Runners, Do You Need Orthotics?

Jennifer Purdie
by Jennifer Purdie
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Runners, Do You Need Orthotics?

Unlike most sports, running requires only a few pieces of equipment. Well-fitting shoes, a shirt, shorts or leggings and proper nutrition pretty much complete the gear requirements for running. That is, until you get injured, then equipment costs escalate.

For example, one of the top afflictions of runners is overuse injuries, which you can manage by wearing insoles or custom orthotics; neither come cheap.

You might ask if the investment is really worth it, and if you have a foot condition or injury, the answer is a resounding yes.

According to Dr. Bruce Pinker, a board-certified podiatrist, athletes with specific deformities, conditions or injuries such as plantar fasciitis, inferior heel spur syndrome, Achilles tendinitis or metatarsalgia (bursitis at the ball of the foot), can get these addressed with custom-made orthotics.


If you feel you are a candidate for insoles/orthotics, you should first schedule an appointment with a podiatrist. Do not go at it alone. With all the insole products available on the market, you could end up purchasing insoles that cause further long-term damage.

“There are more flavors of insoles than Baskin Robbins has flavors of ice cream,” says Dr. Jeffrey A. Oster, medical director of “Running is very intimate from the standpoint that it’s just you and your shoes.” He says that spending the money on a consultation with a podiatrist can help you receive the right diagnosis and move you into the right product.  

During your session with the doctor, Dr. Pinker advises getting a biomechanical exam from the hip down to your toes, full gait analysis and a complete range-of-motion check of all your joints. This helps him or her evaluate for deficiencies due to arthritis, muscle or tendon dysfunction or ligamentous laxity (chronic body pain represented by loose ligaments). In addition, the doctor needs “to determine if a runner is a heel-striker or more of a forefoot striker, and if pronated or supinated or average arch. All this info is incorporated into the prescription for custom-made orthotics,” he says.


However, it is possible to go a less affluent route. Dr. Pinker says it is sometimes beneficial to use over-the-counter insoles.

“I may be in the minority of providers when I say this, but I really don’t feel that most patients or runners need an expensive prescription orthotic,” says Dr. Oster. “Just as in so many other aspects of life, start simple and grow if needed. There’s a host of over-the-counter products that can be used and are really quite sufficient for the majority of patients.” This is why, he says, the consultation is necessary; the expert can help you find the proper product for your individual foot pathology.


But whether you can use a cheaper option or must invest in a custom product, insoles can save you money from high-cost treatments down the line. Above all, you can keep lacing up your running shoes, as opposed to long recovery periods during which you must stay off your feet.   

Selecting the right insole is key. According to Dr. Dana Canuso, a. podiatric surgeon and founder and CEO of Dr. Canuso Skincare for Feet, insoles can, indeed, alter the way you feel when you walk and run. However, “although it does change things initially, long term [runners] may actually be faster and more efficient,” she says.

About the Author

Jennifer Purdie
Jennifer Purdie

Jennifer is a Southern California-based freelance writer who covers topics such as health, fitness, lifestyle and travel for both national and regional publications. She runs marathons across the world and is an Ironman finisher. She is also a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. You can follow her on Twitter @jenpurdie.


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