Arches of the foot

The foot has three arches – two longitudinal (the medial and lateral arches) and one transverse arch. These arches are maintained by the interlocking shape of the bones of the foot, by strong ligaments, and by the pull of some tendons during muscle activity. These produce ‘springiness’ – the arches ‘give’ when weight is applied to the foot and spring back when the weight is removed.

These arches serve three main purposes – to add spring to the gait, to absorb impact and to transmit forces. Standing still for long periods of time places excessive strain on the tendons and ligaments of the feet (because the muscles are inactive) and can result in fallen arches (flat feet), especially if an individual is overweight. Running on hard surfaces without supportive shoes can also lead to flat feet.