Do You Really Need Custom Made Orthotics for Running?

Orthotics is the science of constructing or custom designing foot appliances such as arch supports, shoe inserts, shoes, etc., to aid in preventing and correcting deformities that may inhibit normal, comfortable movement in a person.


If you have car trouble, you talk to a mechanic.

If you are feeling unwell, you talk to a doctor.

If you need running advice, chances are, you end up in a running store.

We are a little skeptical of running stores, especially when it comes to gait analysis as your running store might end up recommending running shoes that will make your running form worse.

Which will lead to more injuries and the runner blues.

Many runners are told they will need custom orthotics for flat feet or very high arches to fix the problem, but the custom orthotics cost can be very high.

Is there a way to fix or help runners with flat feet, high arches, runner’s knee, or plantar fasciitis, amongst other injuries without spending lots of money?

They often come with a hefty price, and the cost of custom fit orthotics usually not covered by health insurance.

Today, we’ll take a look at the science behind custom orthotics and whether they are worth it for runners, especially when you consider how often some custom made running shoe orthotics need to be replaced.

Do You Really Need Custom Made Orthotics for Running?

Is Under or Over Pronation Really the Cause of Your Running Injuries?

Custom orthotics have quite the colorful scientific record.

They’ve been around for quite some time, so podiatrists have developed a variety of theories on which to base the design of a particular orthotic.

Here’s the deal:

For a long time, orthotics were centered around the “pronation” paradigm, which, in short, held that overpronation (an inward rolling of the ankle during the running stride) was the root cause of many running injuries.

Orthotics incorporated a built-up arch and a slanted heel that tilted your foot outward.

The idea being that the built-up material would prevent the foot from pronating, and hence prevent or treat injuries related to overpronation.

Here’s where it gets interesting:

In the experience of many podiatrists and sports medicine doctors, they were successful.

Runners came in injured, were prescribed a custom orthotic, and recovered.

But there were ruminations of trouble when biomechanics labs attempted to quantify the degree to which a particular feature (say, a slanted heel) on a custom orthotic altered a runner’s gait.

Experiments were producing different results, and generally not agreeing with the predictions of the pronation theory.


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