Why Do I Need an Insole
Orthotic Insoles Reduce Pain and Improve Quality of Life
Anyone who has been on their feet for extended periods of time can attest to the foot, knee, hip, and back pain that can accompany standing for too long. For some, it doesn’t take hours on their feet, but mere minutes before pain sets in. Whether you’re suffering from clinically diagnosed plantar fasciitis or you’re just experiencing the pain that comes from having to stand or walk longer than your body can tolerate, orthotic insoles can help alleviate that pain and improve your overall quality of life.
Causes of Foot Pain
First, let’s talk about what causes the pain associated with plantar fasciitis and unsupported feet. The plantar fascia is the ligament that connects your heel to your toes. If this ligament gets stretched or strained, it can no longer support your foot as it should, which in turn causes heel pain. Plantar fasciitis is the medical term for the overstretching of this ligament. The most common causes of plantar fasciitis are overpronation of the foot, which is usually due to a low arch. Similarly, supination, associated with a high arch, can also lead to plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis can also be caused by being on one’s feet for long periods of time, being overweight, or failing to wear supportive shoes; many runners also experience plantar fasciitis. This is why proper support of the feet is so important for preventing heel pain.
Even if you don’t have diagnosed plantar fasciitis, the improper support of the arch of the foot can lead to pain not only in the feet, but in other parts of the body as well. When you walk, your heel should land outer edge first. Then, your weight should pass along the inner part of the sole, then back outward. If you overpronate, the weight doesn’t pass outward, and instead your foot rolls inward. If you underpronate (also known as supination), the foot does the opposite. Instead of the weight traveling from the outer edge of the heel, through the inner edge of the sole, and then back to the outer edge of the ball of the foot, the weight stays on the outside. Both over-pronation and under-pronation can cause major issues in your feet and other joints. If your foot is misaligned and too much weight is resting on the inner or outer edge of the foot at any given time, it throws the rest of your body out of whack. For instance, your knees can begin to ache, your hips may feel sore, and you may even begin to experience lower back pain. The truth is, most people over or under pronate to some extent, and the condition is aggravated by activity or being on one’s feet a lot.
Supportive Orthotics versus Soft Insoles
Athletes such as runners are familiar with the different types of shoes available to them to support or cushion the arches and correct abnormal pronation. The thing is, the insoles in these shoes rarely provide enough support to thoroughly alleviate pain and prevent further joint issues. The same is true for many of the insoles advertised in T.V. commercials. You might think that a soft, cushy gel insert may make your feet feel better, but it might actually be making the problem worse.
Podiatrists have known for years that orthotics that are plastic and more rigid work best to alleviatepain, but if you haven’t been to the doctor for your foot or joint pain, you may not have ever heard this. You may believe that all insoles for foot pain are the same. Recent studies are proving what podiatrists have already known. Soft foam or gel insoles have been shown to have no effect on serious foot and knee pain, especially the pain caused by plantar fasciitis. The insoles for foot pain that have shown to have the greatest impact on pain in the shortest amount of time are rigid, foam-
covered orthotics. If you have been to a podiatrist for your foot or joint pain, you may be familiar with this fact and been told that you need custom orthotics. Custom orthotics do work, but they are very costly and can take time to make. The good news is that studies also show that highquality, prefabricated insoles (of the rigid variety) perform just as well as custom orthotics. In fact, prefabricated orthotics have been shown to work even better than custom polypropylene inserts if used along with a stretching program at the onset of plantar fasciitis symptoms.
Reduce Lower Back, Knee and Hip Pain
In addition to helping to alleviate the heel pain associated with plantar fasciitis, semi-rigid and rigid prefabricated orthotics have also been shown to quickly mitigate lower back, knee, and hip pain. Chronic over-pronation or under-pronation, as well as the other factors also associated with plantar fasciitis (weight, length of time on feet, wearing the wrong type of shoe or insole), has been linked to lower back pain. This is especially true in women. Using foot pain insoles can decrease this type of lower back pain and/or prevent it from occurring. The excessive inward roll of the foot that occurs with over-pronation and insufficient roll of supination can also lead to knee and hip pain. The force that is supposed to be absorbed by the arch or ball of the foot is instead transferred to these other joints. Think of it as the body trying to accommodate for the problems in the feet. Unfortunately, the body’s natural correction leads to more pain. Orthotics have been shown to very quickly alleviate this pain because once the foot is back to absorbing impact as it should, the knees and hips no longer have to do this extra work.
Improve Ankle Stability
Lastly, orthotics can also be of help to those who experience ankle instability. This is commonly referred to as “twisting the ankle.” If you’ve ever been walking or running and suddenly experienced an unexpected role of your ankle, you’ve suffered from ankle instability. For some, this happens very rarely, but for those that over or under pronate, ankle instability can be chronic. Since orthotics improve balance and posture and also work to correct the mechanics involved in keeping the foot and ankle in proper position, they can significantly reduce the experience of ankle instability.
Choosing the right foot pain insoles is easy once you’ve determined the pronation of your foot. This can be done at the doctor’s office or at any athletic shoe store. Nowadays, even big box stores have stations where you can take your shoes off, stand on a clear box of sorts, and examine your footprint to see if you over or under pronate. You can also do this at home by getting your feet wet and standing on a paper bag or cardboard box. Even if you find that your pronation is normal, you can still benefit from an orthotic if you’re on your feet a lot or are overweight. Using foot orthotics is a great way to prevent problems and pain before they start. The benefits of high quality foot insoles are clear. From those who suffer from chronic plantar fasciitis, to those who work in a field that doesn’t provide much opportunity to sit, most everyone can benefit from the prevention and relief that comes from the use of orthotics. When you’re not thinking about how badly your feet, knees, hips, or back are aching, you are free to enjoy whatever it is that you are doing.