Fallen arches can be a painful and limiting condition. Fortunately, a few precautions can be taken to prevent this from happening to you. While not completely fail-safe, these tips can help you avoid fallen arches and minimize the associated discomfort.
The most important step you can take to protect your arches from collapsing is to wear good quality shoes, particularly for activities involving impact: sports, running, even walking. Look for shoes that provide firm yet comfortable support. Your athletic shoes should have a board last--a thin, stiff layer inside the shoe that helps support the arch. Remove the insole and check that the base of the shoe from arch to heel is firm. Your shoes should be stiff through the mid-foot (the section that covers your arch); if you can bend or twist the shoe at the mid-point, the shoe is too flexible to provide adequate support. You should also look for athletic shoes that provide medical support in the form of a dual-density post. This firm material forms the exterior base of the inside heel of the shoe and helps keep your arch from collapsing as you walk or run.
For non-athletic shoes, wear a brand with a noticeable arch inside the shoe and a thick, stiff sole whenever possible. Look for these qualities in sandals as well, and avoid wearing flip-flops or going barefoot. Flip-flops do not provide adequate support; even the thicker-soled styles allow your foot to twist and flatten easily. While some barefoot activities such as yoga can strengthen the feet and arches, just walking around with no shoes on contributes to the likelihood of arch collapse.
Supportive inserts can also be very helpful in avoiding fallen arches; when you need to wear thin-soled or flexible shoes, try adding an over-the counter arch support, the firmer the better. These can take some getting used to, so start by wearing them an hour at a time and gradually increase over a week or two until you are wearing the arch supports all day. You should find that using arch supports increases your ability to comfortably walk and stand for extended periods of time.
Finally, you can strengthen your feet and arches through stretching and yoga practice. Look for classes that target the feet and ankles, and be sure to let the teacher know you are working to prevent fallen arches. Here's to more comfortable feet!