Orthotic Thoughts

I used to run in orthotics. It got so bad, I had to do everything with orthotics in my shoes. I had to buy shoes, even dress shoes, that would accomodate these devices. At last count, I had 13 pairs of orthotics made for me over the 20+ years of running. I had hard plastic ones, leather ones, soft foam ones, hard molded foam ones. I saw chiropractors, podiatrists, pedorthists. Some were out to make a buck. Some really cared and were puzzled as to my continued problems. Two years ago, I stopped wearing any orthotics in my shoes. Cold turkey. I started wearing more flexible, softer shoes. I went with cut away soles and neutral midsoles, bypassing the rigid stability and motion-control shoes that had become to restricting and confining to me. In the past two years, I have not been injured. Not once.

Since I began running, I have had every injury imaginable from knee and back problems to plantar fasciitis and many stress fractures. During this quest, I was continually told that I needed more control, more rigid shoes and orthotics to control my footstrike. As I obliged, my feet and lower body got weaker and weaker. My foot tendons and ligaments were reliant on the support of hard devices to prop them up in the shoes. I was miserable.

I started walking barefoot in the house and wore Nike Free shoes around as much as I could to strengthen my feet. I did functional exercises for feet, ankles and lower legs. I used manipulative therapy to break up the scar tissue and open the fascia. I relied on yoga, massage and my own will. I survived and am now running some of my best times.

In cases of deformity, orthotics may be the only answer, but in my opinion, the devices are over-prescribed and over-used. Instead of support, our feet need freedom, flexibility and strengthening. Walk barefoot. Get flimsy shoes. Wear flip flops. Feel the ground. Be free.

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