This is a common question that I get.
You need oxygen, food, and water. You probably don’t “need” Orthotics, so I always find this question a bit difficult to answer. Could you use orthotics? Possibly. If your foot is not working properly, particularly if it is moving too much, too fast, or is stuck in a poor position, you are AT BEST losing energy and stressing your joints, even if nothing hurts. Proper support will make your more efficient, which is particularly important in sports where power or endurance separate the best from the rest.
Will they cure all that ails you? Nope. Will they cure or even help your foot, knee or hip pain? Maybe. A good, custom made orthotic will 100% of the time support your foot. This is what it is designed to do, and all that it is designed to do. Can that help with foot, knee, hip, or even back pain? Absolutely, but those things are side benefits of proper foot mechanics, which provide a foundation for proper body mechanics. It is possible for orthotics to do their job properly, even provide some benefit to you functionally, but to not improve your pain. Aspirin is a pain killer. Orthotics support your feet.
Pain is a poor indicator of anything other than you have pain. Pain is often your body’s last resort to get your conscious attention about something that has been happening for a long time. You could have poor foot mechanics causing havoc all the way up your leg and into your hips and back without developing symptoms for years. Everyone knows someone who had no pain, no symptoms, was “healthy as a horse” one day and the next day had a heart attack or got diagnosed with cancer. Foot mechanics will be less dramatic and life threatening, but you get the idea.
This is a series of stills from a video of a young hockey player. This is a kid who was already an excellent hockey player, looking to make a junior team at an early age. He had no pain, no “problems”. All we added between these two video sessions was a pair of orthotics in his skates. That is an amazing difference. A similar difference in mechanics from a rehab and training perspective would take a lot of time and a lot of work. He is now clearly more efficient, losing less power with every stride, and putting less stress on his body all the way up. He is a better skater and is at a reduced risk of overuse injury, and likely even at a reduced risk of traumatic injury.
This short video shows you some of the stress poor foot mechanics can place on your body. Our model has no pain, and I don’t believe ever has had any “issues”. His feet are, however, a mechanical nightmare and are, at worst, putting him at risk for injury and chronic problems down the road, and at best, are bleeding power and energy, making him less efficient.
What about barefoot running? The barefoot crowd suggest that barefoot running is the natural way to run, that it keeps your feet strong and mobile like they should be. Probably true. The problem is most, if not all of us in the developed world, grow up wearing shoes and support our entire lives, while walking, running and playing on man-made surfaces. This is NOT how your foot was designed to work.
I think adding some barefoot training to your regime is a great idea, and I recommend it. If you want to run barefoot on the grass or in the jungle, go nuts. If you really want to run a marathon on concrete with vibrams, you can probably work your way there, but is that natural? Nope.
If you are going to stand, walk or run on concrete or other hard man-made surfaces, or stick your foot in a skate, shoe or boot, natural is out the window and I think it is both reasonable and beneficial to have some good quality custom made orthotics to support you.
Tyler Fix DC, CCWP