Last updated: Sep 26, 2008

OK, admit it: Youre more likely to be up on the hot new nail polish color (its gold) for fall than you are to know what kind of arch you have or the mechanics of how you walk. But how your feet are built has a lot to do with what kind of shoes you can comfortably wear. Heres what you need to know.


The all-important arch
When you walk your dog or run for a cab, that curved area on the inside of each foot between the ball and heel is almost solely responsible for supporting your body weight—and then some. Arches range from pancake-flat to sky-high, and wearing the wrong shoes for yours can be a big reason why certain pairs feel like a dream and others, a nightmare.


“If you have high arches and wear shoes designed for low arches, youre likely to strain the ligaments and tendons on the outsides of your feet and you may even develop back pain,” says Stephen Pribut, DPM, past president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. “If you have low arches, you wont get the support you need in shoes designed for high-arched feet, so you could wind up with problems like plantar fasciitis and tendinitis.” To find out what type of arch you have, take our quick test (below), then follow Pributs advice on what to look for on your next shoe shopping spree.

If your arch is high … you have very rigid and inflexible feet. And when you walk, youre likely to land on the outsides of your feet without rolling inward (known to podiatrists as underpronation or supination), which can lead to plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, and knee problems, if you pick unsupportive or noncushioned shoes. You may also notice that the soles of your old shoes are worn down along the outsides.

Shoe rules:
You need neutral-cushioned shoes. Look for curved, C-shaped soles and squeeze the heel areas—your ideal shoes should feel stiff, not mushy like the back of a ballet shoe. Also avoid very flat shoes, and look for cushioning under the balls of the feet and a small heel lift.

If your arch is normal … your feet will feel comfy with shoes that provide some arch support.

Shoe rules: Look for semi­curved soles, and stick with the types of shoes that have been comfortable for you in the past. Avoid the extremes: Skip superhigh heels, ballet-style flats, and any shoes you can either roll up in a ball or not bend at all.

If your arch is low … you have very flexible feet that are likely to roll inward, or overpronate, when you walk. You probably wear out your shoes on the area closest to the insides of your feet.

Shoe rules: You need shoes that offer good arch support to prevent any rolling; steer clear of pairs that are superflexible.