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5 Ways orthotics help you run better!

5 tips for orthotics 1

Can you relate to any of the problems or questions below?​

5 Ways orthotics help you run better!

by  Steve Manning  – intraining Podiatrist & Lvl 4 AT&FCA Coach 

Many runners have benefitted from using orthotics.  But what is an orthotic and will they help you run better?  Orthotics are customised inserts for your shoes that help support your feet to improve function and reduce pain and injury.  They are made to the shape of your foot with extra additions prescribed to treat specific problems.
Here are my top 5 reasons to consider orthotics:

You’ll know if you identify with one of these factors. If you have had troubles over the last year while exercising then consider the possibility of adding a customised orthotic into your shoes.  You’ll be surprised at how much better your feet will feel.

1. Comfort for the difficult shaped foot:  Customise the shoes to your foot.

Skinny feet, narrow feet, odd shaped feet, and one foot different than the other… These are issues that can not be fixed with just the right shoe. 

Orthotics are more than just an arch support. They are able to balance out the specific structural needs of your feet. There are almost as many different prescriptions possibilities as there are feet. Orthotics for example can cater for asymmetry between your feet by offering a different prescription for each foot.   

2. Pain remover:  Stop localised pain by distributing Force more evenly

Do you get pain in the same location all the time? (e.g.  under the ball of your foot, at the heel, under your little toe) 

Orthotics work by redistributing force under your foot. Excess force in a localised area can lead to injury. By increasing the weight bearing surface area under your foot,  you can reduce the peak force that could be causing injury. Orthotics can be made to off-load inflamed tissue temporarily while recovering from injury. They can also shift force away from chronic stress areas that might be causing callous or corns to form. In some cases orthotics will improve running economy by maintaining optimum muscle function. Their main goal is to reduce pathological force by maintaining good foot posture and function.

3. Blisters, callouses and corns:  Improve your foot posture and reduce shearing friction forces

Thickened callous and blistering along your big toe or under the ball of your can be very painful and stop you running.  But it is not a pain you have to suffer through.  All skin conditions from running have definitive causes.  Finding that cause, and making changes improves your foot health, comfort and stops unnecessary pain.

When orthotics support foot posture they also reduce the friction and shearing forces that can lead to blisters and skin trauma. The foot will sit better in the shoe and there will be fewer compensatory movements like twisting and rolling that create friction.  

4. Strengthen your feet:  Improve the mechanical advantage of your foot muscles

The  muscles in your lower leg are attached to your foot and control your foots movement while walking and running. There are little muscles under your foot that help support your arch and the functioning of your toes. Poor foot posture can overload these muscles stressing them beyond their capabilities. They then will fail causing temporary injury or even a permanent change in structure. Orthotics help these muscles function within their limits and they can get stronger over time if the foot is supported.  Note:  There are views that orthotics can weaken your feet.  Read more about that below.    

5. Reduce injury interruptions:  Increase training threshold before injury

Constant interruptions in your training from injury is incredibly frustrating. If it’s not from a training error or your shoes, then it’s likely to be a biomechanical problem.  Orthotics can help you here by addressing your specific biomechanical and structural deficiencies. For example, if your big toe joint is stiff, enlarged or does not move adequately, your risk of injury increases as you increase your training. 

By creating an orthotic to address this, not only should this lead you to improved performances,  the main advantage is reducing your injury risk. That means you can train more before risking injury…  added bonus!

BONUS- The perfect foot 

Some people are fortunate to have the ‘perfect’ foot.  Even if your foot seems perfect, you may run better with orthotics.  Orthotics can reduce your foot pain and leg fatigue when running for long distances.  They will make your feet more comfortable by maintaining good foot posture and increasing feedback from the ground.  For some runners, orthotics can improve performance by improving foot function.

5 common questions I am asked about orthotics

1. Will orthotics weaken my feet and will I need to wear them forever?

Many people are worried that they can become dependent on orthotics. Extended use of braces and strapping may lead to atrophied muscles however orthotics do not work the same way. Rather than just blocking foot action orthotics support the foot towards a more functional dynamic pathway. Over time this should lead to a stronger foot.

How long you will need orthotics depends on the specific injury and structure of your foot. Many injuries need a short term change in support while healing. Some chronic problems may need extended use to reduce recurrence. Other people will need to always have orthotics to deal with significant structural issues.

2. How do orthotics work?

Orthotic theory has changed significantly over the years. In the past orthotics would try to block the normal movement of the foot like pronation. Now orthotics are designed to guide foot action. They increase feedback from the ground allowing improved muscle control. This can shift forces up the kinetic chain improving the posture of your whole body.

3. What happens if they create a new problem?

Orthotics change pressure patterns and muscle function. Sometimes this can create a new stress to which your body is not accustomed. Adaptation should occur over a short time but sometimes the problem persists. The full length EVA orthotics and formthotics we use are easily modified in case of blistering or pain. While this is rare it can be required for feet that change shape significantly through the gait cycle.

4. Can the orthotics work in any shoe? Do I need to get a bigger shoe size?

You should get the ideal shoe first and we will create an orthotic to complement that shoe and your foot. The orthotic should then be able to be used in other shoes as long as it fits and is supported by the new shoe. Most times a larger shoe size is not required as the orthotic replaces the shoe insole. Sometimes a shoe with greater depth or width will be needed to accomodate for orthotic prescriptions in the forefoot.

5. Should everyone have orthotics?

Orthotics customise your foot to your shoes. Most people will feel better when using orthotics however that does not mean everyone needs one. Some runners will only need orthotics in their running shoes while others will need to wear them all the time. Most people start to use orthotics when dealing with an injury. If you have a recurring problem then orthotics can be very effective in breaking that injury cycle. However orthotics are not a magic bullet that will fix everything. Effective treatment protocols should include treating acute symptoms, strengthening exercises, avoiding training errors, upgrading shoes and orthotics when needed.

Assess your last year of running. 

Think about what interruptions, if any, you had in the last year. Look at the state of your feet and try to recall if your feet were frequently in pain. 

Consider if this could be avoided in the future by customising your shoes with a pair of orthotics.  

At the intraining Running Centre, we create Orthotics for running, walking or any sport. They are designed to fit your shoes, be comfortable and improve your foot function. Where appropriate, we use orthotics when other treatments are not adequate

Private health cover for orthotics
If you have private health insurance with podiatry coverage, you might be eligible for new orthotics each year.
Many health funds use a calendar year schedule, so it is worth checking your cover.
Don’t waste your cover!
Book in to see us before the end of the year for your new orthotics.

Book here for a podiatry check up today!
or phone the intraining podiatry clinic on 3870 2525

intraining Running Centre Clinic has moved at iHealth Centre

Steve Manning 1

Steve Manning “The Footman”

Steve has been a running shoe aficionado for the last 4 decades and as the owner of intraining Running Centre has helped thousands of runners find the perfect shoe. He is a member of the Footman Biomechanics Group of the International Society of Biomechanics and a previous President of the Qld branch of Sports Medicine Australia. As a Podiatrist specialising in running sports injury prevention he utilises footwear prescription and modification to keep you running. Contact Steve at the intraining Running Centre, [email protected] for all your footwear questions.