Friday, April 18, 2008

Foot Arches - Two Per Foot

The arch is one of the founding principles of architecture. It is also one of the strongest shapes as an arch spreads the load it's supporting to the 2 foundations on either side. The arch of your foot uses those same principles of architecture. The two foundations of the arch of your foot are the heel and the metatarsal joints (the part of your foot where the toes attach to the foot).

A big surprise to most people is that each foot has two arches! The arch on the medial side (the inside, big toe side) of your foot is the arch you commonly think of, but there is also an arch on the lateral (the outside, little toe side) of your foot. The lateral arch is much lower and is structurally simpler and more aligned with the leg bones.

The big error a person makes is thinking that they have to support their medial arch by putting something under it that contacts it so that they can lean onto the arch. An orthotic that only contacts the medial arch but doesn't address the presence of the lateral arch will hurt like crazy.

A proper foot orthotic offers full contact with the medial arch but does not "support" it with that contact. The architecture of the foot moves during the gait cycle. When you're standing still, you don't have that movement, so it's impossible to guage if the orthotic will work rather than just "feel good". The correctly made foot orthotic guides the force upon the foot into the orthotics valley on the lateral side. The valley is the contour the foot sits in with every step. Walk in sand and you'll notice that the foot slices into the sand on the lateral (little toe) side leaving the deepest impression.

With proactive efforts from the wearer to step correctly (knees softly bent, feet straight, hip rotation), the foot orthotic will guide the foot. An orthotic alone will not usually alleviate arch pain. The combination of the custom orthotic, gait training and proper fitting of the orthotic into a appropriate shoe for the person's foot are necessary for the best result.

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