Running Away From Foot Orthotics

Running shoe orthotics have a legitimate function, but like a cast, they should be removed when the injury has healed.


When you break a bone, you go to the doctor, get it set and have it fitted for a cast. Once the bone heals, the cast is removed and you start working on regaining strength and full range of motion. You don't spend the rest of your life living with the cast.

The same case could be made for running shoe orthotics. (What are orthotics? See Guide to Common Running Terminology.) Available over the counter or prescribed by podiatrists, orthotics are designed to help treat common running injuries. But once the injury has healed, the orthotics should be removed.

Nevertheless, many runners choose to continue using their orthotics, which over time can cause the healed muscles to weaken and atrophy. For this reason, I believe that using running shoe orthotics should be a last resort. (Check out Defending Against Foot Injuries.)

Before purchasing orthotics, especially prescription ones (which can cost between $375 and $450), first try the following methods.

Get a pair of fitted shoes

Your problem may be occurring because you are running in the wrong shoes. Visit a specialty running store to have an expert make sure you're wearing a pair that's right for you. (See The Perfect Fit: Athlete's Guide to Purchasing New Shoes.)

Switch your shoes

A slight modification may offer relief in a high-stress area caused by running on the same shoe surface.

See a physical therapist

A tight or weak muscle could be causing the pain you are experiencing. In this scenario, a physical therapist or massage therapist could solve the problem.

Replace your insole

You may simply need a more supportive insole. Specialty running stores offer several different ones, ranging around $20 to $40. Before you buy, press on the arch of the insert. If it collapses, it might not be supportive enough.

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