High Arched Feet Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment (2023)

High arches (pes cavus) are the excessive, fixed flexion of the arch of the foot.

While weight-bearing stress is typically distributed across the entire foot in people with normal arches, those with high arches carry their weight mainly on the heels, the lateral column of the foot (the entire side of the foot along the pinky toe area), and the balls of the feet. This places undue stress on the toes and ankles, leading to pain and instability.

Since a high-arched foot lacks the flexibility to absorb shock, it will tend to roll outward (supinate) as the foot rolls through a step. This can increase the risk of an ankle sprain or fracture.

High arches can develop at any age and occur in one or both feet.

Causes of Foot Arch Pain

Causes

High-arched feet are most often an inherited structural deformity that is generally unrelated to any other health concern.

In some cases, pes cavus is secondary to neurologic conditions such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), in which neuromuscular contractions draw the ball of the foot closer to the heel. CMT is believed to account for 50% of neurologically induced pes cavus.

Other causes includepost-stroke paralysis, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, clubfoot, poliomyelitis, and muscular dystrophy.

While all of these cases can result in significant pain and impairment, those with a neurologic cause tend to progress faster and require more in the way of medical attention.

Symptoms

High arches do not cause symptoms in all people but can often develop with age as compressed bones begin to fuse or misalign. If and when symptoms develop, they typically include:

  • Metatarsalgia (pain and cramping in the ball of the foot)
  • Lateral ankle instability, often causing twisting, tripping, and sprains
  • Hammertoes (bent toes) or claw toes (clenched toes)
  • Plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the tendon that runs between the heel and toes)
  • Calluses on the ball, side, or heel of the foot
  • Knee, hip, and low back pain

If symptoms persist, the condition may give rise to ankle arthritis, stress fractures, shin splints, or Achilles tendonitis.

Extra attention should be paid to people with diabetes, in whom excessive foot pressure may promote hard-to-treat ulcers.

Diagnosis

You can often self-diagnose high arches by wetting your foot and stepping on a piece of paper. A high-arched foot will leave a narrow point between the heel and ball of the foot. Typically, the foot would flatten, leaving a wider impression alongside the arch.

If a high arch causes pain or is causing you to trip or stumble, you will want to see a specialist known as a podiatrist who can evaluate your foot structure and check for any abnormalities in your gait. They'll look for characteristic features such as:

  • Calluses
  • Hammertoes
  • Claw toes
  • Abnormal wear on the outer heel or outer edge of your shoes

In addition to a physical exam, the doctor will want information about your current health, medical history, and family history to help assess whether the cause is structural or neurologic.

X-rays may be ordered to support the diagnosis. If needed, you may be referred to a neurologist to pinpoint the cause and nature of the disorder.

(Video) What Causes High Arches in Feet?

Treatment

The treatment of high arches can vary by the cause and severity of the condition. Efforts would be made to treat the disorder conservatively whenever possible.

Non-surgical options include:

  • Custom orthotic devices are inserted into a shoe to correct the foot position and provide arch support. Doing so can improve stability and add much-needed cushioning to your foot.
  • Ankle braces are used to stabilize wobbly ankles and prevent excessive supination while standing or walking.
  • Physical therapy may be recommended to teach you stretching and strengthening techniques that help improve your muscle tone and tendon flexibility.
  • Custom orthotic shoes can also be ordered if adequate footwear cannot be found elsewhere. While expensive, they are often a good solution for people wanting to avoid or delay surgery.

If conservative therapy fails to provide relief, surgery may be explored (generally if the pain is extreme and affecting your ability to move about).

No single procedure is appropriate for all situations, and multiple procedures may be needed to achieve the desired result. Surgical options may include the following.

Plantar Fascia Release

The contracted tendon between the heel and ball of the foot is partially cut to release the tension.

It's typically performed as an open operation and requires a plaster cast to help the foot heal the right position. Recovery takes around four to six weeks.

All About Plantar Fascia Surgery

Tendon Transfer Surgery

A tendon is shifted from its original position to a new one to release tension and improve mobility. It is not a transplant; instead, the tendon is simply moved.

It's performed as open surgery, requires casting, and recovery time is up to eight weeks of recovery time (including four weeks of non-weight-bearingbed rest). It is also likely to require aggressive and difficult physical therapy afterward to re-educate the muscle.

Osteotomy

An open surgical procedure in which a bone is cut to shorten it, lengthen it, or change its alignment.

When used to correct a high arch, it's most often used to reposition the heel bone (calcaneus). Screws and wires hold the realigned bones in place. Recovery time is around six weeks.

Osteotomy: An Option for Joint Surgery

Arthrodesis

An open surgical technique in which adjacent bones are moved and fused together to increase stability.

Arthrodesis is typically used when there's either severe rigidity in the arch or rapid deterioration of the arch structure. Depending on the location, the recovery time (with casting) can take anywhere from four to nine weeks.

Arthrodesis: Fusing a Joint

(Video) High Arch Feet (Cavus Foot) - Georgina Tay, Singapore Podiatrist

Risks

As with any surgery, there are risks, including:

  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Improper bone healing
  • Painful hardware post-operation
  • Improper wound healing (dehiscence), leading to further need for surgery
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Postoperative bleeding
  • The formation of clots
  • Reaction to general anesthesia

Be sure to speak with your surgeon so you fully understand the benefits and risks of the procedure as well as the recovery time and pain control options.

In cases where an underlying neurologic problem exists, surgery may be needed again in the future due to the progression of the disease.

Coping

The primary challenge of living with high arches is finding the right shoe to support your foot and distribute your body weight evenly.

Oftentimes, the options found in regular shoe stores are far too shallow and promote rather than correct theoutward sway of your ankles.

Moreover, because high-arch feet don't absorb shock well, hard-soled shoes may not only increase pain but transfer stress to the knees and hips.

To overcome these problems, invest in a pair of shoes that are properly fitted to your foot. If custom-made shoes are not in your budget, try visiting a specialty running shoe store, which is more likely to conduct a comprehensive foot analysis.

By finding a pair of shoes that provide optimal support and comfort, you will better understand what to look for in other shoes.

Shoes for High Arches

If you have high arches, always focus on shoes with:

  • Thick but flexible soles
  • Heels that are no more than one to two inches high
  • A fuller (or even tapered) heel to increase stability
  • A wider toe box in which you can spread your toes
  • Laces you can loosen if you experience tendon pain near the shoe tongue

High-topped shoes or ankle boots can offer extra ankle support.

If a shoe doesn't offer enough support, you can usually find three-dimensional arch inserts at larger drugstores. Retailers like FootBalance make reasonably priced custom orthotics you can switch between shoes.

To prevent toe clenching, purchase a set of inexpensive neoprene or foam toe spacers that you can wear underneath your socks and shoes.

A Word From Verywell

If you have high arches, never ignore foot pain. By seeing a podiatrist early, you can keep your symptoms from getting worse and even correct structural abnormalities in your gait before they affect other joints.

1 Source

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Maynou C, Szymanski C, Thiounn A. The adult cavus foot.EFORT Open Rev. 2017;2(5):221–229. Published 2017 May 11. doi:10.1302/2058-5241.2.160077

Additional Reading

High Arched Feet Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment (1)

By Catherine Moyer, DPM
Catherine Moyer, DPM, is a podiatrist experienced in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders of the foot and ankle.

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(Video) Is Having a High Arch Worse than a Flat Foot? - Lewis Nurney, Singapore Podiatrist
(Video) The Best Ways to Take Care of High Arch Feet

FAQs

What causes high arched feet? ›

Cavus foot is often caused by a neurologic disorder or other medical condition, such as cerebral palsy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, spina bifida, polio, muscular dystrophy or stroke. In other cases of cavus foot, the high arch may represent an inherited structural abnormality.

What happens when you have high arches? ›

When you have high arches, one or both heels are usually tilted toward the middle of your body. This causes foot and ankle instability, which can cause pain and increase your risk of ankle sprains, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.

Are high arches a disability? ›

High arches, unlike flat feet, are often painful and can be a disability. They can also make it hard to fit into shoes. When you have high arches, your feet can't absorb shock well when you walk or run.

What is the medical term for high arches? ›

High arch is an arch that is raised more than normal. The arch runs from the toes to the heel on the bottom of the foot. It is also called pes cavus.

What type of shoes are best for high arches? ›

Supportive and soft midsoles

“When shopping for your footwear, look for shoes with a supportive midsole and more volume, as a high-arched foot needs more space inside the shoe,” says Tamburin. “Soft insoles that mold to your foot shape and reach the top of your arch are also helpful,” she adds.

Is walking barefoot good for high arches? ›

If you have high arches or flat arches (many people lean one way or the other), going barefoot can increase your chances of developing heel pain, or plantar fasciitis. Running or walking barefoot for long periods of time on hard surfaces can quickly put strain on your arch and wear down the fatty heel pad.

Is high arch feet good? ›

Their stiffer design doesn't allow the foot to roll enough to properly distribute weight under pressure. As a result, feet with a raised midfoot are more prone to injuries like hammertoes, calluses, corns, metatarsalgia, sesamoiditis, plantar fasciitis, and even ankle and Achilles tendon problems.

Is cavus foot a disability? ›

Surely having a cavus foot counts as a disability? Usually having high arches is not associated with high levels of disability, unless in severe cases where mobility is greatly reduced as a result.

Do high arches cause back pain? ›

Generally a high arch foot-type is rigid and poor at shock absorbing. This means if the shock absorption or cushioning is not occurring at the level of the foot – it will get transferred all the way up to the lower back which may result in low back pain.

What is the highest arch of the foot called? ›

The medial longitudinal arch, the lateral longitudinal arch, and the anterior transverse arch are the three arches of the human foot. These arches are shaped by the metatarsal and tarsal bones and braced by tendons and ligaments of the foot. Of the two longitudinal arches, the medial arch is the highest.

Where do you feel pain from high arches? ›

This is because high arches put extra stress on your metatarsals, or midfoot bones, because your weight is concentrated on the ball of your foot. That can mean foot pain when standing, walking or running that, over time, can radiate to your ankle, knee, hip and back.

What neurological causes cavus foot? ›

Static neurological disorders that cause cavus foot include stroke, polio, cerebral palsy, spinal injury, and peroneal nerve injury. Progressive neurological disorders that can cause cavus foot include a spinal tumour, brain tumour, spinal cyst, muscular dystrophy, Friedreich's ataxia, and Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndrome.

How do you tell if you have high arch feet? ›

High arch (low)

If you see little of your footprint, you likely have a high arch. High arches may contribute to excessive strain on joints and muscles. Your feet may not absorb shock well, especially if you perform a lot of impact or jumping activities.

What can a podiatrist do for high arches? ›

A podiatrist can provide you with custom-fitted orthotics that can help to support the arches of your feet and distribute weight more evenly among the foot to prevent heel pain and pain in the ball of the foot.

How common is high arches? ›

WebMD reports that high arch feet are inherited by 68% of women, and 20% of men. 99% of women under 60 with the disorder inherit it from their parents, as do 63% of men. Outside of genetics, cavus foot can be caused by a myriad of neurological disorders and other medical conditions.

Should I see a podiatrist for high arches? ›

Foot pain is something you never should ignore if you have high arches. By seeing a podiatrist early, you can avoid a worsening of symptoms and even correct structural abnormalities in your gait before other joints are affected.

Can high foot arches cause knee pain? ›

A person with high arches using extra shoe inserts for support however they cause the feet and shoes to “roll out”. This can result in knee pain and compensation elsewhere in the body.

Are Skechers good for high arches? ›

Best Women's Overall: Skechers Go Walk Arch Fit Grateful

We chose this pair of slip-on sneakers as our best women's pick for high arches because it features a durable outsole that offers great traction. The insole provides ample support, while lightweight cushioning keeps you feeling light on your feet all day long.

Do Skechers have good arch support? ›

Your search ends with Skechers Arch Fit. Designed specifically for people with flat feet and overpronation, it is one of the best supportive shoes that you can get for such a low price. Not to mention how light it feels on the foot. From the first step, the shoe's comfort will make you want to wear it for hours.

Can cavus foot be cured? ›

Mild cases of cavus foot can often be remedied with foot and ankle bracing, custom-made orthotics or wearing more comfortable shoes. If your condition remains unresponsive to the aforementioned treatment methods, surgical treatment may be necessary. Surgery for cavus foot aims to relieve pain and improve stability.

Are orthotics good for high arches? ›

Yes, we use orthotics successfully for those with high arched feet. As our orthotics are designed uniquely for a persons feet, they can include the features that restore what they may naturally lack with high-arched feet – like cushioning, shock absorption and stability.

Which is worse high arches or flat feet? ›

Flat feet may cause foot pain or a dysfunctional walking pattern, but in many cases, they are asymptomatic. High arches are a rarer occurrence where the arches are unusually raised. High arches may cause pain while going about your daily activities and make it harder to find shoes that fit comfortably.

What causes cavus? ›

The causes of cavus foot are varied and may include congenital, developmental and neuromuscular origins. In some cases, cavus foot is linked to a neurologic disorder such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.

Can I get disability for my feet? ›

If you have suffered a foot- or ankle-related injury, you may qualify for federal disability retirement benefits if the condition impacts your ability to do your job.

Can arched feet become flat? ›

Arches can collapse abruptly after an injury. Or the collapse can happen over years of wear and tear. Over time, the tendon that runs along the inside of the ankle and helps support the arch can get weakened or tear. As the severity increases, arthritis may develop in the foot.

Can high arches cause sciatica pain? ›

Indeed, your high arches may be contributing to your sciatica symptoms. In that case, proper arch support should minimize your symptoms. However, sciatica may also be because of some pathology in the back or malalignment in the knee and hip.

Why do high arches cause plantar fasciitis? ›

People with high arches are prone to developing plantar fasciitis. The plantar is the band of tissue under the foot that connects your heel to your toes. High arches can add more strain to this band of tissue, which can become overstretched and inflamed.

What muscles are in the arch of your foot? ›

For the most part, four muscles are responsible for how well our feet serve us:
  • Tibialis posterior (inner arch)
  • Tibialis anterior (inner arch)
  • Peroneus longus (transverse arch)
  • Peroneus brevis (outer arch)

What is the function of foot arches? ›

The arches of the foot are formed by the tarsal and metatarsal bones and strengthened by ligaments and tendons. They allow the foot to support the weight of the body in the erect posture with the least weight.

Why do the arches of my feet hurt? ›

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of arch pain and one of the most common orthopedic complaints reported. It's caused by inflammation, overuse, or injury to the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is the ligament that connects the front of your foot to your heel.

How do I know what type of foot arch I have? ›

What Your Footprint Means
  1. Half-filled. If the sole of your footprint is half-filled, you have a normal arch. ...
  2. Filled. If you see your entire footprint, you have a flat arch. ...
  3. Empty. If you only see the heel and ball of your footprint (or little of the sole between), your feet have high arches.
11 Aug 2021

Can your foot arch change over time? ›

The connection between age and foot health

As mentioned, some people have normal feet for the majority of their adult life, but their arches slowly break down and flatten as they grow older. This causes their shoe size to increase as their foot flattens out.

How can I measure my foot arch at home? ›

We need just enough to get the bottom of our foot. Wet. Next we'll take one of our feet and step

Are high arched feet good? ›

Their stiffer design doesn't allow the foot to roll enough to properly distribute weight under pressure. As a result, feet with a raised midfoot are more prone to injuries like hammertoes, calluses, corns, metatarsalgia, sesamoiditis, plantar fasciitis, and even ankle and Achilles tendon problems.

Is it better to have high arches or flat feet? ›

Most people think flat feet are bad and high arches are desirable. However, in reality, whether you have flat feet or high arches doesn't matter. What matters is how well you can connect to and truly use your feet.

Is walking barefoot good for high arches? ›

If you have high arches or flat arches (many people lean one way or the other), going barefoot can increase your chances of developing heel pain, or plantar fasciitis. Running or walking barefoot for long periods of time on hard surfaces can quickly put strain on your arch and wear down the fatty heel pad.

Is cavus foot a disability? ›

Surely having a cavus foot counts as a disability? Usually having high arches is not associated with high levels of disability, unless in severe cases where mobility is greatly reduced as a result.

What type of shoes are best for high arches? ›

Supportive and soft midsoles

“When shopping for your footwear, look for shoes with a supportive midsole and more volume, as a high-arched foot needs more space inside the shoe,” says Tamburin. “Soft insoles that mold to your foot shape and reach the top of your arch are also helpful,” she adds.

What neurological causes cavus foot? ›

Static neurological disorders that cause cavus foot include stroke, polio, cerebral palsy, spinal injury, and peroneal nerve injury. Progressive neurological disorders that can cause cavus foot include a spinal tumour, brain tumour, spinal cyst, muscular dystrophy, Friedreich's ataxia, and Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndrome.

How common are high arches? ›

Cavus foot can develop at any age, though it's most commonly inherited at birth. WebMD reports that high arch feet are inherited by 68% of women, and 20% of men.

Can high arches cause back pain? ›

Generally a high arch foot-type is rigid and poor at shock absorbing. This means if the shock absorption or cushioning is not occurring at the level of the foot – it will get transferred all the way up to the lower back which may result in low back pain.

Can high arches cause knee pain? ›

Arch supports help to realign the foot into natural positions for effective weight-bearing. Too much arch support will make the foot arch take an unnaturally high position. The result will be knee malalignment, leading to knee pain.

Can cavus foot be cured? ›

Mild cases of cavus foot can often be remedied with foot and ankle bracing, custom-made orthotics or wearing more comfortable shoes. If your condition remains unresponsive to the aforementioned treatment methods, surgical treatment may be necessary. Surgery for cavus foot aims to relieve pain and improve stability.

Are orthotics good for high arches? ›

Yes, we use orthotics successfully for those with high arched feet. As our orthotics are designed uniquely for a persons feet, they can include the features that restore what they may naturally lack with high-arched feet – like cushioning, shock absorption and stability.

What causes cavus? ›

The causes of cavus foot are varied and may include congenital, developmental and neuromuscular origins. In some cases, cavus foot is linked to a neurologic disorder such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.

Can I get disability for my feet? ›

If you have suffered a foot- or ankle-related injury, you may qualify for federal disability retirement benefits if the condition impacts your ability to do your job.

Videos

1. FIX High Arches & High Arch Feet [Supination & Pes Cavus Foot Type]
(Michigan Foot Doctors)
2. Metatarsalgia: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
(SLO Motion Shoes)
3. High Arches, what does it mean? Part 1
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4. 3 Ways To Treat Foot Pain If You Have High Arches
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5. Get The Facts About High Arch Foot| Causes | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Saqsham Ortho
(Saqsham Ortho)
6. Is Having a High Arch Worse than a Flat Foot? | Seattle Podiatrist Larry Huppin
(Foot & Ankle Center of Washington)
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