Should You Wear Arch Support? (The TRUTH Behind Orthotics)

It is common for many in the medical community to recommend an orthotic for those dealing with foot pain under the assumption that they need to support the foot. Unfortunately, this approach does not address the root cause of the problem. More often than not, it is the shoe that is at fault.

This is part 7 of a series titled “Foot Pain (How To Fix ‘Plantar Fasciitis’ and Other Common Foot Problems)”  

Part 1: Introduction 

Part 2: Foot Anatomy 101 (Normal Vs Natural)  

Part 3: How Shoes Change Your Foot

Part 4: What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Part 5: How To Screen Your Foot Pain

Part 6: Foot Pain – The Rebuilding Process

Part 7: Foot Pain – Should You Wear Orthotics? 

Part 8: Foot Pain – What About Steroid Shots? – Coming Soon…

But for a moment, let’s discuss the idea behind arch support. Podiatrist Dr. Ray McClanahan explains that the misconception stems from our poor understanding of how arches truly function.

Ask yourself this question, “What is the weakest point of a bridge?”

The answer depends on the architecture or design. For example, if the bridge you envisioned was an elevated flat road between two pieces of land, the middle portion that is unsupported would be the weakest. An arched bridge on the other hand uses a curved structure to distribute the weight from the center outwards towards either end. Rather than have a single weak point, the entire structure works together to hold itself up. For this reason, the arch bridge is far stronger than the traditional “beam” or straight bridge and why your feet are designed with an arch of their own! This ingenious design allows our body to efficiently support a ton of load (whether we’re carrying a backpack, pushing a sled, or trying to squat 800 pounds).

An engineer will tell you that the strength of an arch depends on the support structures on either end of the curve. So, if you want an arch to remain in place (whether that arch is supporting a bridge, the historical roman aqueducts or the famous St. Louis Gateway Arch) you focus on the ends. Simple physics.

If we apply this same logic to our feet, it would make sense to support the ends of our arch (the heel and forefoot joints) in order to strengthen and enhance its capacity/function. However, this is not at all what traditional orthotics are designed to do. Rather they attempt to prop up our arch by lifting from the middle.

Now this isn’t to say that current “arch supports” (like the Dr. Scholl’s inserts you can find at most drug stores) aren’t helpful at all. There are some that do get a small amount of pain relief from their use. However, we must understand they should only be a temporary intervention.

Think about it like this, you wouldn’t wear a cast for a broken bone in your hand forever. Of course not! After a short time of wearing it, the muscles of the arm would begin to atrophy. The same goes for how orthotics affect your foot. Long term use of these “supports” do nothing to treat the cause of many foot problems. Doing so will only lead your foot muscles to atrophy and lose strength over time.1

If traditional “arch supports” are not a real solution for most foot issues, let’s talk about what is. The idea of reinforcing the ends of the arch to increase its overall strength is based on the assumption that the ends of the curve are on even terrain. However, most current footwear do not hold the foot in this manner (the heel and toes are often both elevated from the ground). Therefore, the only way to establish true “arch support” is to ditch modern shoes and return the foot to its natural position with the heel and toes completely flat on the ground (this means wearing a shoe with a heel-toe drop of zero). In doing so the heel and “ball of the foot” along with the toes will be in a position to provide authentic support for the arch as they were designed.

Now some of you reading this will be wondering, “But my doctor said I need orthotics because my arch is too high (or too low)!”

While there is a very small percentage of people who have foot anatomy that requires orthotics, arch height (or lack thereof) is not a determining factor in foot health for a large majority of people.2

It’s all about how the arch functions, not its appearance!

Having “low arches” does not automatically lead to foot problems. Having low arches that are weak however can. Therefore, many who believe they have “flat feet” generally just have very mobile/weak feet.

Having “high arches” does not automatically lead to foot problems either. Having high arches that are stiff however can. Those with high arches generally tend to have more rigid feet and would therefore benefit from being barefoot more often to allow their feet to move and function as they were designed. 

You have to understand that for most of human history we have survived just fine without shoes (or with very thin shoes shaped like feet) without anything supporting the arches of our feet. This is why those who live in cultures around the world today who do not regularly wear shoes have significantly healthier feet than those of us in industrialized countries that constantly wear “modern” footwear. 3-16

Maintaining a healthy and pain-free foot is in large part determined by how your arches function and move, not in how they look. While orthotics can work for a small minority of people, the overwhelming majority of us don’t need them! Most people are better off addressing the root cause rather than stuffing an orthotic into their shoe hoping for the best.  

For most of you reading this, we need to take a different approach to orthotics. After modifying your footwear, I highly recommend using a toe spacer (also called a toe wedge, bunion splint, or foot-toe orthotic). While there are a few different options available today, the “Correct Toes” toe spacer developed by Dr. Ray McClanahan is my favorite (this is actually the pair I wear everyday). The thing that sets this product apart from others is that it’s designed to be worn when weightbearing (walking, running, etc.) rather than at rest.

A toe spacer orthotic spreads the toes and help realigns the foot back into its “natural position.”17,18 Think of these spacers like braces many wear on their teeth but for your toes (they teach your body how to adapt to a different and more optimal orientation). This kind of orthotic therefore is not designed to support the foot but rather allow the muscles, tendons and bones of the foot to function in a more optimal manner. Wearing toe spacers while you move throughout the day allows you to enhance the capacity of your foot muscles with minimal need for any isolated strength work. In fact, research has shown their use to help enhance balance in as little as four weeks!19 I personally have worn “Correct Toes” since 2019 and have seen a massive change in the shape and function of my feet.

That’s it for today’s blog article! Next time we’ll discuss whether or not a cortisone shot is a good idea for dealing with plantar fasciitis!

Until next time,

Dr. Aaron Horschig, PT, DPT, CSCS, USAW

Dr. Kevin Sonthana, PT, DPT, CSCS


  1. Protopapas K, Perry SD. The effect of a 12-week custom foot orthotic intervention on muscle size and muscle activity of the intrinsic foot muscle of young adults during gait termination. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2020 Aug;78:105063. 
  2. Hegedus EJ, Cook C, Fiander C, Wright A. Measures of arch height and their relationship to pain and dysfunction in people with lower limb impairments. Physiother Res Int. 2010 Sep;15(3):160-6.
  3. Sim-Fook L, Hodgson AR. A comparison of foot forms among the non-shoe and shoe-wearing Chinese population. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1958 Oct;40-A(5):1058-62.
  4. Hoffmann P. Conclusions drawn from a comparative study of the feet of barefooted and shoe-wearing peoples. The American Journal of Orthopedic Surgery. 1905;s2-3(2):105-136.
  5. James CS. Footprints and feet of natives of the Solomon Islands. The Lancet. 1939;234:1390-1394.
  6. Shine IB. Incidence of hallux valgus in partially shoe-wearing community. Br Med J. 1965;1(5451):1648-50.
  7. Shulman SB. Survey in China and India of feet that have never worn shoes. The Journal of the National Association of Chiropodists. 1949;49:26-30.
  8. Mafart B. Hallux valgus in a historical French population: paleopathological study of 605 first metatarsal bones. Joint Bone Spine. 2007 Mar;74(2):166-70.
  9. Mays SA. Paleopathological study of hallux valgus. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2005 Feb;126(2):139-49.
  10. Swallow A. The history of shoes. Baillieres Clin Rheumatol. 1987 Aug;1(2):413-29. 
  11. D’AoÛt, K., Pataky, T. C., Clercq, D. D., Aerts, P. 2009. The effects of habitual footwear use: foot shape and function in native barefoot walkers. Footwear Science, 1(2):81–94.
  12. Sachithanandam V, Joseph B. The influence of footwear on the prevalence of flat foot. A survey of 1846 skeletally mature persons. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1995 Mar;77(2):254-7.
  13. BARNETT CH. The normal orientation of the human hallux and the effect of footwear. J Anat. 1962;96(Pt 4):489-494.
  14. Kato T, Watanabe S. The etiology of hallux valgus in Japan. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1981 Jun;(157):78-81.
  15. Hollander K, de Villiers JE, Sehner S, Wegscheider K, Braumann KM, Venter R, Zech A. Growing-up (habitually) barefoot influences the development of foot and arch morphology in children and adolescents. Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 14;7(1):8079.
  16. Thomas B, Singh YL, Mullerpatan RP. Comparison of foot structure between urban and rural Indian school children. Physiother – J Indian Assoc Physiother. 2019;13:38-42.
  17. Tang SF, Chen CP, Pan JL, Chen JL, Leong CP, Chu NK. The effects of a new foot-toe orthosis in treating painful hallux valgus. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2002 Dec;83(12):1792-5.
  18. Kwan MY, Yick KL, Yip J, Tse CY. Hallux valgus orthosis characteristics and effectiveness: a systematic review with meta-analysis. BMJ Open. 2021 Aug 18;11(8):e047273.
  19. Kelly A, Stanek J. The Impact of a Foot-Toe Orthosis on Dynamic Balance: An Exploratory Randomized Control Trial. J Sport Rehabil. 2020 Sep 1;29(7):871-878.

Published by

49 thoughts on “Should You Wear Arch Support? (The TRUTH Behind Orthotics)

  1. I would love to hear your thoughts on wide toe box weightlifting shoes.
    Since working from home more during Covid, I’ve been barefoot inside my house for the last two years and wear Vivo Barefoot shoes when outside the home.  It’s done wonders for my foot health.
    But all the weightlifting shoes I’ve tried are still narrow compared my barefoot shoes.  And while I can practice some weightlifting at home barefoot (e.g. squats or pulls), I’ve never felt right doing cleans and snatches barefoot, and I certainly can’t compete that way.

  2. If you have the right person by your side, 80% of you don’t need it. I found my joy here play solitaire. and they gave me the answer so I can find joy every day after stressful working hours.

  3. I am sure that this topic deserves a whole seminar of its own because so many of my acquaintances face this problem without even thinking about it. You have to give people the opportunity to correct their mistakes and never repeat them because it’s really important for their health. I will look forward to the next seminar, although it would be very nice if you did at least a small online conference via online chatting rooms if there is no possibility to do it live.

  4. It’s a really interesting article, especially pay attention to the information that if you choose shoes that are best for your feet or fashion, you definitely need to give preference to the former.

  5. What can be done for halux limitus. podiatrist went straight for the arch supports! Im said…Im not wearing those! But my rt first metatarsal joint hurts… n hurts worse during n after exercise. I don’t want to make it halux rigidus. Metatarsal pads? Correct toes worked great on my left foot but the right one is an issue.

  6. A professional resume writing service is something that you will find surprisingly useful when you are looking for a job. Here you can read about it in detail. A resume is very important for any job seeker, so it is necessary to take the process of writing seriously. Just like the experts working at this service.

  7. Making your home more environmentally friendly is something we should all be doing. If we all did it, there would be significantly less pollution in our air and water. Here you get how much does a concrete driveway cost nz and learn more new tips for construction. Even if you don’t care about the environment (and who does these days) it is still nice to know how to make your home more environmentally friendly for yourself, your family and the rest of your neighbors.

  8. Making your home more environmentally friendly is something we should all be doing. If we all did it, there would be significantly less pollution in our air and water. Even if you don’t care about the environment (and who does these days) it is still nice to know how to make your home more environmentally friendly for yourself, your family and the rest of your neighbors.

  9. With the environmental impact and sustainability of home construction more and more in the public eye, it’s now more important than ever to build and live in a home that is as environmentally-friendly as possible. Here are 6 ways you can make your home more environmentally-friendly.

  10. Yellowstonesjacket is worldwide online store where we offer best & high quality leather jacket including cosplay, jacket made with real leather material. Yellowstones jackets are one of the best brands. We also have a huge collection of Halloween Costumes and jackets offering you in very reasonable price with worldwide free shipping delivery on your door steps!beth dutton hooded coat

  11. If the bridge you envisioned was an elevated, flat road connecting two pieces of land, the unsupported center section would be the weakest
    bing maps

  12. Looking for a stylish and comfortable varsity jacket? Look no further! With our extensive collection of varsity jackets for men, you’ll find the perfect jacket to match your style. And the best part? We offer free shipping on varsity jackets men, so you can get your hands on your new favorite jacket without any extra cost. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to upgrade your wardrobe with a classic varsity jacket.

  13. Looking for a stylish and comfortable jacket to show off your love for the Star Guardian series? Look no further than our Star Guardian varsity jacket! Made from high-quality materials, this jacket features the iconic Star Guardian design on the back and is perfect for casual wear or cosplay events. Plus, for a limited time, we’re offering free shipping on all orders! Don’t miss your chance to own this must-have item for any Star Guardian fan. Order now Star Guardian Varsity Jacket and get ready to show off your cosmic power in style!

  14. The attention to detail in rip wheeler hat is impressive. From the weathered brim to the intricate band, it’s clear that a lot of thought went into creating such an iconic accessory

  15. The passage highlights the importance of design and architecture in determining the strength of structures, using the example of bridges. It explains how arched bridges distribute weight evenly, making them stronger compared to straight bridges. The analogy of the arch in our feet showcases the efficiency of this design. monkey mart can provide further information and insights on the subject of design and load-bearing capabilities.

  16. The yellowstone laramie denim jacket is worth every penny. The durability is outstanding, and it’s built to withstand the elements. Whether I’m wearing it during chilly evenings or layering it up for colder months, it keeps me warm and stylish. I’m extremely satisfied with my purchase

  17. Thank you for creating a safe and inclusive space through your writing. Your compassion and empathy shine through, making your articles relatable and comforting.Rwcglobally

  18. Love this discussion since I have a daughter with really bad bunions and she loves the correct toes that I bought for her and has been wearing them for years. I suggest though please say that this device is good for feet that need it. The way you write it sounds like it is good for everyone, healthy or not they should wear these. Hope this is not a sponsored article and it’s an honest scientific work.

  19. I recently stumbled upon your blog post about “frase para foto sozinha” and I must say, it was incredibly helpful! As someone who loves taking solo pictures and struggles with finding the right captions, your insights and suggestions were a game-changer for me. The creativity and thoughtfulness behind each caption idea were truly impressive. I especially loved the one that said, “In the company of my thoughts, I find solace.

  20. From in-depth Caption IG Aesthetic to unique aesthetic captions, here you’ll find over 200+ of the best captions you can copy to enhance your content and make it stand out from the crowd. Read on if you’re looking for inspiration for your next Instagram photo or reel!

  21. Make your next birthday unique and fun with personalized birthday cards paired with a handpicked happy birthday quotes and wishes from Feliz Cumpleaños to make that special someone’s day extraordinary.

  22. Make your next birthday unique and fun with personalized birthday cards paired with a handpicked happy birthday quotes and wishes from geburtstagswünsche to make that special someone’s day extraordinary.

  23. If you want to explore some best happy birthday wishes for your loved ones then click here to explore our list of happy best birthday wishes

  24. Ticaret yolculuğumda çok önemli bir rol oynayan bir platform, şu adreste bulunan Binorium’dur: . Binorium serves as an invaluable review platform, providing a wealth of information about various trading platforms, with a special focus on Binomo. Through this website, I have gained comprehensive insights into Binomo’s features, user experience, security measures, and much more. İster acemi ister deneyimli bir tüccar olun, Binorium, farklı ticaret platformlarını derinlemesine anlamak için nihai kaynak olarak duruyor.

  25. If you need a quality Auckland concrete driveway, look no further than CM Concrete Driveways Auckland. Our concreters know the only way to achieve an amazing concrete finish with lasting quality is through experience.

    When you choose us to do your driveway concreting, you can be sure of a first-class job the first time around, every single time. From West Auckland to South Auckland our friendly team has been serving Kiwi’s for over 20 years.

    We also provide concrete repair, stamped concrete, exposed aggregate concrete, a full range of concrete laying services and a renowned South Auckland driveway service. Wondering about driveway pricing? Check out our price guide.

Leave a Reply