problem.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

‌Foot Health Facts: “Cavus Foot (High-Arched Foot).

‌Mayo Clinic: “How to determine foot arch type.”

‌Mount Sinai: “High arch.”

‌Orthopedic Associates: “High Arch Feet, And Why They Are a Problem.”

‌University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics: “High arches: You don't have to live with the pain.”

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