How To Fix High Arches In Feet

What are high arches in the feet?

high arches in feet

A high arch in the foot is characterized by having a more pronounced curve in the medial arch of the foot.

As a result – there is a large gap between the bottom of the foot arch and the floor when standing.

(Also referred to as: Oversupination, Pes Cavus, Rigid foot, Hollow foot) 

It is the exact opposite of having flat feet.

Is it bad to have high arches in the foot?

The presence of a high arch in the foot does not necessarily mean that there will be immediate issues associated with it.

However – as the high foot arch tends to make the foot rather rigid, there is a decreased ability to absorb forces throughout the foot.

It also shifts weight distribution to the outside of the foot.

In the long term: A high foot arch may lead to issues such as Instability (Ankle sprains), Knee issues, Clawed toes, Hammer toes, Shin splints, Metatarsalgia and Plantarfasciitis.

What causes a high foot arch?

a) Tight structures at bottom of the feet

Arched feet are usually associated with tightness in the following structures:

  • Plantarfascia
  • Tibialis Anterior
  • Tibialis Posterior
  • Flexor Hallucis Longus
  • Flexor Digitorum
  • Plantar ligaments

b) Tight joints in the foot

The joints in the hind, mid and fore foot can get locked in the high-arched position.

c) Structural

This is where the formation of the bone and/or joint results in the foot arch being physically more pronounced.

(This commonly involves plantarflexion at the 1st Metatarsophalangeal joint and Hindfoot Varus.)

Unfortunately – this can not be completely changed through conservative means. 

Test for High Arch in feet

How do you know if you have high arch feet?

Here are some simple ways to determine this:

a) Take a photo

high foot arch test

Instructions:

  • Stand up.
  • Place your camera at ground level.
  • Take a photo of the foot arch.
  • Take note of the gap between the bottom of your foot and the ground.

Results: If there is a prominent gap in your arch, this suggests that you have a high foot arch.

b) Foot print

arched foot test

Instructions:

  • Wet the under surface of your feet.
  • Stand on a surface which can show your foot print.
  • Step away from the foot print.
  • Take note of the shape of the foot print.

Results: If there is a large gap in the inner part of the foot print, this suggests that you have high arches in the feet.

c) Achilles tendon position

Achilles tendon bowing

Instructions:

  • Stand up right.
  • Get someone to take a photo of the back of your ankles.
  • Take note of the alignment of the Achilles Tendon.

Results: If the Achilles Tendon curves outwards, this suggests that you may have an arched foot.

d) Take a XRAY

Instructions:

  • Request a foot Xray from your Doctor.

Results: An Xray will show the exact alignment of the joint and bones in the foot.


Exercises for high arches in Feet

Disclaimer: The content presented on this blog post is not medical advice and should not be treated as such. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Use of the content provided on this blog post is at your sole risk. For more information: Medical disclaimer.


Start here: Can you you collapse your arch?

pronation of foot

If you are able to collapse your arch: Focus on the Control Exercises.

If you are not able to collapse your arch: Focus on the Releases, Stretches and Joint Mobilizations.


1. Releases

The tight structures that are responsible for arched feet are required to be released first.

a) Muscles in the arch

release for high arches

Instructions:

  • Place your foot on top of a massage ball.
  • Apply a firm amount of pressure on top of the ball.
  • Aim to feel a release under your arch.
  • Make sure to cover the entire length of the foot.
  • Continue for 2 minutes.

b) Tibialis Anterior

tibialis anterior release with foam roller

Instructions:

  • Place the front/outside portion of your shin on top of a foam roller.
  • Apply a firm amount of pressure on top of the foam roller.
  • Aim to feel a release over the Tibialis Anterior muscle.
  • Make sure to cover the entire length of the muscle.
  • Continue for 2 minutes.

c) Tibialis Posterior

tibialis posterior self release

Instructions:

  • Sit down on a chair.
  • Place your ankle on top of the other knee.
  • Using your thumbs, press into the area as shown in the above image.
  • Continue for 2 minutes.

2. Stretches for high arches

The following exercises will help stretch out the tight muscles which are responsible for causing the high arches.

a) Plantarfascia (Gentle Stretch)

plantarfascia stretch for arched feet

Instructions:

  • Sit down on a chair.
  • Place your ankle on top of the other knee.
  • Hold onto the heel and underneath the toes
  • Pull your foot and toes backwards.
  • Aim to feel to stretch in the arch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

b) Plantarfascia (Firm Stretch)

advanced plantarfascia stretch

Instructions:

  • Kneel down on the floor.
  • Make sure that the toes are bent backwards.
  • Shift your body weight on top of your toes and forefoot.
  • Aim to feel a stretch under the foot.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

Note: If you have knee issues, please be careful with the kneeling position.

c) Plantarfascia (Prolonged Stretch)

prolonged plantarfascia stretch

Instructions:

  • Stand with your back towards a wall.
  • Assume a deep squat position.
  • Lean your back against the wall if required.
  • Without allowing your heels to lift off the floor, bring your heels as close to the wall as possible.
  • Lean forward as much as possible to place your body weight onto your feet.
  • Allow your arches to collapse underneath your body weight.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the calf and under the foot.
  • Hold for 5 minutes.

d) Tibialis Anterior (Gentle stretch)

tibialis anterior gentle stretch

Instructions:

  • Sit down on the edge of a chair.
  • Place the ankle on top of the other knee.
  • Hold the top of the forefoot.
  • Use the other hand to hold the ankle still.
  • Pull the foot forwards so that the ankle is in a pointed position.
  • Push the foot down towards the floor.
  • Aim to feel a stretch at the front of the shin bone and inner ankle region.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

e) Tibialis Anterior (Firm)

tibialis anterior stretch for high arches in feet

Instructions:

  • Stand up
  • Point your foot.
  • Place the top of your forefoot on the floor behind you.
  • Lean the top of the foot into the floor.
  • Aim to feel to stretch at the front/outside of your shin.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

3. Joint mobilization

Tight joints can lock the foot in the high-arched position. The following exercises will help loosen up the joints.

a) Forefoot (Tarsometatarsal joint)

forefoot mobilization for high foot arches

Instructions:

  • Sit down on a chair.
  • Place your ankle on top of the other knee.
  • Hold the midfoot with one hand.
  • Using your other hand, place your thumb under the base of the big toe and the other fingers on top of the base of the pinky toe. (See image)
  • Whilst anchoring the midfoot still, proceed to rotate the forefoot away from you.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

b) Midfoot (Naviculocuneiform/Talonavicular joint)

midfoot joint mobilization for high arches

Instructions:

  • Sit down on a chair.
  • Place the ankle on top of the other knee.
  • Locate the Navicular bone:
    • Feel for a bony prominence at the top of the arch.
  • Place both thumbs above this bone.
  • Apply a downward pressure in the direction towards the bottom of the foot.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

c) Hindfoot (Subtalar joint)

hindfoot joint mobilization

Instructions:

  • Sit down on a chair.
  • Place your ankle on top of the other knee.
  • Wrap your hand around the heel.
  • Firmly grip the ankle with the other hand.
  • Whilst keeping the ankle still, push the heel towards the ground.
  • Aim to feel a pulling sensation in the inner side of the ankle.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

d) Traction

ankle joint traction

Instructions:

  • (You’ll need a helper for this exercise.)
  • Lie on the floor.
  • Instruct your helper to firmly grasp your ankle below the bony bits on the side. (See above)
  • Relax your leg as your assistant pulls your foot away from you.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

4. Learn how to Drop the Arch

Once the foot has been completely loosened up, the next step is learning how to control the the foot as the arch collapses.

(Keep in mind – you might need to persist with the Releases, Stretches and Joint Mobilizations until you get to a stage where the arch can drop.)


Learn how to engage the Arch muscles

Before starting the follow exercises, it is important to learn how to engage your arch muscles.

Wait a minute… won’t that make my arch go even higher?

Yes – however, we want to teach the arch muscles to engage whilst the foot is in a more neutral position.

short foot exercise

Instructions:

  • Stand with your feet facing forwards and shoulder width apart.
  • Whilst keeping your toes relaxed, proceed to scrunch the under-surface of your foot.
    • Drag the base of your big toe backwards towards the heel.
  • Keep the base of the big toe in contact with the ground to prevent this area from lifting.
  • Gently push the tip of your big toe down onto the ground.
  • If performed correctly, you should be able to feel the strong contraction of the muscles underneath your foot.
  • Hold this for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 20 times.

a) Activate Peroneals

peroneal activation

Instructions:

  • Sit down on a chair.
  • Straighten the legs.
  • Point the foot forwards.
  • Lift the outside of the foot towards the side.
  • Aim to feel a muscular contraction on the outside of your shin.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

b) Arch drop in Standing position

arch drop whilst standing

Instructions:

  • Stand on one foot.
  • Hold onto a stationary object for balance.
  • Activate the muscles of the arch.
  • Shift your weight on the inner side of your foot.
  • Allow your arch to drop as much as possible.
  • Avoid allowing the knee to collapse inwards.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

c) Arch drop with pivot

exercises for high arched feet

Instructions:

  • Stand up.
  • Activate the muscles of the arch.
  • Try to keep as much of your body weight on this foot.
  • Step to the side with your other leg.
  • Allow the arch to drop as you step with the other foot.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

d) Forward Plunge

high arched feet exercises

Instructions:

  • Assume the lunge position.
    • (The target foot will be the one at the front.)
  • Activate the muscles of the arch.
  • Shift as much of your body weight onto the front leg.
  • Allow the arch to drop.
  • Plunge forwards.
    • Make sure to keep your knee facing forwards.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

e) Toe Tap

strengthening exercise for high arches

Instructions:

  • Stand up right and hold onto a stationary object for support.
  • For the leg that is on the ground, keep the knee in line with your toes throughout this exercise.
  • (The target foot will be the one that stays on the ground.)
  • Activate your arch muscles.
  • Allow your arch to drop into the neutral position.
  • Using your other foot, Reach and tap your toe as far forwards as possible.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.
  • Progression:
    • Use less arm support.
    • Reach your foot further.
    • Perform the exercise slower.

5. Function

The aim of the following exercises is to challenge the foot to remain in a more neutral foot position and not default back into the high arches.

a) Heel raise without ankle flare

heel raise without ankle flare

Instructions:

  • Stand on the edge of a step.
  • Raise your heels.
  • Do not allow your ankles to flare out to the side.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

b) Single leg balance

single leg balance

Instructions:

  • Stand on one leg.
  • You may hold onto something for balance but try not to rely on it.
  • Without letting the knee collapse inwards, try to flatten your arch on the floor.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

c) Stepping with foot spread

step down

Instructions:

  • Stand up right.
  • Without letting the knee collapse inwards, allow your arch to flatten towards the floor
  • Take a step forwards with your other leg.
  • Perform 30 repetitions.

Conclusion

  • High arches are characterized by the prominent arch in the foot.
  • The presence of having arched feet does not necessarily mean that there will be immediate issues associated with it.
  • However – As the foot tends to be stuck in this position, high arches may lead to sub-optimal lower limb function.
  • The arch can be effectively addressed by performing the suggested exercises on this blog post.
  • As the foot tends to be quite tight, you may need to focus more time on the Release, Stretches and Joint Mobilization before starting the Control exercises.

What to do next

1. Any questions?… (Leave me a comment down below.)

2. Come join me:

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3. Start doing the exercises!


About Mark Wong

Mark created the Posture Direct blog in 2015. He has been a Physiotherapist for over 10 years and has a strong interest in helping people fix their Posture.

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2 thoughts on “How To Fix High Arches In Feet”

  1. Hi Mark! First of all, thanks for the above information! My question is I have prominent knee valgus along with pes cavus. Usually pes planus occurs with knee valgus legs. Wouldn’t dropping my arches result in more internal rotation of knee?

    Reply
    • Hey Tanya,

      Good question.

      If you have knee valgus with high arches, This would make think that you may have tibial external rotation (or perhaps bowing of the legs?) If this is the case – there might be a limitation of how much you can correct the foot position this without a negative effect on the knee position.

      Another possibility is that you can focus on dropping the mid foot without losing the neutral position of the hindfoot.

      Mark

      Reply

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