Do I Need Orthotic Insoles in My Running Shoes? | Read Our Short Guide
Off the shelf Orthotic insoles are designed to offer some support for over pronation. When your foot hits the ground your foot rolls inwards slightly and your arch compresses. This is one of your bodies shock absorbers and springs you into your next step. In a strong neutral foot the arch springs back into shape and you push off from the end of your bit toe. If your foot isn’t as strong then the arch doesn’t spring back quick enough and you push off from the inside of your foot. This means that the joints further up the leg (Ankle, Knee and hips) are slightly out of alignment. As running is repetitive, particularly on a hard smooth surface, you do the same movement. Therefore, stressing the joints in the same way each time. This can cause wear and tear on the joints and stabilising tissues. So, the solution is to support or guide the foot to push off from the end of the big toe and strengthen the foot so that over a period of time it is strong enough to not roll in/over pronate too much.
If you are running in a neutral shoe. That is a shoe without any pronation support and you are getting repetitive niggles/pains in your knee, hips, shins, lower back or Achilles then this may be because you are pronating. If you live near to Northern Runner or Yorkshire Runner then you can come and see us and we can do a gait analysis and tell you whether this is the case and suggest some shoes that would offer some pronation support. Alternatively if you have just purchased your new shoes and there is plenty of running life left in them and they haven’t started to twist inwards due to the pronation then you could purchase an off the shelf orthotic to offer some pronation support. This won’t offer as much support as you get in an anti-pronation shoe (Structured Cushioning Shoe). However, this may well be enough to take away the niggles and keep you running while your body strengthens up. If you support the feet too much then they get lazy and rely totally on the shoe or orthotic to do the job. The off the shelf insoles that we sell at Northern Runner have some shaping and guidance but, they are not too stiff. So, the foot is still able to function. Because the foot is still working in the shoe it will get stronger over time and you can then get rid of the orthotic. As with all training it’s best to do this gradually. So, you would start not using the orthotic for shorter runs first.
The other use for off the shelf orthotics is in trail, fell or cross country shoes. This is because there are very few of these types of shoes that have inbuilt pronation support. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly on rough broken ground like you would encounter on open fell or on a muddy cross country course your foot gets thrown around in all directions. So, you wouldn’t repetitively pronate. This is usually enough to stop all but, the most severe pronators from getting aches and pains. Secondly on this type of terrain a shoe that was stiffened up to help control the foot wouldn’t bend with the ground but, and is likely to cause a twisted ankle or knee. Putting an off the shelf orthotic into these shoes would give the extra support if you needed it without stiffening up the shoe and therefore causing other problems.
The main problem for pronators and trail shoes comes when running routes that require a road to trail type shoe or have sections of hard packed trail. In both these cases there may be long enough sections of hard packed trail to cause shin or knee pain. Yet the rest of the route maybe broken ground which wouldn’t require any pronation control (except in severe cases) and a shoe stiffened on the inside to control pronation would be likely to cause other problems.
In this situation the runner could purchase a stable trail shoe with enough grip and cushioning to cope with the route/type of terrain to be run on. Then if the runner has any problems, they can purchase an off the shelf insole later. All you must do is remove the insole inside the shoes and replace them with the orthotic. In most cases this will add the additional amount of support required and the niggles will subside.
The insoles we sell at Northern Runner are the Sidas Run insoles. These come in three different arch heights. They aren’t meant to prop up your arch as your arch should be able to compress and reshape in order to absorb shock. The arch height is there is give a good fit and make the insole feel comfortable. We do have an arch measurer in store to help select the arch height required. However, you also need to consider how much support you want to feel. There will be people with high arches that don’t like the feeling of the insole in their arch and people with low arches that will select a higher arch as they like that feeling of support. This doesn’t affect how effective the insole is at controlling your pronation as the arch isn’t solid and compresses. The main support is given be the heel cup which is designed to guide the foot to roe off from under the big toe.
We chose to sell Sidas insole because they allow the foot to function and therefore get stronger the more you run. The alternative is a very stiff insole that doesn’t allow the foot to function. In this case the foot gets weaker and you will either need to use the orthotic forever or potentially your foot could get weaker and this could lead to more problems. The other asset that the Sidas insoles have is that they only have a 2mm difference between the height of the heel and the height of the forefoot. This is important as raising the heel up throws out your posture and also stops the foot from being loaded properly and therefore functioning.
It is better to run with just enough support in your shoes so that your feet are working and functioning and therefore getting stronger the more you run. Rather than over support the foot which would stop it from functioning and make your feet weaker.