Updated: Aug 13, 2018
With the school year ending and summer fast approaching, you may have plans to hit the beach or go to the pool to enjoy the summer months. While there, take a minute to look at the footprint you make. Have you ever analyzed your footprint's shape or wondered why it may look different compared to those around you? Your footprint can actually tell you a lot about your foot. That pattern gives insight into your foot type, the height of your arch, and can even let you know what pathologies are often associated with that foot type. Take a look at the footprints below to see which one most closely resembles yours and learn more about what that means regarding the structure of your foot, how you may walk, and what pathologies you may be at risk for developing in the future.
If your footprints look closest to the one on the left, you may have low arches (aka flatfeet). This often results from over-pronation, or your foot rolling inwards. You may notice that the most wear on your shoes is along the inside heel. When you stand, your knees may go inwards (aka genu valgum). This valgus position of your lower extremities causes strain along the insides of your knees, ankles, and feet. The posterior tibial tendon is one of the most affected structures affected with flat feet. Over time, because of the constant strain that is placed on it, it can actually lose its function (aka posterior tibial tendon dysfunction/PTTD). With flatfoot deformity, there is also usually flattening of the arch in the sagittal plane, which puts added stress on the plantar fascia, resulting in plantar fasciitis. Other conditions and deformities that can result from having flat feet include Achilles tendinitis, bunions, hammertoes, shin splints, and lower back and hip pain.
If your footprint looks more like the middle picture, you have a medium arch height. You likely have a more normal walking pattern, meaning you strike the ground along the outside of your heel (versus the inside part of the heel, which can happen with flat feet). Your foot pronates as the midfoot makes contact with the ground before it re-supinates as you propel forward.
Lastly, if your footprint looks like the picture at the far right, you likely have high arches (sometimes referred to as a cavus foot type). With this foot structure, most of your body weight is placed along the balls of the feet and heels. This is a very unstable foot type, which can put you at increased risk for inversion ankle sprains if you have significantly high arches. The added pressure along the ball of the foot can also result in sesamoid injuries or metatarsalgia (pain and/or numbness along the metatarsal heads). High arched feet can also cause tightening of the plantar fascia, resulting in plantar fasciitis (yes, it can happen with low and high arches!) .
Although it may not be a true wet test, the next time you are at the pool, take a look at your footprints, because, as you can see above, they can tell you a lot about your feet. And make sure to look at each foot separately, as they may even be different from each other.
DISCLAIMER: The above information is meant for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult the doctor, or your own healthcare professional, should you have questions or concerns related to your health.