Although running shoe design and technology has progressed leaps and bounds over recent years, there are certain foot types that will require more support, explains James Masterson, physio here at Sundial, Brighton. However not everyone will benefit from orthotics and it’s important to gain professional advice before deciding on whether an orthotic is right for you. A full biomechanical assessment from a physiotherapist or chiropractor can help determine whether the underlying root of the problem stems from your feet and whether or not an orthotic is appropriate for your foot type.
Orthotics can help running and are designed to optimize the alignment of the lower limb, which can improve shock absorption in the lower extremity and realign joints from the foot all the way through the kinetic chain to the spine, preventing problems foot, knee or hip. The main role of an orthotic is to restore a neutral alignment which will in turn reduce the stress carried throughout the body during weight bearing activities. This is particularly important during running as (hopefully!) the feet are the only part of your body in constant contact with the ground.
An orthotic can either be an off the peg prefabricated orthotic, with a selection made to fit most general foot types, or a custom made orthotic, normally constructed by a podiatrist which is made specifically for the individual. The off the peg orthotics work well for most people and are considerably cheaper. We sell Superfeet orthotics at Sundial.
Another important factor worth considering with orthotics is that most people change their shoes several times throughout the day. Although your running shoe will provide you with support whilst you’re wearing them, it’s likely that you will spend more time out of these shoes than in them. This can potentially lead to overuse injuries during regular every day activities, especially if your profession requires you to spend large amounts of time on your feet. This is another way in which an orthotic can be useful as it can often be taken from one shoe and placed in another. However orthotics aren’t your only option and if possible should only be used as a short term solution, please see my future posts on physiotherapy exercises to improve overpronation.
The three basic foot types:
Firstly, it should be noted that pronation is a natural movement of the foot’s mechanics. It occurs at the joint below the ankle called the subtalar joint and this movement allows the foot to roll in slightly during the stance phase of gait and helps the lower limb deal with shock. Although this process is not necessarily detrimental to your body it can affect your running style and possibly lead to injury.
This means that you’re a neutral pronator, meaning your foot rolls in slightly and you push off evenly through the front of the foot. Sometimes you can tell if someone is a neutral runner by looking at the sole of their shoe, running from the heel to the big toe along the outer surface there will often be signs of S-shaped wear and tear.
Underpronation, or supination as it is often referred to, is when the outer surface of your foot hits the ground at an increased angle causing minimal or no natural pronation. Again this leads to access shock throughout the lower limb and can be potentially damaging to your body when running.
There is significantly more inward rolling of the foot meaning more weight is transferred to the inner surface of the foot late in the stance phase. This causes instability and leads to compensatory movement patterns throughout the kinetic chain, potentially leading to injury throughout the lower limb and within the spine.
If you have any queries or want more help then book in for a free Runner’s MOT.