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High Arches

The Problem with High Arches (Cavus Foot)

It’s intriguing to wonder what our feet would look like if we had never worn shoes. Some claim that shoes cause many of our foot problems, but other forces are at work as well. We are not clones, and we each have our distinct features—formed by a combination of our heredity, environment, and life history. This is true for our feet. A certain percentage of us will inherit high arches, and others will develop them because of diseases or nerve conditions like cerebral palsy, polio, or stroke. Whatever the cause, a cavus foot (high-arched foot) bears watching.

How Can I Tell if I Have High Arches?

You may have heard of the wet foot test. You step in the water and then stand on dry cement or a piece of absorbent paper. When you examine the footprint that is left, cavus foot will leave a strong impression of the heel and ball of the foot, connected by only a thin line at the outer edge of your foot. The long bones behind your toes (metatarsals) and the bones behind them (navicular, cuboid and three cuneiform bones) help form your arch. In a high-arched foot, these are abnormally curved and lifted. The curve of the bone structure may be easily visible from outside your foot as a high, domed instep.

What Are Symptoms of Cavus Foot?

One thing to look for is arches that don’t flatten out even when standing or walking. This makes it less able to absorb the pressure of each step, which can lead to pain. It also means your heel and ball of your foot bear most of your weight, so calluses can build up in those spots, and the cushioned pads in those areas can deteriorate.

High arches can also throw off the alignment of your feet, so your heel bone tilts to the outside. This can cause calluses to build up along the outer edge of your foot from increased pressure and friction brought on by your shoes. This tilting may also make you more susceptible to ankle sprains.

If your high arches are related to nerve function or disease, it can also mean that your foot muscles are not as strong as they should be. This can lead to other problems like foot drop, where you can’t hold your foot up when it is lifted from the ground. Hammertoes and claw toes are often associated with cavus foot as well.

When to Come in for a Consultation

If your high arches are not giving you any problems and you care for them well, you probably don’t need to have them seen. However, when they are painful, or you have trouble finding shoes because of your high instep, you should contact the Palmer Foot Clinic for an evaluation. Podiatrist Iain Palmer can examine your foot to see if the arch is still flexible, and also do other tests to diagnose exactly what is going on. Many times conservative treatments like special corrective shoes, custom orthotics, or bracing can bring enough improvement so that your pain issues are resolved and you can resume your activity. We can also perform simple nerve tests to see if further investigation of nerve damage is warranted. The goal is to correct the problem without surgery whenever possible.

Doing Your Part

Inherited high arches usually don’t change over time, so you can prevent issues by wearing roomy shoes that let your toes spread out, and avoid those that place extra pressure on the ball of your foot (like high heels). They should also have adequate support for your arch and cushioning for your heel and forefoot. If your instep is curved, shoes with laces, buckles, or straps are more adjustable to keep them from pinching your feet.

If your arched feet are the result of disease or nerve function, they will likely get worse over time. Make sure you visit Palmer Foot Clinic regularly to monitor your condition and get prompt treatment when you need it. You can call us in Winnipeg, MB at (204) 697-0649. We don’t want cavus foot to hold you back from doing the things you love!