The top three questions runners ask about custom foot orthotics are:
- Should they use orthotics in their shoes while running if they don’t have an injury?
- If they have fatigue in their legs while running or a jacked up gait, they often wonder of orthotics will help?
- Should they wear orthotics forever after an overuse injury?
The answers are yes, yes and yes! A new study showed that orthotics have a significant benefit in reducing running injuries as prophylaxis. It makes common sense, that if you have an underlying biomechanical deficit, orthotics give you better alignment so therefore should reduce overall abnormal stressors and subsequently injuries. Now there is a new study that shows just that! Piggy-back that on years of biomechanics research and the answers get much more clear.
This study demonstrated that the subjects who wore orthotics had "a significantly reduced rate of exercise-related lower limb injury across the training period". The authors emphasized that participants were not treated for an injury with orthotics, but were prescribed orthotics to prospectively reduce the risk of injury. In addition, they believe that these "preventative results can be cautiously extrapolated to a recreational running setting and should be considered by sports and exercise medicine professionals."
We generally prescribe foot orthotics to treat specific injuries. This study indicates that orthotics can be a valuable prophylactic tool for injury prevention, supporting orthotic use in at-risk populations (e.g. runners) for medial stress syndrome, iliotibial band syndrome and Achilles tendinopathy.
Considering the results of this study and the results of a previous study on the use of orthotics in runners by Mundermann, it is recommended to use at least a pre-fabricated insert which incorporate a medial heel skive and rearfoot post, as a cost-effective means of providing prophylaxis with corrections proven effective in runners. Runners with a previous history of these injuries and/or those that develop symptoms would be good candidates for custom orthoses based on the results of these two studies.
Franklyn-Miller A, Wilson C, Bilzon J, et al. Foot orthoses in the prevention of injury in initial military training: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Sports Med 39(1):30-37, 2011
Mundermann A, Nigg BM, Humble RN, et al. Foot orthotics affect lower extremity kinematics and kinetics during running. Clin Biomech 18(3):254-262, 2003