Foot Types and Proper Footwear

Foot problems are one of the most common health complaints. The high incidence of foot problems is understandable given the fact that there are 26 bones, 33 joints, 112 ligaments, and tendons, nerves, and blood vessels in the foot. It’s even more understandable when the weight of the body is considered. The force of the body weight borne by the foot increases roughly 1½ times during walking and up to 3-4 times during running. Add in 10,000 steps during a typical day while wearing ill-fitted shoes possibly, and it’s a wonder one’s feet are willing to get out of bed the next day.

Not all feet are created equal. To tell what type of foot one has, one can get the bottom of the feet wet, stand on a paper bag, and check the outline of foot. If a lot of the foot between the heel and forefoot can be seen, then one has a flat foot. If there is minimal contact of the midfoot between heel and forefoot, then one has a high arched foot. An outline in between is considered a neutral foot.

1. Flat Foot (Pronation)Image of flat foot (pronation).

Proper Shoe

2. High Arched Foot (Supinator)Image of high arched foot (supinator).

Proper Shoe

3. Neutral FootImage of neutral foot.

Proper Shoe


Sometimes proper footwear isn’t enough to correct one’s foot problems, especially if one’s foot significantly deviates from a neutral foot. In that case orthosis may also be useful to provide additional support or control to the foot. Orthosis replace the existing insole in the shoes. They may range from simple an over-the-counter insoles providing primarily only additional cushion, to other over-the-counter products providing some control of motion, to an expensive custom made orthosis. These are fabricated under the direction of a podiatrist or other qualified health care professional. Orthosis should be worn with shoes that are combination or board lasted and should be gradually broken in to allow the foot to adjust to them.

Sport Specific Footwear

If one participates in a sport three times a week or more, it would be beneficial to purchase footwear designed specifically for that sport. For instance, playing basketball requires a stiffer sole for running and good cushioning for shock absorption from landing jumps. Runners in general require additional shock absorption. Court sports and sports like soccer, rugby, and Ultimate Frisbee require footwear providing good lateral support for the frequent and quick change of direction.


Different ways of lacing based on different situations can be seen at: - search using “lacing.”

Flip flops

Wearing flip flops is very popular during warmer months. In most cases flip flops are not good for the feet. For someone with flat feet, flip flops provide no support. For someone with high arches, many flip flops have minimal cushioning. Prolonged standing or walking in flip flops will often, over time, cause the onset of pain in the feet, ankles, or further up the body.


“The Running Shoe Prescription,” Physician & Sportsmedicine; Jan, 2005; Vol. 33 Issue 1, p17-24
American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society Web site:
Runners World magazine Web site: