hiking with arch support

Written By: Alex Ein

July 2, 2024

Imagine this: you’re surrounded by breathtaking scenery, the crisp mountain air invigorates your lungs, and the only thing holding you back from conquering that next hill is…foot pain? For people with flat feet, the dream of a perfect hike can quickly turn into a nightmare. There’s a simple solution that can transform your uphill and downhill struggles into a smooth, pain-free journey: arch support insoles.

This isn’t just hearsay. A recent study dove into the science behind how arch support insoles improve walking uphill and downhill for people with flat feet. The research focused on measuring oxygen uptake (how efficiently your body uses oxygen during exercise) and muscle fatigue in the legs. The results were clear: wearing arch support insoles significantly reduced the amount of oxygen needed for both uphill and downhill walking. Think of it as giving your body a fuel efficiency upgrade!

But the benefits go beyond just saving on oxygen. Downhill walking, with its constant braking action on your muscles, can be particularly challenging for flat feet. The study found that arch support insoles helped to reduce fatigue in the rectus femoris muscle, a major player in downhill movement. This translates to less muscle strain and less pain, allowing you to enjoy the descent without worrying about burning thighs.

Now, here’s the surprising twist: the study found that uphill walking with arch support insoles led to slightly more fatigue in the same muscle compared to flat insoles. This seems counterintuitive, but the researchers believe it might be due to the insoles’ material. The arch support, while providing stability, could have been slightly harder, leading to a stronger ground reaction force and requiring more muscle work uphill.

Despite this unexpected finding, the overall takeaway is overwhelmingly positive. Arch support insoles offer a clear advantage for people with flat feet who love to hike or engage in other uphill and downhill activities. They can significantly reduce oxygen consumption and muscle fatigue, especially during descents.

Of course, this study has limitations. It focused on a short-term exercise session, and further research is needed to understand the long-term effects of arch support insoles on different types of flat feet. But for now, the message is clear: lace up your boots, slip in some arch support insoles, and get ready to conquer those hills – pain-free!