Are High Arches Causing Your Knee Pain?

Introduction

Learning about the cause or causes of knee pain, hip pain and foot pain as we do here isn’t the most fun you can have let’s face it. The truth is though, being able to reliably and consistently move freely without the frustration or threat of knee pain IS great fun. All the activities, all the holidays, all the gatherings, all the acts of service, many of the jobs and certainly all the ‘healthy habits’ we have are predicated on the ability to move freely and comfortably. 

If you are born with high arches and you live in the modern world with its hard flat surfaces there is a potential for biomechanical chaos in your knees. 

Image depicting knee pain patient holding knee.

Your knee sustain a huge amount of strain during the course of your lifetime, whether you have high arches or not.

Even a moderate level of activity may leave you having taken 3 million steps for each year that you live. With every step, your entire body weight thumps through your heel bone very hard indeed. These forces are significant at the best of times, but if they play out on paving or concrete they are magnified many times over. Even under ideal biomechanical circumstances this has the potential to be a superb recipe for knee pain and knee injuries, let alone if things are than ideal from a genetic standpoint.  

There is so much stress in the knee when we walk upright that at the moment we started doing it full time archeological digs show that our skeletons changed forever. The large bone ends that we have at the knee form a joint that is unmatched in surface area by any other joint in the body due to the stress of walking upright. 

High Arches

When we lived outdoors as a species ‘with our feet in the mud’ there was almost always some arch support in the form of sand, soil or vegetation pushing up under our arches. If you live outdoors in bare feet occasionally you might find yourself on very hard flat surfaces but they are the exception to the rule. If you have very high arches your feet tend to push a bit deeper into the ground and a bit more ‘nature’ fills in that space.

 If you have high arches you are adapted to rely heavily on Mother Nature for arch support. The industrial revolution kidnapped this support because now you walk on paving, tarmac, hard wood floors and concrete the majority of the time.

Without natural levels of arch support the arch will tend to drop as you walk which places stress in the knee. Accumulative mechanical stress is a major cause of knee pain. Stubborn and re-occurring pains are usually a sign that the tissue is suffering and knee pain is no excpetion: Knee pain can arise as a result of unsupported high arches because if the arch drops there is an awkward little twist in the knee each and every time you take a step. The repeated little twist of the knee joint is potentially enough unnatural stress over time to cause microtrauma to the tissues of the knee and result in knee pain. 

Custom Orthotics

Custom Insoles or orthotics are an excellent way of restoring this natural arch support in knee pain sufferers. When we place orthotics / arch supports /Insoles in our shoes suddenly the arch has some of the mechanical support that it evolved to rely upon. Knee pain sufferers can be sure that from that point onwards there is a significant change in the amount and type of stress that the knee joint suffers in day to day life. The really positive news is that a reduction in strain can for many mean a reduction in knee pain.

Custom orthotics for knee piaim iimage

Custom orthotics can be of huge benefit for knee pain sufferers as long as they are made and designed correctly.

For those who are severely overdue for their orthotic / insole / arch support knee pain can persist even with orthotics fitted. Those who have such stubborn knee pain that custom orthotics don’t bring relief often have a need for strengthening the muscles around the knee and hip. There are also a number of knee pain sufferers who have developed scar tissue around their knee joints. Scar tissue can be broken up and stretched out by treatment.

Conclusion

A simple 3 step process will be of great use to most people who suffer with knee pain caused by high arches.

  1. Break up scar tissue & release tension/inflammation from muscles around the knee with hands on treatments from a skilled practitioner.
  2. Diagnostic investigation into arch height and lower leg movement issues leading to specific custom orthotic prescription.
  3. Longer term rehabilitation exercises to help strengthen the arch stabilising muscles through out the entire leg and hip.*we will leave a full examination of this important topic for another day so as not to get too long winded.

Whether your knee pain is caused by a classic combo of high arches and a life spent on concrete floors, or some other issue like scar tissue from an old knee injury, it’s important to seek help. 

Runner experiencing knee pain image.

Whether or not it is caused by high arches, knee pain is an extremely frustrating issue, especially when it starts to affect our ability to lead normal, healthy and active life.

If you define your quality of life solely by your ability to sit in front of a screen to work by day and the ability to sit or lie playing video games by night (no judgement implied) knee pain is perhaps not such a big issue. For those of us who still value a relatively ‘normal’ active life and all the variety that comes with that  treatment and prevention of knee pain have the potential to be seriously important topics. Most of life’s variety, fun, work, choice and wellbeing comes about in part by movement and to be able to move freely without knee pain, hip pain or foot pain is a basic freedom that we value greatly… although most don’t realise that until it’s gone or at least under threat.

 

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