For what is hopefully my final shoe installment for a while I’m going to talk about over-the-counter orthotics. Ok. I’m in preachy mode now. I’m not going to be busting any myths here (that is, unless you think that “gellin” really works). The fact is, the vast majority…no, ALL, of the shoe inserts found in your pharmacy bracing area are essentially useless. They are no more than additional soft padding that represent little to no improvement over the ones that were put in the shoe in the factory in Bangladesh. Once the added height or shock-absorptive capacity of the insert is depleted you are simply adding a protective layer between your skin and the road…you are not providing yourself with any support in particular. If you are of the belief that humans really need little or no support in a shoe then you should read this www.d1sportsdocs.com/2011/11/vibram-5-fingers/
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say again, going essentially barefoot may work fine for a person with a BMI of less than 25, perfectly functioning anatomic structures, walking or running in non-urban environments, but for a modern man, consuming a western diet (lots of protein and fat), having ANY bio-mechanical imbalances in the lower extremities, and encountering sharp or unpredictable surfaces support, protection and structure are necessary. So, what to do?
It is, in fact, reasonably stated by minimalists that there is little definitive literature to support molded plastic and rubber supportive shoes. It is also, in fact, reasonably stated that you are less likely to have penetrating trauma from a shard of glass or blunt trauma from a falling weight if you have some protection on your feet. As such, I recommend no individual shoe or manufacturer, but rather a well-fitting, last constructed shoe with an appropriate supportive orthotic (not the ones you buy at the pharmacy!) My go to orthotic is also not actually custom molded (The kind that the podiatrist or orthotist has you step into a foam block to create a mold) but rather an over-the-counter constructed form that you then trim with a pair of scissors. You can find them at www.superfeet.com
(Note: I have nothing to disclose regarding this product or company and I have no relationship with them whatsoever)
These are beneficial for anyone undertaking significant activity, but even more so if you have any consistent, recurrent mechanical pathologies of the feet…like over-pronation, supination, flexible flat feet, plantar fasciitis and/or achilles tendonitis.
These orthotics have a rigid cup to capture the heel, a supportive semi-rigid mid foot and arch support and a soft extension to the forefoot that, as noted, can be trimmed to fit. They are indeed shy of full-length custom molded orthotics provided by a podiatric prosthetist…which are extremely expensive and require the intervention of your health insurance company. No, these are a fantastic middle ground that actually work. If you have chronic problems with your feet I recommend you give them a try.