Importance of arch support
May 18, 2007 10:45 PM   Subscribe

How important is arch support for walking?

I've been doing alot of walking lately, and am about to in college, so i'm wondering what the benefits, if any, are to shoes with arch support. Personally I love flip-flops, and puma shoes with a very thin sole and no arch support. Are there any negative side effects to walking alot with shoes that have no arch support, or any positive effects to wearing supportive shoes, besides comfort?

(first post woo!)
posted by kraigory to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It depends a lot on the shape of your foot. There are people for whom it would become painful very quickly to walk in shoes with no support. Here's one explanation. As you get older, you may find that you have pain when you walk in flip-flops. If that happens, stop - get real shoes.

Some related info in these other previous threads.

And here's a fluff article about flip-flops in college, with one useful bit:
Some doctors and health experts are concerned about the rising popularity of flip-flops. Flip-flops are troublesome for a variety of reasons, most notably because of their lack of arch support. For some, walking around for a long around of time with flip-flops can lead to inflammation of a connective tissue running along the bottom of the foot, a condition known as plantar fasciitis.

“It is certainly possible — and biologically plausible — that a lack of arch support might aggravate the condition,” said Rachelle Buchbinder, an associate prof. of clinical epidemiology at Monash University in Australia, in an e-mail. Buchbinder has written extensively on plantar fasciitis and is researching the factors that lead to the condition.

People who wake up with a dull pain in their heel or in their arch are advised to minimize their use of flip-flops — or at least to alternate them with other shoes that support the arch.

Additionally, in order to keep flip-flops on your feet, you grip your toes every time you take a step, causing the knees to lock and the tissue along the shin to tighten-up. Overuse of any muscle, including the muscle groups that allow you to wear the shoes, can lead to cramps or inflammation.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:12 PM on May 18, 2007

Does indeed depend on your feet. I use off the shelf supports ( Triad ) and they've benefited me a great deal, although I have flat feet.
posted by swiffa at 1:40 AM on May 19, 2007

It might be different for everyone, but here's how it works for me. I have feet so flat that when I go to the pedorthist my guy calls all the other ones around like it's some kind of science experiment.

I can walk barefoot or in really flexible/cushy soles all day with no support and everything's great -- no pain, nothing. Been doing it for 40 years no problem. I wore nothing but flip-flops for a year in college. Nothing's gotten better or worse (so the docs say.)

Now, put me in stiff-soled shoes, like the kind you wear backpacking or downhill skiing, and without arch support the pain gets worse and worse each outing. OTC orthotics do me fine for the backpacking. Skiing is more stressful to my feet, though, and even with my super-custom-tricked-out boots my soles hurt worse and worse over the course of the ski season. By the start of the next season they're fine again, so it seems like pushing hard in firm soles might do some kind of progressive damage, that, I guess, the body eventually fixes.

One benefit to arch supports if you'll be doing a lot of walking on varying terrain is they seem to help keep your footing flat on the ground. That's good when you're backpacking unless you're into rolling on your ankles and breaking bones.
posted by Opposite George at 2:44 AM on May 19, 2007

i walk a lot, at least an hour or so a day.. i found that wearing chuck taylors with no arch support hurt my feet, but just slipping in a pair of off-the-shelf arch supports into them did the trick..
posted by modernnomad at 5:34 AM on May 19, 2007

The way I figure it, we were designed to run without shoes. Modern footwear did not come about for a long, long time after our species began, and yet people ran just fine.

In any case, just try walking for a while without the arch support. If it hurts, stop and get shoes with arch support.
posted by JDHarper at 6:10 AM on May 19, 2007

I recently sprained my ankle, and my physio said that I should try to wear proper shoes to uni as much as possible until the sprain had healed, as the extra foot support affects your ankles and knees as well. I noticed this myself, my ankle would become much more tired wearing thongs flip-flops than sneakers. So if you have any kind of joint issues, this would become a factor.
posted by jacalata at 6:37 AM on May 19, 2007

Do your joints a favor and wear proper arch supports. I wore sandals for years and years, and my knees and ankles paid the price. Get thee to a podiatrist if you can, or someone who does gait analysis. They will be able to tell you everything you need to know.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 9:23 AM on May 19, 2007

I have flat feet and I had plantar fasciitis for years.

A couple of years ago, I started going barefoot almost exclusively. My plantar fasciitis went away completely, and my arches have strengthened. Now on the rare occasions when I do wear something on my feet, it's flip flops or other support-less footwear. My feet have never been healthier or felt better.

If your feet are used to wearing flip flops, then the muscles can handle them. The only time I'd recommend shoes with support would be if your feet are hopelessly dependent on support (ie you have weak arches from wearing shoes with a lot of support all the time).

I'm not a doctor, but these guys are:

Why Shoes Make "Normal" Gait Impossible
Take Off Your Shoes and Walk
Bare Feet in Medicine
posted by tipthepizzaguy at 2:16 PM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Cecilia at Clog Master in LA has this line she uses on all the girls who walk in wearing flip-flops: "Would you do aerobics without a bra? Well, that's what those things are doing to your feet!" Then they get scared and buy clogs. Just saying.
posted by Scram at 2:43 PM on May 19, 2007

« Older Photoshop 6 is possessed.   |   What was the camera technique used in CSI last... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.