The Benefits of Orthotics for Runners
Avoiding and treating injuries is a big part of developing as a runner. Improving running techniques and finding the right footwear is critical if you want to stay in the sport. While it’s common for runners to use orthotics to correct foot deformities, their uses don’t stop there. Used correctly, they can control foot movement, preventing common injuries. If you’re dealing with a foot or joint injury, they can reduce pain and help you recover faster without resorting to surgery.
Why can running cause chronic pain?
Our bodies were built for running, but that doesn’t mean that running is easy on our bodies. Each footfall exerts three times your body weight on your joints. If you have a foot deformity or gait problems, it won’t take long for that heavy load to cause or exacerbate problems with your feet and legs. Keeping the foot in a neutral position lessens the load on the bones, tendons and muscles in the feet and ankles.
Why custom orthotics?
While some problems can be dealt with by improving running technique, you may need additional support to stop common problems. Cheap drugstore solutions can make shoes unstable, or concentrate pressure on small spots, making the problem worse. Often advertised with aspects such as “gel”, many of these products may seem comfortable to touch, but are actually ineffective at improving the function of the feet and legs. Custom orthotics are designed to contour and support your feet, correcting your unique gait. This can be an expensive option, which is why KLM manufactures both custom and semi-custom options that cover the most common foot shapes and issues.
What are some common problems that runners often develop?
Runners most commonly use orthotics to address pronation of the subtalar joint, the point where the foot and leg meet. It’s normal to be prescribed arch supports when diagnosed pes planus deformity, AKA flat feet, but it can also help correct gait problems. How orthotics integrate into running will depend on your running style.
In recent years, there has been a push toward “natural” or “barefoot” running. Instead of using a rear foot or heel strike, the runner uses a midfoot or forefoot strike. While running this way is slower than heel striking, injury rates are lower. As a result, long distance runners have largely transitioned to this type of running, while sprinters have stuck to heel striking for maximum speed.
With forefoot striking, the entire foot pronates, followed by the subtalar joint. This redirects force, taking strain off of the joints and tendons. Over-pronation can still cause the same misalignment no matter which part of your foot hits the ground first. Since this running form depends on some pronation, it can make joint and foot problems even worse. Orthotic insoles can stop this misalignment from happening while still allowing for natural motion.
Even the best technique can’t counter every injury. However, the correct insole can reduce common runner injuries and chronic pain issues.
Orthotics can help with plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia supports the arch of your foot, absorbing shock when you walk or run. Running increases the stress on this tendon, which can lead to small tears, irritation and inflammation. This feels like a stabbing pain in the heel, which is usually experienced during the first steps in the morning, or after long periods of standing. Orthotics can take the strain off of the plantar fascia, letting it heal and preventing future damage. Our Foot Soldier Insoles are designed for people who stand for long periods, while our Superstep Insoles use shock absorbing material to reduce impacts to the plantar fascia while walking and running.
Similar pain can be caused by heel spurs, and their formation is often tied to plantar fasciitis. Calcium growths on the heel create a protrusion that can damage surrounding soft tissue. The formation of spurs is triggered by heel impacts, making them common in runners. Along with heel pain in the morning and after hard joint impacts, sufferers may experience numbness or tenderness around the spur. In extreme cases, the spur can be large enough to create a visible bump. Heel spur formation can be avoided with good fitting shoes. Our Rx Sport Insoles have a wide range of customization options, helping you get a better fit from your current shoes. For the perfect fit, our Superstep Rx insoles use the Eclo 3D foot scanning app to create a mold specific to your feet.
At one time or another, everyone who runs will have trouble with shin splints. Also called medial tibial stress syndrome, this pain is caused by stress on the shin bone and surrounding connective tissue. Sudden shifts in load, like those experienced in running, can cause these splints. Several factors can increase risk, including high arches, flat feet, age, weight and balance. Shock-absorbing insoles, stability-increasing insoles or arch supporting insoles can help prevent shin splints, depending on the source of the problem. When paired with stretches, core strength exercises and decreased high impact exercise, this problem can mostly be avoided.
Improving your gait, modifying your training and adding supporting exercises can go a long way to reducing injuries when you run. However, that’s not always enough to stop chronic problems. By using the correct orthotic insoles, you can support your feet in a way that addresses the core physical causes of these problems. This can help you avoid injuries and recover faster.