Orthotics Are for Athletes and Outdoor Adventurers, Too!
There’s a stereotype out there that “custom orthotics” are big, bulky, frustrating inserts that you would only really need if you had a history of diabetic wounds or severe problems with your feet.
However, that’s just not the case at all. The truth is that we routinely prescribe orthotics for people of all ages and activity levels—from kids and college athletes to hikers, runners, and all kinds of active outdoor adventurers.
High-performance athletes like LeBron James and Usain Bolt wear shoe inserts. So do prominent celebrities like Scarlett Johansson and Kristen Bell. And if you’re struggling with foot or leg pain that’s keeping you from enjoying your life to the fullest, there’s a great chance that orthotics can help you, too.
Even Minor Foot Flaws Can Lead to Pain
We rely on our feet and ankles for most of the tasks we have to accomplish on a day-to-day basis. But people who love to run, hike, and play sports put even more pressure on their lower limbs, and often deal with increased rates of chronic foot pain and injury.
That’s especially true if your feet have any kind of structural or biomechanical issues that prevent them from absorbing impact shocks and distributing weight as efficiently as they should. You don’t need to have a massive, obvious foot defect for this to be the case in your life. It could be something as simple as a lower-than-normal arch height, or ankles that roll a few degrees further inward than normal when under load (overpronation).
These biomechanical problems might not cause any discomfort for people who have more sedentary lifestyles. But in active people, even minor discrepancies from the norm can have an outsized influence on painful symptoms.
How Athletes and Active People Can Benefit From Orthotics
Whenever there’s a fundamental biomechanical problem with the feet and ankles, some sort of shoe insert—whether that’s a carefully chosen prefabricated arch support or custom orthotics built to spec from the ground up—is usually the best choice.
Orthotics are made to rebalance forces across your feet, move pressure and weight away from sensitive zones, and enable a more biomechanically healthy way of walking, running, and moving. This offers several significant benefits for active folks:
- You can play (and train) longer without pain. This is the most obvious benefit. A hiker who can barely put up with an hour long walk around the park before orthotics might be able to return to day hikes or even backpacking if they’re getting the proper support. If you’re a competitive athlete, there’s also a training benefit: without being held back by foot pain, you can put more hours in on the practice court and improve your game faster.
- You move more efficiently. This can translate directly to things like your agility, your explosiveness and acceleration, or your jumping height. If your feet or ankles are misaligned, it “costs” extra effort and energy to get them moving. When your orthotics put those structures back into place, a greater portion of your effort translates directly to results. Although the effect can seem subtle, it makes a difference for competitive athletes looking for any edge.
- You reduce the risk of injury. Realigning and supporting your feet reduces wear and tear not just there, but potentially in joints and muscles all the way up the kinetic chain. This decreases your risk of all kinds of “overuse injuries” like stress fractures or plantar fasciitis, but it can also lower your risk of more traumatic injuries like sprains or meniscus tears.
Orthotics That Fit Your Shoes (and Your Lifestyle)
Whenever we tell a more active or athletic person that they might need custom orthotics, they’re often nervous that their new orthotics will be heavy, bulky, or not fit properly inside their running shoes or gym sneakers.
Fortunately, for the vast majority of active patients, these really aren’t concerns you need to worry about!
Most of the custom orthotics we prescribe for athletes are made from graphite, a semi-rigid material that’s ideal for active individuals:
- It’s soft and flexible enough to conform comfortably around your feet.
- It’s firm and supportive enough to make sure your feet maintain a biomechanically correct alignment.
- It’s extremely thin and lightweight, so you can slip your orthotics into almost any pair of athletic shoes you own while noticing little if any difference to the fit or weight of your shoes.
- It’s extremely durable and fairly easy to adjust, so you can expect your orthotics to last a long time (in most cases at least a couple of years) even if you live an active lifestyle.
So don’t let any false stereotypes about orthotics put you off from getting your feet the extra support you need! Our athletic patients love our orthotics, and there’s a great chance that you will too.
To request an appointment with Dr. Pilling, give us a call at (208) 733-0426 (for Twin Falls) or (208) 678-2727 (for Burley). You can also use our online contact form to get in touch.