Arch supports: a Criminal Offence

Arch supports were all the rage in some places for a while in the 90s, especially in American joggers. They were essentially created by the Nike Marketing Department to gain an edge over the competition. They have absolutely no place in bushwalking at all

The information below is transcribed with full acknowledgement, and with thanks, to Roger Caffin's Australian Bushwalking FAQ at; http://bushwalkingnsw.org.au/clubsites/FAQ/FAQ_Footwear.htm#Arch

Arch supports were all the rage in some places for a while in the 90s, especially in American joggers. They were essentially created by the Nike Marketing Department to gain an edge over the competition. They have absolutely no place in bushwalking at all. Why? Because the bones of your feet are like a bow, while the muscles and tendons under your foot are like the bow-string. Those muscles and tendons work very hard while you are walking. Put an 'arch support' there to 'support' the arch and all you will do is crush those muscles against the bone, causing bruising. In addition, the muscle will rub on the muscle sheath, tear it open and give you bad RSI problems very quickly. Too much of all that and you can be crippled for months. Remember that several hundred thousand years of human evolution worked with bare feet, not some form of Iron Maiden torture box.

There seems to be a belief among some so-called (self-appointed) 'experts' who habve been fed by the marketing departments of some American jogger companies that the foot is poorly designed, rigid and in need of strong support. Never mind that the foot is the result of thousands of years of extremely competitive evolution: the marketing guys know better. Not explained is the amusing question of how you get a 'rigid' foot which still needs support. Of course, no evidence is ever produced to support these claims. In fact, medical research using athletes of all levels up to Olympic standard has shown this to be sheer crap, but the marketing spin persists. Maybe there is money in selling 'arch supports'. Runners who have been having foot problems for ages have had those problems eliminated simply by removing all forms of arch support 1. The marathon has been won many times by barefoot African runners - who don't have foot problems. And half the world still goes around with no shoes at all. It is doubtful that the Western Marketing Departments like this idea of course: you can't sell an absence of features.

In a curious - or amusing, turn of events, by 2010 a new fashion had developed: that of 'minimal support footwear'. Some of the more advanced footwear companies had begun to realise that not all their customers were complete idiots, and that some actaully did have an understanding of physiology and foot mechanics. So very light 'minimal' shoes came onto the market. Of course, one could argue that some of the Injinji foot sock shoes were there well before 2010 - and various barefoot walkers and natives were there all along, but anyhow it became fashionable. (The Injinji style has seperate toes, like a glove.)

Naturally, more conventional marketing departments latched onto this and started to talk about 'minimal shoes with light-weight foot support', and similar drongy ideas. You can always trust the creative guys in the marketing departments to really stuff things up.

Sadly, many forms of footwear still have some form of arch support or cushioning. It seems to be quite common in some forms of 'popular' American footwear, especially in joggers and especially at the inside curve of the arch and around the heel, but it is equally rare in good European boots. Maybe Americans don't have any muscles in their feet? Or maybe they let the Marketing guys take over their wallets? Maybe the Europeans know a bit more about footwear and ethics?

Sometimes the foam footbed has a very thick region against the inside part of the arch, presumably to help locate the foot inside the shoe, or worse still under the arch. If you find any of this in your footwear, take it out - or change model. If the footbed is thickly shaped at the arch, replace it with a thin flat one. KT-26s have a little foam pad stuck lightly under the footbed at the arch: take it out! Yes, we did, and noticed the improvement immediately. You will feel the improvement in comfort. That is, provided your shoes or boots are not simply too small for you.

If you think the author is a little vehement about this, well, possibly so. He has suffered more than enough from 'arch supports' and other marketing gimmicks in his life