Myths about foot orthoses

Foot orthoses, otherwise referred to as foot orthotics are specially designed shoe inserts that help redistribute forces throughout the lower limb. Blake has provided some insight on what foot orthoses really are and has helped to bust common foot orthoses myths.

MYTH 1: Pronation is ‘bad’, and you need foot orthoses to fix it.

‘Pronation is bad and is the reason for your pain’.

Majority of the population pronate and need to for normal walking and running. Pronation is one of pivotal movements of the foot.

Pronation and injury risk is an age-old debate. More recent research, specifically by Nielsen et al. has demonstrated there isn’t a significant relationship between pronation and injury risk (1). However, like most things in sports medicine, there is always a grey area. We now understand that tissue resistance and tolerance is a better measure to use, meaning regardless of what your ‘foot posture’ or running looks like, the body’s capacity to withstand the stress you put on is more important. Although, there are cases where someone may be sensitive into this movement (pronation or supination), it would be beneficial to limit that movement for a period with the goal of returning to previous function

At Achieve, we will assess a range of different areas including movement patterns, strength, balance, and tissue capacity to assist in rehabilitation and performance.

MYTH 2: They are a lifetime sentence.

Foot orthoses are most commonly NOT a lifetime sentence. There may be some cases where they help and offer long term support while rehab is being undertaken, such as in post-surgical cases or adult acquired flat foot.

A good analogy to think of is that they are like a shoulder sling.

For example, if you were to hurt your shoulder, you may use a shoulder sling for the next 12 weeks to reduce the load and stress going through the shoulder. Once you have built some strength and desensitised the area, you will be free to come out and continue as you were.

Foot orthoses are much the same, once that area has desensitised and you can tolerate load through that area again, they may not be required. This is all happening in conjunction with adequate rehab, education, and guidance.

MYTH 3: They brace the feet and make feet weaker.

Your foot muscles still work to stabilise and control the foot when on the device. Currently, within the world of research, there are 5 studies looking directly at foot muscle strength with foot orthosis. The majority (90%) of the studies show no decrease in strength capacity or stability. So, what did the other study show? An increase in strength. Remember, we are not supporting the muscles, we are modifying the load and spreading the pressure out underneath the foot. The muscles and structures still and do work just as hard.

MYTH 4: They can only go in a neutral running shoe.

We understand that the shoe does play a role in the effect of the orthoses (another reason why we will recommend a strong and supportive shoe) and as we know, we must have a shoe for the foot orthoses effect to be reached.

Can foot orthoses go into any shoe?

They can go into any shoe if they achieve the required effect. They can go into minimalist, maximalists, neutral or motion control shoes.

Foot orthoses are like a drug and so are shoes, both have an effect (dosage). What we are trying to do is find the right dosage for you so we can get the desired effect. If we can combine both the shoe and orthoses, we get a combined dosage of both. So, as long we achieve the right dosage, we achieve the effect.

Remember to always ask questions about your footwear such as what is the best shoe for your orthotics would be to go into? Timeframes of recovery? And so forth.

Do I need a custom orthosis?

There are a variety of foot orthoses, which reflects the fact that there are a variety of needs for foot orthoses. Biomechanical factors, footwear factors, the level of support someone needs, weight of an individual, the structures or tissues we are looking to influence are a few common considerations in deciding what materials and type of foot orthoses is most suitable.

References

Nielsen RO, Buist I, Parner ET, et al Foot pronation is not associated with increased injury risk in novice runners wearing a neutral shoe: a 1-year prospective cohort study British Journal of Sports Medicine 2014;48:440-447.

Blake about us

Blake Withers

Podiatrist
Blake has a passion for endurance athletes and in particular, runners. His post graduate research investigated perceptions around footwear and foot type within this group. He is a keen athlete himself, finishing 3rd recently in the Noosa Triathlon in his respected category and 1st in the Glasshouse 100 (15km) trail run through the Glasshouse mountains. He currently continues to train for marathons, triathlons, and Ironman events. ‘Building resilience is one of the most important aspects I have found to be pivotal in the rehab journey’

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