Many experts are beginning to suspect that foot pain inserts come at hidden costs to a runner’s health: they don’t work.
Shoe orthotics inserts act as stabilizers for unwanted motions of the foot that cause common running-related injuries, such as plantar fasciitis. However, a recent study looked closer at the efficacy of orthotics and verified that prescription shoe inserts do not provide protection for the plantar fascia.
Foot Pain Inserts No Good for Plantar Fasciitis in Runners
Sinclair et al. investigated the influence of custom shoe inserts and orthotics on plantar fascia strain in runners who wore the standard running shoe and found that plantar fascia strain remained unchanged between the orthotic and non-orthotic runners.
Likewise, the relative range of motion of the medial longitudinal arch did not differ between the orthotic and non-orthotic runners -this is why both groups had similar values for plantar fascia strain.
Therefore, orthotics were not effective enough to be considered a therapeutic avenue for runners with plantar fasciitis.
Exactly How Can Plantar Fascia Strain Be Reduced?
Runners who wear the standard running shoe harbor more plantar fascia strain than runners who wear minimalist shoes or run barefoot. On a bare foot, reduced plantar fascia strain is indicative of stronger connective tissue surrounding the arch of the foot, thus sparing the plantar fascia of strain.
Routinely restraining foot activity by wearing shoes with arch support and motion control features is a proxy for weaker feet, therefore plantar fasciitis.
- For most, the feet spend all day in ‘uncustomary proximity’ to overly protective footwear which explains why plantar fasciitis is extremely rare in barefoot populations.
Although science has only pointed at vague links, increasing protection on your feet may also change the population of proprioceptors that direct impact moderating behavior during running.
The primary reason plantar fascia strain is high in many shod runners is due to poor foot strength, but strength can be easily kicked up by wearing less on your feet. For instance, a legion of data by Robbins and Hanna shows that running-related injuries can be easily prevented by barefoot adaptations.
And finally, because of the interplay of proprioception and foot strength, routinely wearing pure minimalist footwear also bolsters foot strength and arch deflection important for providing impact absorption.
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Robbins SE and Hanna AM. Running-related injury prevention through barefoot adaptations. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1987; 19(2):148-156.
Sinclair J., Isherwood J and Taylor PJ. The effects of orthotic intervention on multi-segment foot kinematics and plantar fascia strain in recreational runners. J Appl Biomech, 2015; 31, 28-34.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.