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Have high arches? These shoe styles will keep you comfortable, according to podiatrists

"With the proper footwear and orthotics, high arches are manageable."
Vivian Le / TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

When it comes to footwear, everything seems to revolve around arch support, and we all have our own unique arch burden to bear.

The perfect pair of shoes looks a lot different for folks with flat feet (aka low arches) than it does for anyone with high arches, so the Shop TODAY team consulted a few top podiatrists to help you get the perfect fit. We're also sharing some adorable shoppable picks to keep your high arches happy!

What causes high arches? | Best shoe styles for high arches | Insoles for high arches | Sandals for high arches | Flats for high arches | Wedges for high arches | Sneakers for high arches | FAQs | Meet the experts

What causes high arches?

Also known as pes cavus, high arches can form for a number of reasons including genetics and certain medical conditions. Most often, you're born with high arches, but if you develop them over time, it's a sign that you should consult a doctor to rule out a number of neurological conditions.

"Certain neurological diseases like spina bifida, cerebral palsy, polio, strokes, muscular dystrophy and Charcot Marie Tooth disease can lead to high arches," foot and ankle reconstructive surgeon Dr. Ashley Lee adds.

What types of shoes work best for high arches?

There's no rule that says certain shoe styles are off-limits if you have high arches, but some are definitely more desirable than others.

"Heels can sometimes be more uncomfortable for people with higher arches due to the fact that the ball of their foot is already under more pressure than usual," Lee explains.

If you're looking for your sole-mate, here are a few worthwhile styles:

  • Sandals: "People with higher arches should find a sandal with a supportive arch and ensure that straps do not cross the most prominent part of their instep," Lee says.
  • Flats: "Sometimes people with higher arches find ballet flats to be more comfortable because the smaller toe box does not put pressure on the highest part of the instep," Lee mentions.
  • Wedges: "Wedges are generally a better option for people who want shoes with a height. Wedges allow the pressure to distribute across the entire foot instead of just the ball and heel of the foot," Lee comments.
  • Sneakers: "Gym shoes are always suitable for someone with higher arches, but often people will complain of pain to the instep due to the pressure from the shoe. A simple way I treat this is to have my patients skip an eyelet in their shoelaces overlying the most prominent part of their instep. This alleviates pressure on the nerve and bone," Lee says.

Insoles and orthotics for high arches

Tread Labs Ramble Thin Insoles

With both high and extra high options available, these insoles are a welcome treat for aching arches. The thin, flexible insert supports arches and fits in a variety of shoes. They're also guaranteed for life and the brand will send you a new pair — no questions asked — if they crack.

Fulton The Athletic Insole

Need a bit more arch support in your go-to sneakers? This insole helps prevent pain and injuries by aligning your feet, hips, knees and back. The breathable cushioned material absorbs shock while also keeping feet cool, and the style works equally well for flat feet and high arches alike.

Protalus T-100 Insole

Available in women's, men's and youth sizes, this insole offers a "moderate degree of arch support," according to the brand. To help reduce pressure, they fall higher on the sides of feet, and they also help align your body.

Naboso Activation Insoles

Whether you're standing on your feet all day or experience high arch pain from time to time, these insoles can offer relief. According to the brand, they "stimulate, wake up and strengthen" feet, all while stimulating the nerves in your feet.

Aetrex Casual Comfort Orthotics W/ Metatarsal Support

Ideal for medium to high arches, this orthotic absorbs shock, cushions feet and fends off odors thanks to its anti-odor and anti-bacterial material. The cupped heel stabilizes the back of feet and a metatarsal pad alleviates ball of foot pain. The orthotic is also helpful for heel pain and plantar fasciitis.

Sandals for high arches

Skechers GOwalk Flex Arch Fit Vegan Washable Knit Sandals

We know that flip-flops aren't exactly kind to your feet, but they're a summertime staple and we're not willing to give them up. Luckily, Skechers has created this feet-friendly pair that features a cushioned footbed and plenty of arch support. The comfy style is available in four colors and it's also machine-washable!

OrthoFeet Malibu Two-Way Strap

"Opt for shoes that have adjustable straps or ties for a good, supportive fit, a comfortable lightweight but non-slip sole, and arch support," board-certified foot surgeon Dr. Brad Schaeffer advises.

These walking sandals check off all the major boxes and feature multiple layers of cushioning. Ideal for sensitive feet, the sporty style has orthotic insoles with built-in arch support. The ergonomic sole also has a mild rocker that cradles feet in comfort with every step.

Vionic Jamie Flatform Lug Sandal

You'll glide through your day in these ultra-comfy lug sandals that have earned the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) seal of acceptance. The platform style has a sturdy 2" heel, a durable outsole and arch support. What more could you ask for?!

Hoka Hopara Sandals

Not only does Hoka promise a cushioned and responsive midsole to offer top-notch comfort no matter the terrain, but it also makes sure its Hopara sandal includes some other eye-catching features to keep your feet happy. That includes a quick-lace system, rubberized toe cap, neoprene construction, multidirectional lugs and so much more.

Flats for high arches

LifeStride Nina Women's Slip-On Flats

Schaeffer recommends looking for shoes with plenty of room in the toe box to offer your tootsies the space they need to move around unrestricted. "Constricting shoes, whether flat or very high heeled, can have really adverse outcomes for your feet and body, and can exacerbate existing issues," he explains.

These slip-on flats have a generous round toe, arch support and cushioning, a traction sole and a foam footbed. Plus, they're the perfect mix between casual and classy, making them perfect for dressing up or down.

SOUL Naturalizer Kentley Loafer

The right pair of shoes can make a world of difference, but regular stretching can also help with high arches. "It is extremely important to focus on stretching the Achilles and calves, so the foot does not become too rigid and create callous and pressure points on the outside of the foot!" Schaeffer says.

These sleek loafers would look equally cute with jeans and a tee or your go-to little black dress. We're fans of the subtle metallic buckle, the clean lines and the neutral color options. Notable features include a memory foam footbed with arch support, a flexible sole and a foam lining.

Dansko Lesley Cactus Nubuck

Not a fan of ballet flats? These espadrilles are a fun alternative. The supportive style has a removable footbed with memory foam cushioning, arch support and a lightweight outsole. For added convenience, the lining is even treated with an odor-control shield. Of course, the vibrant color options offer added appeal!

ABEO Tilly Flat

These cute flats have an orthotic insole that supports arches and heels and a flexible upper that lets toes stretch out. On top of that, the footbed wicks away sweat like a pro. The style comes in eight colors, ranging from grays and blacks to snake skin prints.

Wedges for high arches

Unisa Beckey Wedge Bootie

Even when the weather is frightful, you can still look stylish while keeping your feet happy. These wedge booties have a lightly padded footbed and a 3.25" heel that will give you a nice lift. We're digging the sleek material and faux fur detailing!

Dr. Scholl's Be Ready Wedge

With its walkable wedge, these classy ballet heels were certainly made for on-the-go gals. They're made with an anti-microbial, anti-odor foam insole that offers cushioning and arch support. Plus, they're available in four neutral hues that will go with everything.

Lifestride Zone Booties

In our humble opinion, the best types of shoes are adorable (naturally) and supportive (an essential), and these booties have the market cornered on both nonnegotiable characteristics. The hiker-inspired style comes in faux leather and microsuede materials and has a walking-friendly 2" wedge heel. The flexible, cushioned style was made for comfort and also has insoles that absorb shock and distribute pressure. Talk about impressive!

Sorel Joanie III Ankle Strap Wedge Sandal

Wedges are a universally comfortable style that's made for walking, and this sassy style effortlessly merges fashion and function. The faux wood platform is supported by a rubber sole and the style comes in leather and suede finishes.

Sneakers for high arches

Holo Maverick Waterproof Sneakers

Looking for a bit of variety when it comes to your sneaker collection? This waterproof style has a unique vibe with its knit, multitextured exterior. The slip-on style has a roomy round toe and a handy antibacterial lining that keeps germs at bay.

Kuru Stride Move Sneaker

"I like to recommend athletic or running shoes with good offloading features that provide a good balance transfer between heel strike and toe off. The goal is to achieve a neutral foot type movement, whether you have high arches or flat feet," Schaeffer says.

Supportive shoes don't have to be clunky, and this sneaker is a perfect example with its sock-like fit. Featuring a stretchy mesh material, a reinforced and roomy toe, and shock-absorbing technology, the style supports arches and heels with ease.

Reebok Nano X3 Adventure Training Shoes

Your high arches don't have to hold you back from working out. These unisex training shoes are sturdy enough to keep your feet comfy while you're working up a sweat. The water-resistant style is lightweight and responsive and features a traction outsole.

MBT Gadi Sneaker

These APMA certified walking sneakers are a true triple threat. They offer arch support, improve balance and posture, and cushion feet while reducing impact on knee and hip joints. The orthopedic style also features a durable rubber outsole and a shock-absorbing insole.

Frequently asked questions

What are the negatives of high arches?

Much like low arches, high arches can cause their own unique set of feet issues. Here's a quick cheat sheet:

  • Increased weight on your feet: "With high arches, your foot is structured to naturally place too much weight on the outside of your foot when walking or standing," Schaeffer says.
  • Tight calves: "The Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the back of the heel, is often tight and can lead to tendinitis and spurring on the back of the heel bone," Lee says.
  • Increased pressure on your feet: "People with high arches also have more pressure on the ball of their feet which can lead to metatarsalgia, capsulitis and stress fractures in the metatarsals and neuromas," Lee comments.
  • Other foot conditions: "Higher arches can also shorten the plantar fascia, which is a ligament on the bottom of the foot, which can lead to plantar fasciitis," Lee says.
  • Ankle, knee and hip injuries: "People with high arches are typically prone to rolling the ankle and having knee and hip problems in the future when not supported properly," Schaeffer notes.
  • Arthritis and nerve pain: "High arches can also lead to arthritis in the midfoot due to the arches slowly falling over time. High arches can also cause shoes to put pressure on the top of the foot, which can compress a nerve leading to neuritis, or inflammation of the nerve," Lee says.
  • Calluses and hammertoes: "High arches might cause calluses and hammertoes due to altered foot mechanics," podiatrist Dr. Casey Pidich says.

Are flat shoes better for people with high arches?

As Lee notes, flat shoes are sometimes more comfortable for high arches. However, they shouldn't be your everyday option.

"High arches need more support and cushioning, especially in the midfoot area, which flat shoes often lack. Instead, shoes with built-in arch support or orthotics are often more supportive and comfortable," Pidich mentions.

Flat shoes typically put more stress on feet tendons and ligaments due to a lack of support. However, podiatrist Kevin Douglas, DPM, notes that they're ok to wear sparingly.

"If you’re comfortable and not in pain, you shouldn’t have any problems. If not, you should think about changing it up," he says.

Can high foot arches be corrected?

Tired of dealing with your high arches? They can be corrected, but Douglas doesn't necessarily recommend doing so unless you're having a major issue.

"Some patients with high arches have a progressive neuromuscular disorder and they may require surgery to put the foot in proper alignment, but that is not the majority of patients," he says.

Per Pidich, there are a few ways to live comfortably with high arches without surgical intervention.

"With the proper footwear and orthotics, high arches are manageable. In addition, physical therapy exercises can help maintain flexibility and strength in the feet," she summarizes.

Do high arches need wide shoes?

High arches and wide shoes don't necessarily go hand in hand, according to Pidich.

"The requirement for shoe width is related to the overall shape and width of the foot, not just the height of the arch," she says. "However, people with high arches usually need shoes with more depth to accommodate the elevated arches."

Douglas also recommends shoes with a bit of heel lift.

"They can be beneficial because they relieve some of the pressure and provide more flexibility, especially if the Achilles tendon is tight," he explains.

Meet the experts