Rear Stable/Front Stable
This one is, you guessed it, the most stable. It’s generally healthy and comes closest to being a “normal” foot. Only marathon runners and five-inch-stiletto wearers are likely to step their stable/stable feet into a podiatrist’s office.
The signs: Your shoes might have moderately more wear in the heel than by the toes, a sign that everything’s going smoothly down on the ground. This foot type can wear basically any style without issue.
This is not a problematic foot type, notes Shavelson. Calluses aren’t much of a concern, though shoes that are tight and low around the toes can cause corns on occasion.
Best steps: You probably don’t need orthotics unless they’re stressed from a ton of exercise or excessive weight—in which case the right diet will mean a lot more than the right pair of kicks.
Rear Rigid/Front Rigid
The rigid/rigid foot features a high arch and barely changes shape when you put weight on it. The bones and ligaments are naturally tight, which is great for support, but doesn’t absorb shock well.
The signs: Since rigid feet do a poor job absorbing shock, the burden flows up to your knees, hips and lower back. This can lead to arthritis, tendonitis and sprained ankles. Toes may start to hammer and get corns on their tops. Meanwhile, calluses can form under the foot at the biggest and littlest piggies.
Best steps: Good luck trying to squeeze these tough puppies into ski boots. You want shoes with a high throat and ample toe space, since your stiff feet aren’t apt to bend to your style whims. Shock absorbing insoles can help do some of the work the foot’s not doing. And following stretching exercises for your foot might help loosen up tight muscles.
Rear Flexible/Front Flexible
Great when it comes to shock-absorption, but lacking in support, this foot type collapses under your weight and, if left to its own devices, could develop into full-on flat-footedness.
The signs: If the soles of your shoes show excessive wear on the inner heel and you tend to get calluses on the inside of your arch, you might be a double-flexy. Take heed! This could be a sign of progressive deterioration and irreversible collapse. Tired, weak feet can cause weak ankles, knocked knees, collapsed hips and swayback. Shavelson warns that these issues start at a young age and get worse as you get older.
Best steps: Get some orthotics—stat. Only aggressively supportive inserts can help you build up the strength you need to keep your feet from getting longer, wider and closer to the ground.
Rear Flat/Front Flat
No one is born with completely flat feet, says Shavelson, but once you develop them, there’s no going back.
The signs: Truly flat feet are weak and can’t support weight for very long. The bad news can spread through your ankles, knees, thighs, hips and lower back, too. Calluses can form just about across the entire foot, and you could suffer from hammertoes and corns. Cramps come easily to the flatfooted, and it’s hard to find shoes that work.
Best steps: When you work out, take a swim or do some time on the stationary bike rather than hitting the hard, unforgiving track. As far as relief goes, there’s not much to do for flat feet but to step onto some thick, cushiony insoles. (Note: This does not give you license to tell friends and coworkers that you’re “gellin’ like a felon.”) Wide shoes with a relatively flat heel are your best bet.
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