Our feet provide balance and support and keep us moving. However, the shape of our feet can drastically affect our ability to do so.
We all know the saying, “You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole,” so why do many of us attempt to do that with our feet and shoes? Whether you’re standing at attention or tap dancing to your heart’s content, different types of feet shapes need different types of footwear.
Here, we’ll analyze the relationship between foot shape and shoes, compare the different feet shapes, help identify your foot shape and ideal shoes, and examine the impact a person’s foot shape can have on their overall comfort and health.
Why Foot Shape Matters When Choosing Shoes
Historically, when shopping for shoes, there are two choices: beauty or comfort. As expected, most go for what looks cool or trendy. So, it’s no wonder many people aren’t even sure what true comfort looks like. The good news is that you can have both, but to discover your match made in heaven, you’ll have to break up with the ill-fitting shoes and get to know your feet.
While not as unique as a fingerprint, feet are radically individual. In many cases, a person’s left foot and right foot are anything but mirror images. Until you take stock of the structure and the shape of your foot, you’ll likely continue to buy shoes that cause undue stress and pressure on your feet, impeding the quality of your movement.
To discuss types of feet shapes, we must first look at the structural elements that make up our feet.
Types of Foot Arches
A foot arch’s main task is shock absorption from the impact of activities like walking and jumping. Our arches also allow us to modify how we maneuver on specific surfaces. There are three main types of foot arches:1
- High arch – Ever wondered, do I have flat feet or high arches? High arches are demonstrated by an arch that is overly pronounced, generating excessive pressure on the heel and forefoot. This residual hollowness can create instability, which sets the scene for various injuries.
- Neutral arch – This is the “Goldilocks” of the three arches. This neutral arch has the ideal foot surface area on and off the ground. It makes for high efficiency in movement and comfortable support.
- Low arch – This is also known as “flat feet.” Though the foot may have a slight arch, it will ultimately collapse when weight is put on the foot. In addition, due to its lack of structure, movement can be restricted, causing further issues throughout the body.
Any attempt at buying shoes without correctly identifying your arch type can lead to uncomfortable results. To help correct some of these issues, insoles or orthotics can be added to create more arch support. Depending on the shoe, they might remove much-needed space for the foot to breathe and move freely.
Pronation and Supination of the Foot
The side-to-side foot movement during impact is considered either pronation or supination. Though not always, the type of arch a person has can sometimes play a critical role in the pronation or supination they experience. There are three different types of foot movement:
- Supination – This occurs when, upon impact, the foot rolls or tilts to the outside edge of the foot, decreasing the foot’s connecting surface area with the ground. Those with high arches are more inclined to supinate, and because of the added strain, they are likely to develop aches and pains in the lower legs or feet, like plantar fasciitis.
- Neutral pronation – This is the optimal level of pronation. As the foot lands, there is an average amount of movement, allowing the arch to flatten slightly to absorb the shock and rebound back to a neutral arch and alignment.
- Overpronation – When the weight-bearing foot rolls down and inward, limiting the range of movement and stability. Many with flat feet suffer due to the added overpronation. In addition, the added load can cause extreme discomfort and cause further issues up the chain of body alignment.
You might be surprised to hear that knowing what shoe size you wear isn’t enough detail. Shoe size doesn’t account for the 3-dimensional shape of your foot, so it’s important to explore options like Vionic essential shoes that cater to different dimensions and shapes. That size has most likely been lodged in your brain from when you stopped growing and is only one measurement: the length. To make a well-informed decision, you need all of the data—and this comes with understanding how to measure foot width and volume.
Volume can be measured in three places:
- Forefoot – Measuring the area around the toes and ball of the foot.
- Midfoot – Measuring the middle section of the foot up until you reach the ankle.
- Instep – Measuring the area that includes the ankle and the heel.
The most accurate measurements can be achieved using a tape measure and observing how each shoe feels.2
Toe Configurations and Foot Shape
The configuration of a person’s toes has an incredible influence on the overall shape of their foot. Whether or not they have short toes, long toes, or splayed toes can directly affect their ability to distribute weight throughout the foot, which can mean serious issues for some.
Below we’ll explore some of the main types of feet shapes. Note that the names of the foot types are predominately attached to locations. However, there is no scientific data that suggests it is where these types originate from.
- Egyptian feet – This is one of the more usual foot types. The big toe is noticeably the largest of the toes, and the smaller toes decrease in size at roughly a 45-degree angle. Egyptian feet are susceptible to bunions, so it’s best to avoid shoes that have pointy toe boxes.3
- Greek feet – Another mainstream foot type, Greek feet are characterized by the 2nd toe being the longest of the toes. Also called Morton’s Toe, this toe must take precedence in shoe measurements. If not considered, this toe can scrunch up due to a lack of space, taking on a hammer shape, earning its nickname of hammer toe.3
- Roman feet – Also prone to hammer toes are Roman feet. These high-arched feet have three equally large and two smaller toes that tend to curl inwards.3
- Peasant feet – Peasant feet have the same structure as Roman feet but without the size. They tend to be shorter and flatter than their Roman counterpart, which can lead to postural issues.3
- Square feet – These feet have a boxy forefoot adorned by five toes that are all the same size. Due to the narrow heel at the back, those with these feet can develop inflammation on the ball of the foot called metatarsalgia.3
As you can tell, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to the feet shape, and those moving parts can be helped or hindered depending on the shoes you choose to wear. While specific foot types may tend towards distinct issues like shin splints and ankle problems, many can be avoided if cared for and protected by proper footwear.4
How to Determine Your Foot Shape: A Step-by-Step Guide
So you’ve read about arches, pronation, measurements, and toes, so now it’s time to figure out your foot shape. This quick step-by-step guide will help you gain clarity on what you’re working with and inspire confidence in your shoe renaissance.
- Nose to toes – The first order of business is to simply look down at your feet and notice the shape of your feet. What direction are the toes pointing? How big is the ball of the foot? What about the heel? While being able to put a name to it is great, taking stock of the shapes and sizes you’re seeing is more crucial.
- The wet test – This test is to help you figure out exactly which type of arches you’re standing on. Don’t worry; there’s no passing or failing here. Place paper or cardboard on the floor, wet your feet, and stand on your chosen material. If you see an entire foot, you have flat feet. From there, the less water you see, the higher your arch.5
- The shoe test – Pronation and supination naturally occur when walking, but it’s to what degree that matters. Look at some of your old shoes to get an accurate reading of how much your feet roll. You’ll see where they are more worn down. That will give you the most up-to-date and accurate reading of how the rubber meets the road.
Matching Your Foot Shape to Shoe Types: What Works Best
Once you’ve uncovered the mystery of your foot shape, take that prized information into your shoe search. Those with neutral arches, pronation, and common toe configurations will generally have an easier time shopping for shoes. While having proper support and space is still an added bonus, your options are more prominent on the shelves compared to those with high arches or flat feet.
If you have flat feet, you should avoid pointy toe boxes to ensure there’s enough space through the shoe’s arch for your entire foot to flatten. You might also consider tools like orthotics, though some critics say it doesn’t allow your foot muscles to strengthen.
If you have high arches, the best shoes will have stiff soles. Creating extra stability in your step can help limit the possibility of injury.
If you have wider feet, opting for women’s wide shoes is essential to ensure sufficient space and comfort, allowing your feet to move freely without constriction. Find the perfect fit that accommodates your wider feet while providing optimal support and style.
Try to avoid heels if you can, especially if you have a history of foot or ankle pain, but if you do wear them, try to find heels that fit the bill of style and comfort for different types of feet shape.
The Impact of Foot Shape on Comfort and Foot Health
Our feet are our foundation, and when there are cracks in the foundation, it can result in problems on the upper levels. While poor shoe choices can exacerbate painful issues like bunions, hammertoes, and plantar fasciitis, they can also force you to overcompensate with other body parts, having dramatic knock-on effects that go well beyond your feet. These issues can include:6
- Back and joint pain
- Imbalance issues
- Postural problems
- Leg pain
- Organ dysfunction
Comfort and Foot Health With Vionic
Whatever shape feet you have, the research is clear. Making the right choice of footwear, such as Vionic essential shoes for women, is paramount to the health and well-being of your feet and your whole body.
Here at Vionic, we design shoes with cutting-edge Vio Motion technology that gives you the aesthetic you desire and the comfort you deserve. From correcting pronation to promoting full-body alignment, you can find a pair of stylish shoes that fits your unique foot’s needs.
- “How to Choose Shoes According to Your Foot Shape.” 5-Minute Crafts. https://5minutecrafts.site/improve-health/how-to-choose-shoes-according-to-your-foot-shape-1714/
- “Five Ways to Determine Your Foot Type.” Fit My Foot. 11 March, 2022. https://fitmyfoot.com/blogs/footprints/five-ways-to-determine-your-foot-type
- “What Are The Different Types of Feet and Foot Shapes?” The Foot and Ankle Clinic. 30 June, 2022. https://thefootandankle.clinic/blog/what-are-the-differnent-types-of-feet-and-foot-shapes/
- Stanborough, Revecca Joy. “Can Your Foot Shape Reveal Your Personality or Your Ancestry? Learn More.” Healthline. 23 July, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/types-of-feet
- “How to Pick the Best Shoes For Your Foot Type (Pronate, Supinate, Neutral).” Stridewise. https://stridewise.com/shoes-for-different-foot-types/
- “How Your Feet Affect Your Whole Body.” Martin Foot and Ankle. https://www.martinfootandankle.com/blog/how-your-feet-affect-your-whole-body.cfm