March 21, 2012

Test your arches

You know that lately I have been having this little problem of running in the wrong shoes for 800 miles. I think that's 1,000,000 in dog miles. So I've been googling my brains out trying to comprehend how I missed it and to find ways to self test your feet, just in case you need a second opinion, and you want that opinion to be the best one (i.e. yours).

So here's an arch test I did with the help of Runner's World.

Supplies needed:

  • Towel

  • Cookie sheet

  • Construction paper

  • Feet

The test:
  1. Wet your towel or put water in an edged cookie sheet. I was trying to avoid splashing, so I soaked my towel and put it on an old cookie sheet.
  2. Have all of your supplies ready and close by to stamp fast.
  3. Repeat stamping if you first stamp isn't dark enough to read. With each of the examples below, I stamped multiple times in the same spot to make it darker. I wanted to be sure that I was reading it correctly. 

The brown construction paper worked best for me, though I tried a bunch of colors. I also tried card stock (the red one below) and a brown paper sack, but construction paper worked better. 

The most important part of this test is what the results can tell you. If this were a Maury Povich episode, the results would tell you who's the daddy of that baby, so compared to that, this test is kind of sadly boring. And usually people don't fight after getting the results. Yawn.

According to Runner's World, your results mean this:

Normal (medium) Arch
Wet TestIf you see about half of your arch, you have the most common foot type and are considered a normal pronator. Contrary to popular belief, pronation is a good thing. When the arch collapses inward, this "pronation" absorbs shock. As a normal pronator, you can wear just about any shoe, but may be best suited to a stability shoe that provides moderate arch support (or medial stability). Lightweight runners with normal arches may prefer neutral-cushioned shoes without any added support, or even a performance-training shoe that offers some support but less heft, for a faster feel.

Flat (low) Arch

Wet TestIf you see almost your entire footprint, you have a flat foot, which means you're probably an overpronator. That is, a micro-second after footstrike, your arch collapses inward too much, resulting in excessive foot motion and increasing your risk of injuries. You need either stability shoes, which employ devices such as dual-density midsoles and supportive "posts" to reduce pronation and are best for mild to moderate overpronators, or motion-control shoes, which have firmer support devices and are best for severe overpronators, as well as tall, heavy (over 165 pounds), or bow-legged runners.

High Arch

Wet TestIf you see just your heel, the ball of your foot, and a thin line on the outside of your foot, you have a high arch, the least common foot type. This means you're likely an underpronator, or supinator, which can result in too much shock traveling up your legs, since your arch doesn't collapse enough to absorb it. Underpronators are best suited to neutral-cushioned shoes because they need a softer midsole to encourage pronation. It's vital that an underpronator's shoes have no added stability devices to reduce or control pronation, the way a stability or motion-control shoe would.

This test doesn't give you all the answers. I mean, you still won't know if your boyfriend is cheating on you with your best friend's sister's brother, but you will know what type of arches you have. And maybe whether or not you need to eat a ham sandwich, which you would figure out if you get hungry while cleaning up after the test. 

It is also possible for people to pronate outside of the prescribed categories, but I was a textbook example. High arches, underpronate/supinate. If you are planning to get fitted for shoes, this is a great piece of info to have before you go into the store, so if you disagree with their assessment, you can talk about different options for your shoes.

You can also pair this information with other clues like the wear on the soles of your shoes and any video or picture evidence you have of your running feet. The arch test is just one piece, not the whole puzzle, but sometimes missing a piece makes you willing to throw the whole puzzle out. But don't do that.

And of course, barefoot runners don't even give a jolly crap about this. Give them a pathway of glass shards and used hypodermic needles, and they are thrilled. I really admire you barefoot runners, so that sentence just means that you are super tough, not that you like disease transfer and glass splinters. 


  1. Very cool! I will be putting this to the test!! Erica

  2. Note: Anyone who wears orthotics should wear "normal" or neutral shoes. To place orthotics in shoes for over/under supinators would overcompensate for your feet issues and just cause new ones.

    1. Now that I have neutral shoes, my feet feel so much better. I wore the same orthotics with my wrong shoes/stability shoes, and I was definitely having knee and hip issues. The shoes didn't help, but it does seem like the shoes and orthotics together would have helped even less. My orthotics aren't doctor prescribed, so they're mostly just for the comfort of my high arch. I wonder if that makes a difference?

  3. note to self: avoid barefoot running since I am opposed to transmitting diseases via hypodermic needles.

  4. Wellll, look at you all science projecty! :) Thanks for the step by step, I should probably do this!

    1. It was either go to grad school or do this experiment, and this involved more construction paper.

  5. How cool! I have high arches and Allan has really flat feet.

  6. How neat! I've got high arches and Allan has really flat feet. Quite the opposites!

    1. I just read this weekend that flat feet are more evolved because high arches were needed for when we had to climb trees for food. So you can tell you hubby that he is super evolved!

  7. One of the most amazing post, the way you explained everything step by step is simply amazing for me..

    Orthotics In Shoes

  8. loved the post!!! I tried and I am neutral. Thanks so much for posting this!


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