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  • Michelle Austin

Insoles and Orthotics.....Are they worth it?

Clients often tell us they have or need orthotics, but they can rarely explain why. Their belief is generally based on a hunch or a feeling that putting a wedge in their shoe can "fix" the way they walk, improve their plantar fasciitis, or alleviate a bunion.

There are so many places to take this conversation, but we are going to start with the mechanics of the foot. Have you been told that you pronate or supinate? Many of our clients are told that they are one or the other. The truth is ... you do both. That's right, during the course of taking a step your foot should both pronate and supinate.


Each foot has 33 joints, so that's 66 of them supporting your body! Those joints work together to support you during walking, running etc. Any idea why we have so many joints? Our feet (without shoes, as we weren't born with them) are meant to adjust to uneven surfaces when taking a step. Meaning if we step on a sidewalk, brick, or landscape that is cracked or uneven, our foot makes the adjustments to help prevent force from being directed up the body. If these joints are unable to move, because we have put a foam or silicone support in our shoes, what do you think happens? Your foot will have decreased movement in each step, and that will change the way you walk, potentially resulting in pain. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but when the body can no longer compensate, the "daisy chain of pain" begins.


Moving onto the big business of insoles and orthotics.

According to Leisure Trends Group, "On average, insoles have a 55% profit margin, compared to 42% on athletic shoes, which makes it a great sell! The marketplace is being flooded with new products, all offering some way to improve your run, walk, sport, daily activity, or current dysfunction like plantar fasciitis. You can even find insoles made by taking a 3D scan of your foot with your iphone!" Said less technically, there's profit in them there insoles. Most of the time you are paying - without insurance, mind you - $800-$900 for a "good" pair of orthotics, while the insert provider clears about $450 in profit.


Major shoe manufacturers even create shoes to support your "high arch" or "fallen arch." There are shoes for pronators, supinators, and also for a neutral foot. How do you know what to purchase? Sadly, most consumers don't know. The average consumer walks into a big box or athletic shoe retailer and begins to try on shoes. They stop when they find a style they like and when the shoe feels comfortable. Most often the "comfortable" shoe supports his or her foot's high or low arch. Continued support of this dysfunction will cause pain months later up the chain in the body, as anatomical systems begin to compensate in ways that potentially lead to more trouble. Most consumers solve the problem by then adding an insert, wedge or orthotic to the shoe. But what happens 6, 12 or 18 months down the road? The body must find another way to compensate, and this is where the "daisy chain" of breakdowns begin. Now a knee, hip or low back begins to hurt. Most don't place the blame on the shoe or insert, after all it made them feel better initially. They chalk the new pain up to age, activity or past activity.

Instead of treating each issue, let's look at the whole body. How mobile and flexible should the body be to keep you pain free? Oftentimes we see that a client's calves are so tight, they pull the connective tissue (the fascia) up, creating a "high arch." What if we worked on the tight calves? What if we worked on the restrictions in the feet? What if every joint in your foot worked the way it was meant to work?


Let's address the root of the problem and ditch the inserts. There is a better way: the professional stretchers at Stretched can help, or will find someone in your area who can.


note: A certified orthotist or pedorthist, if you have exhausted other options is the best place to go.

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