It’s important to know your arch type for several reasons. Finding out whether you have normal arches, flat feet, or high arches arms you with the information you need to make good choices when buying new shoes, treating foot pain, and preventing injuries like plantar fasciitis. A simple wet test can tell you if you have flat or high arches, helping you to choose the right pair of running shoes.
The Wet Test: Method
One method to find out more about your feet is to look at the shape of your arch by taking the “wet test.”
- Pour a thin layer of water into a shallow pan.
- Step into the water with one foot, then carefully remove your foot from the pan of water and step onto a colored tile or piece of cardboard that will show your footprint (don’t just lightly place your foot onto the paper bag/cardboard. Be sure to put your weight on it!).
- Take off your foot, then take a photo for reference
- Repeat the process with your other foot.
- Look at the shape of your footprint and compare it with the image below.
Medium (Normal) Arch
If you see about half of your arch region filled in, you have the most common foot type. Usually, this means you have an arch that naturally supports your bodyweight and pronates normally under load. Some pronation or “rolling in” of the foot is desirable and acts as a natural shock absorber.
Flat (Low) Arch
If your footprint looks like a complete foot (i.e., is totally filled in without much of an inward curve in the center), you likely have flat feet. When you walk or run, your feet pronates (meaning, your foot rolls inward)–which is great for shock absorption but not bad for your knees and legs. It also increases your chances of developing plantar fasciitis as your arch is strained.
Usually, we would recommend shoes with more stability, such as internal wedges that build up the arch side, dual-density midsoles and supportive “posts,” or wider, more substantial midsoles.
If the only thing you see in your footprint is your heel, the ball of your foot, and your toes (without much in between), you have high arches. This means your feet have an extra hard time absorbing impact and need extra cushioning. We would usually recommend you use a well-cushioned shoe with little or no arch support or stability features.
Note that the wet test only gives you one clue in the process of finding the right shoe. Many people fall into the categories illustrated above however some people have flat feet that are stiff, and some have high but flexible arches. Other variables such as your weight, biomechanics, running experience, and fit preferences come into play when choosing running shoes.
Our fit (feet) specialist can assist you. He’ll ask questions about your running and injury history, looking at your old shoes, and may also need to observe you run. If you have had an injury in the past, you should consult a medical professional such as a sports physician or an orthopedic surgeon. They should help you with appropriate treatment, a recovery training plan and a more formal assessment of your running shoe needs.