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Why’s arch support so important?

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The arches of your feet might not be the first things that come to mind when you consider your overall well-being. But they’re truly critical. All those intricate bones, tendons, and ligaments work like a suspension system for the body, bearing weight and absorbing the ground’s impact as you go about your day.

These small but mighty structures do a lot of work for our bodies and sometimes they need extra help. With good reason—arch support is an essential step for managing and preventing many types of common pain in the feet, knees, hips, and back.

The kinetic chain connects it all

When experiencing aches and pains, people tend to focus on the specific body part that’s bothering them. However, there’s a bigger picture to consider: the kinetic chain. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Arthur Steindler first established this concept in 1995 to refer to the way that the entire body operates as an interdependent system. Essentially, he saw every muscle, tendon, joint, and bone as playing a part in a highly efficient machine, working in tandem to accommodate the body’s motion. The interlinked kinetic chain begins at your feet, runs up your ankles, knees, and hips, into your pelvis and lower back, and through your spine to your shoulders and neck.

 

Pain’s a chain reaction

Since the kinetic chain starts with the feet, even minor imbalances when we’re standing or walking can have substantial consequences further up the body. Unfortunately, the thin-soled sneakers, less-than-comfortable high heels, and flat flip-flops we wear aren’t helping.

While your shoes may look great, the basic inserts that come with them amount to little more than comfortable cushioning. Without proper support, our shoes can lead to unhealthy motion in the foot and exacerbate natural pre-existing arch issues and uneven gaits (more on that here)—which can all promote pain across the kinetic chain.

Maybe you walk a lot as part of your daily routine or spend hours on your feet every day at work. Without realizing it, you might be pronating (putting pressure on the inside of your arches) or supinating (putting pressure on the outside of your foot). Either way, your unsupportive shoes aren’t doing anything to keep your foot in a healthy neutral position. If you don’t have support, your ankles will roll in—or out—at a detrimental angle, impacting the position of your knees. Like the song says, the knees are connected to the hips, lower back, and spine through the kinetic chain, so when one part is out of whack… you get the picture. As the misalignment continues, you might start to experience the dreaded aches and pains you’ve heard other people complaining about.

Be kind, align

It’s not unusual to treat discomfort with painkillers, massages, and surgery, or even by ignoring it altogether. And yet, treating misalignment at its source is easier, less expensive, and less invasive. It even has the potential benefit of preventing future problems.

As the base of the entire kinetic chain, our feet should be as supported as possible, allowing for the even distribution of pressure and weight to maintain neutral, healthy alignment. You can achieve this by taking one simple step: integrating arch support into your daily life. Slipping insoles into your shoes is the easiest way to correct the misalignment that causes foot, ankle, knee, hip, or back pain—and it’s even more effective if you do it before pain becomes an issue.

Choosing an insole made from high-quality, natural materials is even better. Most over-the-counter models are constructed using synthetic materials that have a shorter life span. Natural materials allow the insole to custom mold to the shape of your unique arch, ensuring the foundation of your kinetic chain is supported and stable. As you sit, stand, or walk around, your foot moves as it should, correcting issues like too much pronation. When the lower parts of your body move in proper alignment, the upper parts no longer need to overcompensate, alleviating the major source of pain.

By integrating arch support and reinforcing the natural structure at the base of the kinetic chain, you can comfortably keep on doing what you need to do out in the world and stop worrying about pain down the road.