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This Simple Test Can Tell You Which Type of Arch You Have

Knowing if you have flat or high arches can help you choose the right pair of running shoes.

High Angle View Of Footprint On Footpath
Esra Karakose / EyeEmGetty Images

According to podiatrists and experts, there are three main types of arches: normal, low, and high. Knowing your foot type and shape is important because it can help you choose the best pair of shoes for you. If you have flat feet, but you buy a shoe that’s meant for someone with high arches, the result will likely be an uncomfortable one.

If you’re not sure which type of arch you have, we’ve got an easy way to figure it out—it’s called the “wet test.” Below, we detail how to do each step for yourself and what your results mean.

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How to Figure Out Your Arch Type:

1. Pour a thin layer of water into a shallow pan.

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2. Wet the sole of your foot.

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3. Step onto a blank piece of heavy paper.

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4. Step off and look down.

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Note that the wet test only gives you one clue in the process of finding the right shoe. While many runners fall into the categories described below, some people have flat feet that are stiff and some have high but flexible arches, for example. Other variables such as your weight, biomechanics, running experience, and fit preferences come into play.

You should try on and run in any shoe before you buy it, to see whether it feels right for your stride. Ideally, a fit specialist from a specialty running store can assist you by asking questions about your running and injury history, looking at your old shoes, and observing you run. If you have a history of injury, you should consult a medical professional such as a sports podiatrist or physical therapist to help you with appropriate treatment, a recovery training plan, and a more formal assessment of your running shoe needs.

Look at the shape of your footprint and compare it with one of the following descriptions.

Normal (Medium) Arch

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If you see about half of your arch region filled in, you have the most common foot type. Usually, this means you have an arch that naturally supports your bodyweight and pronates normally under load. Some pronation or “rolling in” of the foot is desirable and acts as a natural shock absorber. Most runners with this arch type can wear just about any shoe.

Flat (Low) Arch

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If the arch of your footprint is filled in, it’s likely that your foot collapses inward when you run. This acts as a shock absorber, but the additional rolling in of your foot may stress your feet and knees, adding to your injury risk. Usually, we would recommend shoes with more stability, such as internal wedges that build up the arch side, dual-density midsoles and supportive “posts,” or wider, more substantial midsoles.

High Arch

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If your footprint shows little or no contact along the outside edge and you see just your heel and the ball of your foot, you have a “high” arch. Your foot may not roll in much when you run, but it doesn’t absorb much shock. We would usually recommend you use a well-cushioned shoe with little or no arch support or stability features.

[Related: The 3 Most Common Causes of Arch Pain and How to Fix It]

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