What are Orthotics?
An Orthotic is a custom-made insole used to prevent the feet from rolling too far inward. There are various degrees of supports coming in the form of a support shoe or insoles. This form of insole may or may not give the correction that you require. It could either provide you with too much support, causing further pain, causing the joints and ligaments to be put under pressure in an outward position, or it may perhaps do the job you require. A more accurate support is a custom-made Orthotic which is tailored for each individual foot and your specific needs. Orthotics are designed to be worn inside a neutral shoe and along with day-to-day footwear.
Do I need them?
Some people encounter many injuries, caused by problems with the feet, such as knee and back pain and even shin splints. As the arch of the foot collapses it causes the foot to create an inward roll referred to as overpronation. This causes the alignment of the joints and ligaments to be put under pressure, which can cause long-term damage to the hip, back and knees if not treated appropriately. A greater percentage of people have an overpronatiing foot, and only ten percent have a neutral foot strike.
However, not all people with flat feet and a collapsed arch need support shoes. It depends on each individual's body mechanism and if the body requires the support, as for some people the body can resist the support. So it's important to seek the correct advice when purchasing shoes and to provide the adviser with your running history with running shoes.
When it's good to consider a custom-made Orthotic
- If you get pain in your joints when walking as well as running, this suggests that your body not only needs the support in a running shoe, but also requires you to have the support in all of your shoes. This is when an orthotic comes into place, which you wear every day, allowing your joints and ligaments to be in correct alignment to reduce or remove unnecessary strain.
- If support shoes do not correct your overpronation and you suffer joint or ligament pain, then it would be recommended to see a podiatrist. There could be a combination of things that are causing joint pain. For example, if you have one leg slightly longer than the other, this causes an imbalance, which often leads to people suffering hip and back pain. Or if your muscles are unbalanced in strength, it can cause one leg to work more effectively than the other, causing the ligaments to pull and be damaged.
- If both feet respond differently from one another and a support shoe does not correct this imbalance, then it would be advisable to see a podiatrist, as they could make custom-made insoles to correct each foot's imbalance.
- If you suffer back pain whilst you sleep.
When is the support in the shoe enough?
Getting the correct shoe is vitally important, as there is a range of support levels. Each brand of shoe can make the support slightly differently and the cushioning combined with the support can vary. It's very important to try a range of brands, as there is more than just the support to consider.
For example, some brands offer a 8mm drop to encourage a forefoot strike and less bulkiness on the shoe. Although it might sound good, it doesn't suit everyone. As the drop in a shoe becomes lower the calves have to work harder, so if you have weak calves you might encounter calf tightness. Some shoes such as Nike currently offer a broader toe box to suit a broader foot. Having the correct shape of shoe for your foot shape also plays a big part, as if the shape of the shoe does not match your foot shape it can cause blisters, numb feet or even black toe nails.
Shoe companies are continually updating and improving on the brand models of shoes. The shoes can change in width, the stitching can change, and so too can the strength of the support. These simple changes can have a good or bad result for each individual, so although you may have a preference to stay with your current model, that is the upgraded version, it is important not to assume that it will respond in the same way as your previous one. It's very important to try them on and ensure that the support is correct for your foot strike.
So most people who wear a support shoe have flat feet, but not all people with flat feet or falling arches need a support. It all comes down to how each individual's body can cope with a collasped arch.
Some people can have a very collapsed arch, leading them to perhaps think they need a support shoe, but it's important to look at the history you have had with shoes with and without support. If you do not encounter injuries wearing a neutral shoe but overpronate then it's best to stay in a neutral shoe, as the body is very good at correcting itself. It may be a simple outward turn of the feet that the body naturally does that helps the balancing of the collapsed arch.