A person standing near a wall
A person standing near a wall

Let’s talk about arches (the ones in your feet). We’re not foot doctors or kinesiologists (but we do have an official KEEN kinesiologist), so nothing too complicated. Consider this your 101-level intro to the arches. Without them, none of your walking, hiking, or exploring would be possible.

“Ok, what's the big deal with arches?”

The structure of the human foot is enough to wow any engineer. When you’re doing any high-impact activity (running, jumping, diving to avoid a dodgeball hurtling at your solar plexus), the force to your feet can be equal to over twice your body weight — that’s a lot, but your feet take it in stride. The arch of your foot acts kind of like the shock absorbers of a car, helping your foot to shift your body weight around and stay stable as it moves over uneven terrain (like a rocky beach or a shifting sand dune).

The inner foot arch compresses down flat as your heel strikes to absorb the impact. Then your weight shifts to the outside arch as your foot bends and you keep moving. Then it happens again, over and over, as you walk or run (or trot, or skip). This side-to-side motion is called “pronation.” (If you’re into jogging, you’ve probably already heard of pronation.)

“Do I have high arches or low arches?”

Feet are like snowflakes (but . . . smellier). Everyone’s feet are just a little bit different. According to our resident kinesiologist, Kenny the KEEN K-ologist (seriously!), women tend to have higher, shorter arches than men. But that doesn’t mean you should assume anything about your own arches — find out for yourself!

One of the easiest ways to find your foot arch type is to look at your own footprint. Get your bare foot wet in the shower (or the sink, or the hose . . .), then step onto a surface that will take an imprint of your foot (cardboard works great!).

Which one of these looks the most like your footprint?

low arch medium arch high arch
Low Arch Medium Arch High Arch
The entire sole (or nearly the entire sole) of the foot touches the ground. A normal or neutral arch. Arch runs higher than normal, from the toes to the bottom of the foot.

“How do I know if I need arch support?”

Well, your feet will probably tell you! No matter your arch height, the importance of arch support can’t be overstated. Arch support puts your feet in alignment so the rest of your body (knees, hips, etc.) can be aligned too. KEEN shoes are built with contoured insoles that support the natural shape of your foot. But if your foot is a little more unique, you may want to customize your shoes with an added insole.

Needless to say, here at KEEN, we love unique feet. Not only do we make shoes, we make replacement insoles to make our shoes (or any shoes!) comfier and more supportive for your type of feet.

KEEN replacement insoles

If you have a low arch, check out these low arch support options:
Men’s Outdoor K-30 Low Arch Insole
Women’s Outdoor K-30 Low Arch Insole

If you have a high arch, try these high arch support options:
Men’s Outdoor K-30 High Arch Insole
Women’s Outdoor K-30 High Arch Insole

If you have a medium arch, try our new plant-based performance foam insoles with a neutral arch and a lighter footprint on the planet:
Men’s K-15 Plant-Based Insole
Women’s K-15 Plant-Based Insole

Here’s an important tip from K-ologist Kenny about adding insoles to your shoes: foot arch insoles will always have a break-in process. Give your feet time to adjust to the new support. You should take it slow with new insoles by wearing them for just a couple hours the first few days and then gradually wearing them longer as your foot adapts. You might feel a little discomfort at first, but your ‘pain level’ should stay low: no more than a 1 or 2 out of 10. Remember: don’t force it. As we always say, be nice to your feet and they’ll be nice to you.

Check out all our insoles online -— or if you come into the KEEN Garages in Portland or Palo Alto (when they reopen), our staff can help you find shoes and insoles that fit your unique feet and answer any questions you may have about arch support.

RELATED: Your Foot Is a Tripod – The Truth About Standing Up

KEEN replacement insoles

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