Flat feet, get an arch support. This is a common practice for runners that are experiencing plantar pain (usually after a weekend in flip flops). In the architecture world, arches have survived the test of time without a support under it. So what is the difference?

A study published in the August issue of JOSPT looked at the relationship between plantar pain, toe strength and the use orthotics. The subjects that had plantar pain displayed weaker toe muscles compared to non plantar pain subjects. The more interesting finding of this study was related to orthotics.

Subjects that had a history of orthotic use to support their arches, displayed weaker foot intrinsics. These subjects with arch orthotics also reported having pain. A moderate correlation was found between length of orthotic use and intrinsic weakness.

In the body and in architecture, arches are meant to be free standing. For an arch to be maintained, your feet need the strength to support it. When you are in shoes all day, your muscles don’t have the opportunity to strengthen. Running barefoot brings on a whole other set of issues but there are safer ways to strengthen your feet. The best way to strengthen your feet? Walk around barefoot in your house as much as you can. Better yet, balance on one foot while washing the dishes!

McClinton S., Collazo C., Vincent E., Vardaxis V. Impaired foot plantar flexor muscle performance in individuals with plantar heel pain and association with foot orthosis use. JOSPT. Aug. 2016. 446(8) 681-688.

Kathleen Leninger, PT, DPT,