High Arch Feet
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What are high arch feet?
The arch of your foot is the area between your heel and the ball of your foot. Some people have higher arches than usual. People with high arch feet may experience problems, which can range from occasional discomfort to permanent skeletal issues. This condition is medically known as cavus foot deformity.
How can you tell if you have high arches?
A simple way to tell if you have high arches is to wet your feet and stand on a safe surface, such as concrete or a piece of paper. After you move your feet, look at the imprint left behind. People with high arches will only see an imprint of their heel and the front of their foot with nothing in between.
Of course, the only surefire way to know if you have high arches is to schedule a consultation with your healthcare provider. They can run some tests to determine the severity of your condition.
What is the difference between normal feet and high arch feet?
A normal arch is raised slightly off of the ground when a person is standing. People with high arches have much more space between the floor and their arch.
How common is cavus foot?
High arch feet are less common than flat feet. It’s been estimated that about 20% of the population has high arch feet.
How does cavus foot affect my body?
High arches result in more stress on the feet, which can lead to painful symptoms. People with high arches often have trouble finding shoes that fit properly. The condition can lead to disability in some cases.
What health problems are associated with high arch feet?
There are several conditions that can develop as a result of high arch feet. Some of the most common include:
- Metatarsalgia: This condition is characterized by inflammation in the ball of the foot. People with metatarsalgia usually experience pain when standing or walking for long periods of time.
- Plantar fasciitis: The plantar fascia is a ligament that connects your toes to your heel. Plantar fasciitis refers to the inflammation of that ligament. People with this condition often have sharp heel pain. The pain is usually worse after waking up, but it improves the more you walk.
- Hammertoes: This condition occurs when the second, third or fourth toes bend at the middle joint, resulting in a hammer-shaped appearance. Hammertoes can be painful, and they may eventually require surgery.
- Claw toes: People with this condition have toes that curl downward and dig into the soles of their shoes. Claw toe can have a negative impact on the way that you walk.
- Ankle instability: High arch feet can cause ankle instability and increase your risk for ankle sprains.
- Metatarsal fractures: Because high arches can cause repeated stress, people with the condition may develop hairline fractures in the bones of the foot.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes cavus foot?
Many people are born with high arches, so genetics is certainly a factor. However, in other cases, high arch feet are a symptom of another condition, such as:
- Spina bifida.
- Muscular dystrophy.
- Cerebral palsy.
- Spinal tumors.
- Spinal cord injuries.
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT).
What are the symptoms of high arch feet?
Cavus foot symptoms include:
- Corns or calluses on your heel, ball of your foot or side of your foot.
- An inward-tilting heel.
- Trouble finding shoes that fit well.
- Foot pain, particularly when walking, standing or playing sports.
- Toes that are bent when standing.
Diagnosis and Tests
How is cavus foot diagnosed?
The diagnosis of a cavus foot is made by physical exam. Your healthcare provider may perform tests to help fully evaluate your feet. These may include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Nerve conduction study.
Management and Treatment
How are high arch feet treated?
There are several treatment options available for people with high arches. What’s best for you depends on a few different factors, including the flexibility of your feet. Treatment for cavus foot includes:
- Orthotics: You can place inserts in your shoes to provide additional cushioning and to help place your foot in a more favorable position. Orthotics are available over-the-counter — but for best results, you can have a custom pair made.
- Bracing: In some cases, your healthcare provider may recommend bracing your foot and ankle to ease high arch symptoms.
- Night splints: This method helps stretch your arches and calf muscles while you sleep. This is especially helpful if your high arches result in plantar fasciitis.
- Icing: If high arches cause occasional pain, icing your feet can help reduce discomfort and inflammation. Apply ice to the arches of your feet for about 20 minutes every two to three hours.
- Pain relievers: Over-the-counter medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help ease pain and swelling.
- Surgery: If you have high arch foot pain that isn’t improved with non-surgical treatments, then cavus foot surgery may be recommended. During this procedure, your surgeon may alter soft tissue (such as tendons) or remove bone from certain areas of the foot. In severe cases, joint fusion may be necessary.
Are there complications regarding cavus foot surgery?
Like any surgical procedure, there are possible complications following cavus foot surgery. These risks include:
- Allergy to the anesthesia.
- Heavy bleeding.
- Blood clots.
- Nerve damage.
- Blood vessel damage.
- Persistent pain after surgery
How long does it take to recover from cavus foot surgery?
Cavus foot surgery recovery can take as long as eight to 12 weeks. You’ll need to avoid putting weight on your feet for at least six weeks after the procedure. Healing times can vary significantly for each person, so ask your healthcare provider what to expect.
How can I reduce my risk for high arch feet?
Because high arch feet are either genetic or caused by an underlying condition, there really isn’t a way to prevent the problem from occurring. However, high arch pain can be successfully managed with proper monitoring and treatment.
Outlook / Prognosis
What can I expect if I have high arch feet?
People with high arch feet may have short-term or long-term pain. Generally speaking, if high arches are due to a neurological problem, pain is likely to worsen over time. If they’re due to genetics, your condition is likely to stay about the same.
When should I see my healthcare provider?
If you think you may have unusually high arches, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. They can help determine the root cause of the problem and design a personalized treatment plan to meet your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do high arches cause overpronation?
Pronation refers to the natural rolling movement of your foot when walking or running. High arches usually cause underpronation (when your foot rolls outward, placing pressure on the outer toes). People with overpronation (when your foot rolls inward) typically have flat feet.
How does Charcot-Marie-Tooth cause cavus foot?
Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease is an inherited disorder that causes smaller, weaker muscles. High arch feet are common among people with this disorder.
In order to work properly, the leg muscles must be balanced. In people with CMT, the outer calf muscles no longer provide opposition for the tibial muscles in the front part of your shin. As a result, the tibial muscles work overtime and pull the arch of the foot upward.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
High arch feet can cause mild or severe pain that may be short-term or chronic. If you think you may have high arches that are interfering with your quality of life, talk to your healthcare provider. There are many conservative treatment options available that can alleviate your pain and help you return to normal function.
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