March 28, 2017

Do You Need to Wear an Orthotic All the Time? 7 Points on Foot Support

Support is one of the most overused terms in running. You have support shoes, maximum support shoes, arch supports, metatarsal supports, etc. But how is the foot really being supported? That is a good question. Another good question is who needs this support? And if you do need foot support, do you need it all of the time?

If you haven’t already done so, now would be an excellent time to review our articles, If the Shoe Fits... and How I Learned to stop Worrying and Love Pronation for some relevant background information. So now let’s break this whole issue of support down into 7 easy pieces…


  1. Running shoes. What is the actual purpose of wearing running shoes? Contrary to what a lot of runners believe, the primary purpose of running shoes is to protect your feet from the ground. You know…rocks, thorns, and the like. The secondary purpose is to provide some cushion to absorb shock, especially from hard surfaces like concrete. That’s it? What about all those fancy doodads the running shoe companies brag about?
  1. Stability and motion control shoes. Nearly every running shoe company has models that seek to limit pronation. Stability shoes generally accomplish this through the use of a dual-density midsole. In short, a denser (thicker) material is used on the medial side of the midsole (between the upper and the sole of the shoe). It is usually a darker color and is sometimes referred to as a medial post. Motion control shoes usually go with a plastic piece in conjunction with a dual-density midsole to further limit pronation in heavier or particularly flat-footed runners. Shoes without any form of pronation limiting device(s) are called neutral or cushioned shoes. But often runners need a little bit more…
  1. When the shoe itself does not provide enough support or the right type of support, it may be time to look at inserts. For a detailed look at shoe inserts, you can read our article, What's in a Name?, on the website. Curiously, almost no one ever talks about what type of shoe you should use with shoe inserts, arch supports, or orthotics. I have found through selling running shoes for nearly 20 years, most inserts work best in a neutral shoe. Otherwise, overcorrection is a real possibility. I have seen someone actually running on the outsides of their ankles they were so overcorrected.
  1. The rest of the day. If you have the type of job that requires you to wear work boots, dress shoes, or high heels, it may be a good idea to consider inserts for those shoes, as well. These types of shoes generally provide even less support than running shoes. Again, nearly every type of shoe can be purchased with more or less support, but it isn’t really the primary function of the shoe.
  1. Home! Sweet home! Time to kick off your shoes and relax. But, wait! Is that really the best idea? Experts disagree somewhat on this issue, but a good article that looks at both sides of the argument can be found at Weighing The Pros And Cons Of Walking Barefoot. Probably the most important thing to remember here is that if you are suffering from some form of foot or lower leg injury, especially plantar fasciitis, you probably want to support the foot any time you are standing or walking. Fortunately, a number of companies make excellent support sandals and flip flops, including the StrideTek Flipthotic®. These can be especially handy for going to and from the swimming pool.
  1. Rise and shine. If you have suffered through plantar fasciitis, you know that the pain is most extreme when you first step out of bed, be it in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or first thing in the morning. The plantar fascia tightens overnight, causing those first steps to be excruciating. Placing some type of supportive footwear next to the bed that is easy to put on can save you a world of hurt!

  1. Is this forever? It depends. Some runners are able to transition out of needing extra support, particularly orthotics and other shoe inserts, but it is rare. It has been said that any body part that needs to be braced or supported actually needs to be rehabbed. The problem is that age, weight, and chronic injury can make that quite difficult. Also, if a runner has been wearing stability or motion control shoes or orthotics for many years, it is not an easy thing to strengthen the foot and leg to the point that they are no longer required. Further, it does take serious commitment to do the required stretching, exercises, and training to get to a point that extra support is no longer needed. So for most runners, if the shoe inserts they are using keep them running pain and injury free, they stick with them.

Now that you have read our prior three articles and this one, you should have an excellent understanding of how running shoes, inserts, support, and pronation all fit together! The goal, of course, is that you are able to run injury and pain free for the rest of your life. 

Click here to check out the Stridetek Flipthotic Orthotic Sandal!