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High Arches

Alternate Names

  • pes cavus
  • supinator
  • Arch of foot

Definition

The normal foot is arched just enough so that most of the weight is borne on the heel and the balls of the foot, and the foot remains straight when weight-bearing rather than turning inward. Some people, however, have a foot with a higher than normal, or hollowed, arch.

What is going on in the body?

In a person with high arches, the weight of the body is concentrated on the ball and heel of the foot. A flexible high-arched foot often leads to plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of fibrous tissue under the skin of the sole.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

One of the most common causes of high arches is a loss of nerve function to the muscles of the foot. Other causes include:
  • diabetes
  • poliomyelitis, a disorder caused by a virus that affects the whole body including muscles and nerves. It may cause permanent muscle paralysis, disability, and deformity.
  • a spinal tumor, a mass within or surrounding the spinal cord
  • muscular dystrophy, a disorder characterized by progressive muscle weakness and loss of muscle tissue
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a progressive wasting of muscles in the arms and feet
  • congenital abnormality, or birth defect
  • muscle contractures following severe burns. A muscle contracture is a condition in which the muscle is tight and prevents normal mobility.
If the high arches are not treated, the joints of the foot can be damaged. Sometimes the foot can become misshapen or deformed.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

There is no way to prevent the problem.

Diagnosed

How is the condition diagnosed?

The condition can be diagnosed just by looking at the shape of the foot. An x-ray may be performed to help in the diagnosis. Sometimes high arches are caused by an underlying condition, such as diabetes, which needs to be identified and treated.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

The most common long-term effect is pain from too much stress on small areas of the foot. If the cause is a nerve disorder, surgery may be needed to repair the foot.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

If an underlying disease is the cause, it must be treated. Symptoms can often be relieved with the right shoes.
Shoes should:
  • fit properly
  • have good shock absorption
  • have laces, which provide room for the foot
  • have low or no heels
Specialty shoe stores may help because they can provide careful attention to shoe fit. Inlays and pads inside the shoes can support the arch and take pressure off the painful areas. Most over-the-counter inlays do not work very well because they fail to provide enough support under the arch.
Custom support devices called foot orthotics can be prescribed by a healthcare professional. These are often very helpful because they are precisely molded to the individual's arch and provide extra support to relieve stress on the foot.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

If high arches are untreated, the person's ability to perform activities of daily living can be affected. Because it can be difficult for an individual to get enough exercise for cardiovascular health, chronic health problems may develop.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

Inlays and shoes should be checked often to make sure they are still in good working order. There should be no change in shape. Inlays must continue to support the foot.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

A person with high arches should make periodic visits to a healthcare professional to make sure the orthotics continue to work well.

Sources

Weinster, Stuart, Tureks Orthopaedics, 5th edition, 1994

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