I am now a former orthotics wearer. It’s been almost four full weeks since I have had them in any shoes, and there’s no going back for me. I know people’s sentiments about orthotics can be strong one way or the other. Me? I’ve now been in both camps–pro- and anti-orthotics. I’m not a doctor and don’t play one on TV, but I thought I’d share my experience and thoughts on the subject with you.
About three years ago, I got an almost overnight case of plantar fasciitis. Within about three runs after the onset, I was practically crippled by the pain. I couldn’t walk on my foot at all. After a few weeks, the pain subsided some, but not much. I looked into podiatrists in the area and went to the one that all the local runners recommended. He gave me the traditional advice–stretch it, ice it, etc.
Three months in, still no running, I had a cortisone shot and the doc fitted me for orthotics. I had temporary pain relief from the shot, but still no go on the running. Finally, at the six month mark, my podiatrist treated my foot with extracorporeal shockwave therapy and three weeks later, I could return to running. During the treatment, which is ultrasound guided, we found a partial tear in my PF, which explained why my case had been so severe.
The doctor told me that for the rest of my life, I would need to wear orthotics 24/7. This meant even a short walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night. No more cute shoes, no barefooting–ever! I followed this advice to a T. I hated it, but if it would allow me to run, it was worth it, right?
Then last year I developed some PF in my other foot. Nothing like the first case, but it was there, nonetheless. How was this possible if I was wearing orthotics, I wondered? It got me to thinking. Then I developed what you all know has been the ITBS from hell, which led me to the panel discussion on running injuries that I attended in January in Shepherdstown, WV.
It was a light bulb moment for me. I realized that my feet were atrophied shells of what they should be and that they weren’t going to get any better in orthotics. Did the orthotics contribute to my ITBS? No way to know, but I suspect they may have played a role.
Right after the discussion, I contacted a podiatrist who had been on the panel and chatted with him about my orthotics. His thoughts on it? If I didn’t give up my orthotics, I would probably be facing recurring injuries for years to come. I had nothing to lose–I’m not running anyhow, so why not take this opportunity to ditch the orthotics and get my feet into shape?
So that’s what I’ve been working on and like I mentioned last week–my feet are so much better for it already. I had a couple of weeks of discomfort as my feet adjusted, but I am so happy I took this step. My take on this–orthotics are essentially braces. They may serve a purpose for a period of time. But forever? And 24/7? I really don’t think so. The human foot is designed to do its job, no braces necessary. Even if you are flat-footed, pronate, etc.–an orthotic is not a permanent answer.
What’s your experience/opinion of orthotics?