How to Limit Injuries and Increase Efficiency with Custom Orthotics

When I talk to my patients about the importance of their feet, I use a simple orchestra analogy. The body is the group of musicians and their feet are like the conductor. When the conductor is “off,” so is the orchestra. When the feet aren’t supported properly, the rest of the body follows suit.

Foot Levelers has a great graphic showing how the rest of the body is affected by over-pronation.

What Is Over-Pronation?

Pronation is a necessary movement during the gait cycle. Over-pronation, however, is problematic. Over-pronation is the inward rolling of your ankle and foot. Extreme over-pronation can be visibly seen statically as flat feet or dropped arches.

Over-Pronation Hinders Performance

Let’s assume a typical stride length is 3 feet for runners, give or take. Given this assumption,  a marathoner will take roughly 46,112 steps by the end of the 26.2 mile jaunt. That is just for the race! We aren’t even including all of the training leading up to that point. If a runner over-pronates only 1 millimeter, he or she will have over-pronated a total of 46,112 millimeters over the course of a full marathon, equaling 1,815 inches or 151 feet. The stress this puts on the body can add up quickly!

Over-pronation is wasted movement and when you’re pushing your body to the max, efficiency is important. The inefficiency of over-pronation can also increase the amount of time it takes to get a proper toe off. To add insult to injury, it can also significantly change your gait.

A “toeing out” gait is a typical presentation for someone who over-pronates. This isn’t the only cause for “toeing out”, but it’s a common one. When the foot over-pronates it puts the foot in a disadvantaged position to achieve a proper toe off. In order to achieve this, the foot makes up for it by “toeing out” to make room for toe off.

Choose the Right Orthotic

Picking the right orthotic is important. Stores are littered with choices: Dr. Scholl’s, Super Feet, Walk Fit, Good Feet, etc. The problem with these inserts is that they assume that everyone’s feet are the same. They only provide a handful of choices and then expect you to find one that works. It would be similar to an optician offering you 3 different prescription lenses from which to choose for your glasses. You will probably find one that works better than the others but it doesn’t mean it is an ideal fit for you.

The other problem with the retail orthotics is that they only support one arch. Your foot actually has three arches and all of them need to be supported for proper foot mechanics. Supporting one arch is just a band-aid approach and in the end will most likely lead to more issues.

As a side note, hard orthotics, like the ones often made by podiatrists, brace the foot too much and prevent your deep foot muscles from firing and they become weak. This makes it difficult and painful to do anything without wearing your orthotics, especially walking barefoot.

Try Foot Levelers Orthotics

In our office, we utilize Foot Levelers orthotics. Foot Levelers are the leading orthotic on the market. We use a special scanner to take a picture of the bottom of your foot and then run it through a computer program which shows us how you are distributing your weight throughout your foot. Next, we send the scan to Foot Levelers and they take over 200 measurements and build a custom soft orthotic that supports all 3 arches in your foot.

Foot Levelers has developed an orthotic specifically for runners. Typically, runners are concerned about the added bulk that can come with some orthotics which can decrease speed. The InMotion orthotic is made thinner and lighter without compromising durability. This allows for optimal support while maintaining speed and allowing range of motion, among other benefits. Don’t believe me? Ask my wife.

As a runner, your feet are the most important piece of running gear you own! You can buy fancy shoes with a 4mm heel drop, the most technologically advanced Garmin GPS watch, the new Nike+ FuelBand, compression socks or the lightest Mp3 player on the market, all of which can be replaced when they break or wear out. Your feet on the other hand… well, you get one pair so take care of them!

What has been your experience with orthotics?

Image from Andrew Malone, used via Creative Commons Attribution rights.

Dr. Crabtree

Dr. Crabtree is a chiropractor in South Minneapolis at the Uptown Natural Care Center. He specializes in the treatment of soft tissue injuries and is certified in Graston Technique®, Active Release Technique® and Rocktape®. He uses these techniques to aid in the correction of soft tissue dysfunction that accompanies overuse injuries that are particularly common in endurance athletes.

*Selected as a "Minnesota Top Chiropractor" for 2015 by Minnesota Monthly

Contact Dr. TY
Uptown Natural Care Center
2201 Hennepin Ave S
Minneapolis MN 55405
612.377.7760 |

Latest posts by Dr. Crabtree (see all)