Improper foot alignment can cause pain anywhere in the foot, legs, and back. Over time, these aches and pains may potentially result in overuse injuries such as shin splints, tendonitis, and stress fractures. Some lower extremity pain and injuries may be helped and/or prevented by orthotics.
Some people refer to orthotics as “arch supports,” but they do more than that! Orthotics are shoe inserts that help to correct improper foot alignment during activities like walking and running. Even though orthotics work directly on foot position, they also affect the alignment of ankles, knees, hips, and the low back, because everything is linked together in a biomechanical chain! The guide below will help you determine how to find the right pair of over-the-counter orthotics for your foot type.
Once you have selected a pair of orthotics, take them out of the packaging and place them on the floor. While barefoot or in just stocks, stand on both pieces before you place them in shoes. If you are shopping for an orthotic for flat feet, note the arch support in the orthotic: does it work? If you are shopping for a soft orthotic, does it seem to absorb shock and provide enough cushioning?
Your orthotics may have to be trimmed down around the toe area in order to fit into your shoes. Follow the instructions on the package, trimming off only small sections at a time, following the curve from the ball of the foot all the way around the toes. After trimming a small section, attempt to insert them in your shoes. If they still do not fit, repeat. Remember: you can easily trim more off, but you can’t put it back if you trim too much!
Sometimes, when people start wearing orthotics, they may experience soreness in their feet, legs, or low back. A short period of soreness is normal, but can be reduced and/or eliminated if you gradually get your body used to your new orthotics. Follow these steps to break in new orthotics:
A good pair of sport-specific athletic shoes is essential to injury prevention. To learn more read our informational article, How to Choose Running Shoes.
If you are unsure how to shop for orthotics, specialty running shoe stores have experienced salespeople that can help you find the proper fit. Your coach or sports medicine specialist may be able to recommend specific stores in your area that will meet your needs and budget.
Please note that not all aches and pains can be attributed solely to foot mechanics, nor can all injuries be completely fixed or prevented by orthotics. If you have persistent problems, consult your sports medicine specialist in a timely manner before the issue becomes worse.
As an added resource, the staff at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine is available to diagnose and treat sport-related injuries in youth and adolescents. For more information about our services, visit our website at www.nationwidechildrens.org/sports-medicine or call (614) 355-6000.
Consult your primary care physician for more serious injuries that do not respond to basic first aid. As an added resource, the staff at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine is available to diagnose and treat sports-related injuries for youth or adolescent athletes. Services are now available in five locations. To make an appointment, call (614) 355-6000 or request an appointment online.