General Question

gggritso's avatar

Do our feet need arch support?

Asked by gggritso (5417 points ) July 9th, 2010

Lately shoes like the Vibram Five Fingers are starting to get really popular, and there is a ton of articles online about the fact that human feet were designed to be free (which makes sense).

This morning, I read a post on Reddit which quickly discussed this, with one person saying they bought a pair of thin Chuck Taylors and that it helped their feet adjust.

How legitimate is this? I’m pretty flat-footed (but don’t experience any pain or discomfort), would something like this help? I did have orthotics for a while, but I didn’t feel like they did anything.

Summary: Are shoes with thin soles better for your feet?

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16 Answers

poofandmook's avatar

Your feet, when you are born, do not need arch support. Your feet, if you were born with no defects in them, are born exactly the way they’re supposed to be. If you never put on shoes, you would continue to not need arch support. But the wearing of shoes our entire lives causes the need for arch support and all that other hooey.

But naturally, our feet are designed to be exactly the way they are.

Flat, relatively thin soles are more like walking on regular ground, which is what Chucks are. Unlike flip-flops for example, which cause your feet to grip the shoe with your toes, desipite the thin, flat sole.

gailcalled's avatar

As you age, and the layer of fat on the bottoms of your feet disappear (ironic, isn’t it?), you may want arch supports. I use the cheapies that Dr. Scholl sells at CVS.

janbb's avatar

Whichever makes you more comfortable. I have flat feet and absolutely need orthotics. My son’s pediatrician told me when he was young that he had flat feet but didn’t need to do anything about it. Whne he was a bit older, his feet started hurting and he now wears arch supports. I don’t think a theoretical answer is useful in this case.

Disc2021's avatar

I haven’t read all of the hype or researched all of these new and “revolutionary” footwear contraptions, but I can vouch – good footwear is important if you’re a runner. Otherwise, you’ll get shin-splints like I have =D.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

Depends on your feet. Mine hurt me so bad I went to an orthopedic surgeon, who prescribed orthotics. My insurance paid for them. They made a lot of difference. I have narrow feet with high arches, and the arch support built into shoes or provided by over-the-counter inserts wasn’t good enough.

If you can walk a mile or two a day without discomfort, then you probably don’t need anything more than what you’re wearing. You can try the Dr. Scholl’s inserts, which are better than nothing, but if your dogs are really barking – see a doctor.

As to the last part of your question, I picked up a pair of slip-ons with thin, flexible soles, and I don’t like them at all. I don’t use my orthotics all the time; e.g., if I’m just going to the playground with my kid, I’ll wear slip-ons or sandals. The thin soles hurt my feet, but then, I have the opposite problem from flat feet. They might be better for you.

gemiwing's avatar

I’m a barefoot walker and I’ve trained in barefoot running. I had a lot of foot pain until I started training barefoot. I think it’s not just the shoes; it’s also how you walk/run. My running form vastly improved when I began training barefoot/minimal. I stopped heel striking and shortened my stride which helped immensely. Since my training regular shoes feel uncomfortable and I notice after about ten minutes I start walking heavily again.

My feet used to rotate to the outside, to the point of wearing out my soles very unevenly. Since I’ve been BF/MM training my tendons are realigning and the shape of my feet are changing. It’s facinating.

It always depends on the feet in question. Just like some people love turtlenecks and other people feel like they’re choking. I don’t think any one thing will work for every person.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
Nullo's avatar

If you have flat feet, you need arch support.
Barefoot running has its own risks, and not just from stuff on the ground.

JLeslie's avatar

I was flat footed as a young child and shoes with “a lot of support” hurt. They banged up into the underside of my feet, Now, I guess I have a semi average arch, but still, if the shoe supposedly has a lot of support, it feels very weird on my foot. I think it just depends on yoru foot and what is most comfortable for you. I know a lot of people who have foot pain who got a lot of relief by using either something from Dr. Scholls or something specially made.

Facade's avatar

I have flat feet. They always hurt, and they throw the rest of my body out of whack– such as making slight scoliosis have a bigger impact than it should. They’re also a major reason why I can’t find a job. I can’t do retail or restaurants because I can’t stand for more than about 2 hours. Not to mention how aesthetically unpleasing they are.
Yes, we need arches.

@poofandmook I was barefoot most of my life and still have issues. I think it’s entirely possible for people to be born poorly constructed.

poofandmook's avatar

@Facade: I did say “if you were born with no defects in [your feet]”

MaryW's avatar

I think most people do need arch support because most people are overweight and under exercised or have worn bad or the wrong shoes. Perfectly good feet can be ruined by wrong shoes. It is not rocket science though. Dr.Scholls has their new machine and Good Feet has a good method, some foot doctors are good. You do have to work this out for your own feet and your special best arch support and shoes. I have high arches and have had to work the comfort thing out over time. I need thin hard arches to also keep my ankles from falling to the inside. Soft or leather did not work. However I then put a thin soft insert over the support. It took time to figure this out for me. If you have no discomfort…You are fine.

J0E's avatar

When I was on vacation last week doing a ton of walking I predominately wore flip flop sandals, and my feet were totally fine. Walking around Cedar Point on friday in shoes destroyed my knees. So there might be some truth behind this.

avp0713's avatar

All sports players from youngsters to professional basketball players from the 20’s to the late 80’s wore regular flat bottomed Chuck Taylor “Cons” sneakers. These were men up to 300lbs running full speed on a wooden floor making the sharpest turns and speed modulations, jumping as high as they possibly can. Indeed football players, soccer players, baseball players all wore spikes with no specific “arch support.” The vast majority of these players had no problem at all. There was no incredible amount of foot injuries to speak of? Why Not? Simply because a sneaker weighing approx. 12 ounces cannot have an impact on weight balance of a 300 pound person. We’re talking about a cushion here. The only part of the shoe that makes a difference is the surface that touches the ground because it provides some protection against irregularities in the surface of the floor that an unprotected foot cannot endure. For instance… stepping on a marble hurts the human foot. Stepping on a marble with a sneaker on does not.

avp0713's avatar

In my opinion, I think this whole “arch support” and new research and development craze with sneakers is media driven and has very little if any scientific support. Its all a money grab; hence the hundreds of different kinds of sneakers available, most costing upwards of $70…. its all bunk.

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