From HIIT classes to training for a half marathon, different workouts put different amounts of pressure on your feet. So, when do you need custom running orthotics, or orthoses for other sports, to prevent injury and boost your performance? 

Well, the answer isn’t so simple. Before we can confirm that you need orthotics, we’ll look at a few different factors. First, we have to examine your biomechanics. (That’s a measure of how your bones, tendons and muscles work together when you move.)  Then, we’ll look at your foot shape, paying special attention to your arch height. Finally, we’ll look at the sport you’re playing, or the miles you plan to log. Then, we’ll decide whether it’s worth it for you to invest in a custom running orthotic

Custom Running Orthotics: Which Sports Need Them Most A custom running orthotic on a wood floor

Because different sports require different movements, some athletes are more likely to need the support of orthotics. Otherwise, they’ll be at greater risk for sports injuries in their feet, ankles or even their legs. So, which sports put the most pressure on your lower body? Basketball, soccer and tennis players could all benefit from wearing orthoses as they play, since they add stability to your feet during sudden cuts or direction changes. And, of course, many regular runners also need this added stability. Especially if they train every day. Or log high mileage totals every week. 

Types of Shoe Inserts: Insoles vs Orthotics 

Now, in a minute, we’re going to explore the different types of custom orthotics you can choose from at Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle. But before we do, you need to understand the difference between custom shoe inserts and insoles you can buy at a drug store. Basically, we call an over-the-counter shoe insert an insole. It can make your shoes more comfortable, and offer you a little padding. But it is ineffective at injury prevention. And it can’t help address causes of chronic foot or heel pain like plantar fasciitis. 

In contrast, custom orthotics are medical devices that we mold and create to fit your exact foot shape and to support your instabilities. As such, it can treat many chronic foot concerns. Even better, wearing a custom orthotic may boost your athletic performance by increasing your efficiency. And it can certainly help prevent athletic injuries. But, even among custom orthotics, we can provide further customization to meet your specific sport’s needs. 

Custom Running Orthotics: Match the Insert to the Activity 

Whether you’re a regular jogger or training for a marathon, you need an orthotic that’s built to absorb the shock of your heel strike. If we know that you’re a runner, we can craft a device that’s a little softer, reducing the impact of this sport on your feet and helping boost your push off from the ground. (This could, in turn, help you run at a faster pace.)  

Now, if you’re more of a sprinter, you’ll need a different kind of custom running orthotic. Here, the main goal will be to stabilize your forefoot, so we would craft a device that’s more rigid. 

What if you’re playing a less active sport, like golf? Here, the danger to your feet comes from standing all day. In this case, the goal of your orthotic will be to reduce foot fatigue and keep your feet stable while you swing. Finally, people who jump a lot, like tennis and basketball players; or athletes who wear football or soccer cleats; need their orthotics to offer shock absorption. 

Now, we know that’s a lot to remember. But don’t worry—that’s our job, not yours. Just tell us about all your athletic activities when you come in for your orthotic fitting, and we’ll help you protect your feet and meet your training goals. 

Do All Athletes Need Orthotics?

By this point, you may be wondering if custom running orthotics are in your future. So here’s the bottom line. Does every athlete need to wear a custom shoe insert? Probably not—but almost every athlete could benefit from a sport-specific, custom-fitted orthotic device. 

You see, playing sports is always going to be hard on your feet. And injuries are a major risk for people who regularly engage in athletic activities. So, if you workout at least three times a week, and you love high-impact activities, you could certainly benefit from the support of a custom orthotic. 

Now, for some people, custom running orthotics should be mandatory, not optional. If you have low or high arches; suffer from chronic heel pain or foot pain; or have suffered from previous sports-related injuries, you need the protection of a custom orthotic. Otherwise, injuries and pain are likely to leave you sidelined more often than you’d like. 

How Often Should I Replace Custom Running Orthotics? 

Already have a pair of custom orthotics? Don’t think your journey is over: these medical devices do expire. Especially when you exercise with your inserts, you can wear them out. You’ll know it’s time to replace your custom running orthotics when you notice visible wear and tear on the inserts. Or, even if they appear to be intact, you may need to replace your orthotics if your feet start hurting, even when you’re wearing the inserts. 

Most pairs of custom-crafted orthotics have a two to three year shelf life. But if you’re wearing them for high-impact athletic training, they may need more frequent replacement. Some of the patients in our Medford, OR podiatry practice prefer to invest in separate walking and custom running orthotics, to extend the shelf-life of each device. 

Custom Running Orthotics: How to Know When You Need Them

We’ve highlighted some of the sports and training routines that put your feet at greater risk of injury. So, if you enjoy these activities, you already know you should schedule an orthotics consultation with our podiatrist in Medford, OR. 

But what if you aren’t an athlete or runner? How can you tell if you could benefit from a custom insert? Here, let your feet—or heels—guide you. If your feet feel sore and achy at the end of the day, or if chronic heel pain is a problem for you, custom orthotics could be the minimally invasive treatment plan you need. Contact us for an appointment in the office. We’ll take a look at your feet, and come up with a treatment plan to get you walking comfortably!