Ultrarunning: Know if You Need Sport Orthotics

May 29, 2012

This article is part of Endurance Planet’s ultrarunning article series. If you have questions, comments or feedback about “Know if You Need Sport Orthotics”, please leave it below in the comments section…

Runners, especially those who take part in ultrarunning, spend more time on their feet than any other athlete. This alone makes ultrarunners more prone to overuse injuries, regardless of whether or not they implement the most efficient training regimens, or take ample rests in between. Overuse injuries can be addressed in a number of ways but one of the least invasive yet highly effective methods is through the use of sport orthotics.

Just what exactly are sport orthotics?

Sport orthotics are shoe inserts specially made for athletes who require additional feet support to improve their respective gaits. These shoe inserts function by providing balance to enable a more even dispersion of the body’s overall weight. Because one’s gait is corrected, one’s existing overuse injuries are given time to gradually and naturally heal. Using sport orthotics doesn’t only address feet problems. Even injuries to the legs and the back can be taken care of as well.

How do I know if I need a pair of sport orthotics?

Ultrarunners who are lucky to have neutral stable feet tend to have more balanced and more efficient gaits and so generally do not need sport orthotics. But runners who have pronation problems, those whose feet roll either excessively inwards or outwards, may require the use of these specially designed shoe inserts.

The best way to determine whether or not you need orthotics would be to consult with your sport podiatrist. You may be asked to bring in your running shoes during the first consultation. This is so the podiatrist gets to properly examine how your feet gait based on where most of the wear and tear is located. Images may be obtained as well as casts of your feet to further enable proper diagnosis.

Which should I go for – over-the-counter or custom-molded sport orthotics?

Sport orthotics come in two general kinds. There are ones which are ready-made and can be easily obtained from a pharmacy or a specialty running store. Meanwhile, there are those that have been especially manufactured and which have been based on the casts of the runner’s feet.

Of course, a pair of custom-molded sport orthotics is your best bet. Each piece has been patterned and designed to correct the gait issues of each foot. But this isn’t to say that over-the-counter shoe inserts are less effective. In fact, there are many runners who prefer and swear by the generic sport orthotics they currently use.

Generic sport orthotics are ready to wear unlike the custom-made ones which usually take a month of manufacturing in a lab. Bear in mind though that both types don’t provide an overnight solution to your gait imbalances and overuse injuries. And you need to get accustomed to wearing them prior to actually utilizing them during an ultramarathon. It may take 2 weeks or more to properly get used to the inserts and you’ll most likely feel some discomfort during this entire course of breaking them in. Whichever type you go for, in the end, it’s all a matter of running comfortably, stably, and safely in the sport orthotics you choose.

It is prudent to always consult with a qualified professional first and foremost. Perhaps those overuse injuries of yours aren’t really caused by imbalanced gait. Maybe they’re due to the use of wrong running shoes. Perhaps they stem from weak or tight muscles – a problem which a sports massage therapist is better equipped at addressing. Treat sport orthotics as just like prescription medication. Only go for it if all the other least invasive methods prove futile.


Do you have questions about sports orthotics, or what you’ve read so far? Do you have any ultrarunning pointers of your own to add? Please leave your feedback, comments and questions below, and we promise we’ll respond.

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