Most foot related problems are classified as “overuse” and runners are clearly one group that is prone to injury from their activity. Proper foot support using custom footbeds and orthotics (also known as arch supports or shoe inserts), can effectively treat overuse injuries and prevent injuries from occurring.
Think of your feet as the foundation of a building. If the building is on a solid foundation, then the integrity of the structure is preserved. If the building is constructed on sand, it will likely not stand very long. Custom orthotics and footbeds provide the foundation for the rest of the body because the forces that occur on the feet will be transmitted up through the ankle, knee, hip and lower back.
Orthotics for running should be full length and semi-rigid. It is important that the foot functions as normally as possible. This means that the foot must be able to pronate (flatten) adequately to dissipate shock without causing excessive knee motion. Foot Dynamics makes its running devices using a composite of flexible Copoly plastic, thermo cork and HDC top covers. The plastic provides the foot support, the cork provides stability and the HDC cover give shock absorption. Every pair is custom made to insure accurate fit and performance.
The most common foot problems that runners encounter are:
Plantar Fasciitis – Sometimes called “heel spurs”, this is heel pain which occurs as the plantar fascia (a connective tissue on the bottom of the foot) pulls on it’s attachment to the heel when the foot pronates or flattens. The pain is generally worse first thing in the morning, improving for a while and then may become painful again after a period of rest. This condition is well treated by a combination of providing support for the foot (footbeds/orthotics), stretching exercises and avoiding walking barefoot. A “spur” or bony prominence sometimes develops from repeated injury of the plantar fascia attachment hence the name “heel spur”.
Metatarsalgia – This is a general term referring to a burning pain or numbness that occurs at the metatarsal heads (across the ball of the foot) and toes. The condition is often a result of shoes that are too narrow or where the transverse arch (across the ball) has collapsed causing the nerves that travel between the toes to become impinged (squeezed). The treatment for this condition is to provide support behind the heads of the metatarsals and distribute the forces on the foot over a larger area. This is accomplished again with custom footbeds/orthotics with the addition of a “met cookie”. Of course, wider shoes may also help.
ITB knee pain – Most knee pain associated with running is caused by excessive lower leg rotation. When running, the foot bears the load of up to 4 times your body weight. The foot is supposed to absorb this shock by pronating (flattening). One of the results of this pronation is that it causes the leg and knee to rotate internally (toward the inside) which creates friction of the Illiotibial Band against the outside of the knee. Custom foot orthotics effectively treat this condition by controlling the amount of pronation in the foot and thus reducing rotation of the leg and knee.
Shin splints – This is pain on the front of the lower leg and, like ITB pain, is often caused by excessive rotation of the lower leg due to pronation problems. Again, custom footbeds and orthotics can be effective by controlling this pronation and minimizing discomfort.