Shoe orthotics are inserts that you slip into your shoe in order to correct or prevent a medical problem. About 75% of people will experience some sort of foot, leg or back problem in their lifetimes, and orthotics are used to treat many of these common problems.
How do orthotics work?
Orthotics provide the support that allow your feet to disperse your body’s weight more evenly to avoid stress on any one part of the feet, legs or back. You can think of orthotics as functioning like wedges that you would put under the leg of an uneven table: something that evens out the dispersion of weight and results in improved stability and strength.
The importance of orthotics for athletes
Athletes spend more time on their feet than most people, and definitely put more stress on their feet, legs and back than non-athletes. Problems like plantar faciitis, overpronation and Achilles tendon strains are induced by stress and overuse and are common in athletes.
All of these injuries occur from stress and strain on certain parts of the foot and leg, injuries that can be avoided if certain protective measures are taken. To protect themselves from injury, many athletes use orthotics in their footwear. Athletes who use insoles report having better stability and control in their activities and fewer injuries overall.
What’s the best type of orthotic for me?
Just as different sports result in different injuries, different sports require different orthotics. Some sports place more stress on your feet while some put knees at risk. It is important to choose an orthotic that provides the support required to stabilize the ways your body moves during different activities.
Foot and leg injuries are extremely common in runners. Runners put a lot of pressure on their feet and the hard, rigid concrete that is often underfoot increases the likelihood of injury. Overpronation (excessive rolling in throug the middle and heel areas), plantar fasciitis (heel pain) and arch pain are especially common in runners.
Runners need heel and arch support. It is also extremely important that orthotics for runners provide a high level of shock absorption as most modern running surfaces are extremely hard.
Football and rugby players do a great deal of running and experience many of the same injuries as runners do, as well as injuries caused by quick manoeuvring on the field. Overuse injuries, such as sprained ankles and Achilles tendon strains, are common in football and rugby players.
Athletes that wear sports boots, like football and rugby players, require special orthotics for these tight-fitting shoes. These orthotics should have a heel cup and arch support to promote stability. Orthotics should also absorb shock, to decrease the strain on muscles and avoid injury.
Skiers tend to suffer from different types of injuries than runners. Skiers control their ride by putting weight on the outer edge of their feet. If the foot is already overpronated (a very common dysfunction), the skier will compensate by moving their legs at the knee. This can result in knee injuries.
Snowboarders shift the weight from their heels to their toes and the orthotics provide total contact to improve performance. A good heel cup and arch support also reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
To provide skiers and snowboarders with the best possible support, orthotics should be worn to evenly disperse the weight across the bottom of the foot. These orthotics will typically have a deep heel cup and arch support.
Where to find sports orthotics
Orthotics for athletes can be purchased from many shoe and sportswear outlets as well as through medical professionals. For best results, purchase orthotics that have been custom-made to fit both your foot and your athletic shoe.