Do you have Asian feet?

If you’re of Asian or Pacific Island descent, you might have been told that you have a flat foot or a low arch height. You might even have observed it yourself.

Does your foot appear wide or broad through the midfoot (middle of your foot)? Do you feel like you ‘come out’ of your shoe? Perhaps you experience rubbing/blisters in the arch? Here’s why selecting the appropriate ‘shape’ of a shoe is crucial if you have a low arch height, whether you’re of Asian/Pacific Island descent or not.

Different shapes of feet

Forget the word ‘support’ for a moment, forget ‘pronation’ or ‘rolling in’, forget general width of the foot – we are talking about shape. Each shoe’s midsole is designed on a selected last shape, that is, the form and shape that a shoe is moulded from. Lasts have been used for centuries by shoemakers to create shoes of all materials: leather, synthetic, rubber and fabric.

Broadly speaking, running shoes are moulded on straight, semi curved and curved shaped lasts.

How to select the correct shaped running shoe

When selecting last shape, the key factors to consider include:

  • Arch height
  • Mid-foot width
  • Tissue expansion (how much foot soft tissue and fat pad spreads out when you stand up)

If you have a low arch, whether you’re of Asian descent or not, you should be in a straight last shoe. Far too often I see these types of feet in curved or semi curved shoes. This is usually due to fitting errors. There are many ‘semi-curved options’ on the market, but less straighter options.

What happens if you wear the wrong shaped running shoe

Problems associated with incorrect last shape include:

  • Blisters on the arch
  • Feeling like the shoe is pushing you to the outside
  • Feeling like you are not sitting right in the shoe
  • A noticeable bulge or overhang through the inside of the upper

Additionally, if you wear foot orthoses, the orthotic can be pushed up medially (from the inside) instead of being flat in the shoe as the prescription was intended. This could be a real injury risk. If you are medium or higher through the arch, usually a semi-curved will work best. A true curved last shoe is reserved for very high arches and track spikes.

Below are some illustrations of straight, semi-curved, and curved athletic shoes. Now, the green lines pictured below are not naturally curved like the shoe is, but I feel they highlight the shape well.

Don’t take chances with comfort or injury. Ensure you are getting the correct shaped shoe for your foot by having your running shoes fitted by a trained professional or specialist.

Phillip de Mestre
Sports Podiatrist – Running Science