High Arches And Balance

High arches can definitely influence your balance. As people we stand on two feet, (unlike our other animal friends who use 4 legs). A high arch is the opposite to flat feet.

They are two extremes in foot types. In high arch feet, some of the ankle bones are permanently locked. This makes the foot rigid. Because we walk around on our feet have evolved to be different than our animal friends. To make suggestions for your feet then, lets look closer at the function of our feet when we are standing and walking.

Our feet were designed for three purposes. Absorb shock, propel us forward and adapt to uneven surfaces. The first is to absorb shock. This job is done mostly in our ankle and heel joints. If our feet can’t absorb shock, it will stress especially our lower leg and our back.

A suggestion for absorbing shock include getting some shoe inserts for the heel. These inserts are made of a cushion material that will absorb the shock of the heel hitting the ground.

You can also strengthen your lower leg muscles especially one called the Anterior Tibialis. This muscle is the one that brings your toes back toward your head. By strengthening this muscle we are helping the shock absorbing muscles allowing them to do their job of absorbing shock as we walk.

The second function of our feet are propelling us forward. This is called “push-off”. It starts in our hips as we begin to bring our weight over our planted foot, then start to “push-off”. This movement requires a firm foot in order to transmit the forces through the ground.

In other words, we need some tightness in our foot in order to push off efficiently. So suggestions here would be to strengthen the push off muscles like the calf. Simply rising up on your toes is a great exercise here. The last function is an important one for balance.

That is when your foot adapts to the irregularities of the ground as you begin to step forward onto your foot. In a normal foot, when your heel strikes the ground, it will “give” a little and adapt to the shape of the ground. If your foot has a high arch and is rigid, it will not adapt and remain stiff as you put weight through your leg.

In this case there is not much you can do because your foot is naturally stiff and rigid. A suggestion here would be to practice stepping on uneven things. In my balance class we use squishy plastic balance pads. I line several of them across the floor and we practice stepping on them.

I start walking with ski poles to make sure the seniors don’t fall down. You could use small things to step on including rolled up news paper or clothing.

Practicing stepping on uneven things is one of my favorite balance exercises for seniors. It challenges your perception of the ground and really works on strengthening that sense which is so very important.

About the author

    Coach Doug

    Doug Schrift is a Physical Therapist, Certified Geriatric Specialist, and senior fitness coach. Doug helps seniors become strong and stable even if they have never exercised before.