Do Custom Orthotics Help with Sports?
We all know that athletes look for any advantages to improve their sports performance. Most of this comes through hard work and training, but sometimes equipment can play a significant role as well.
So when it comes to something like custom orthotics, can they provide an edge for athletes?
Well, yes and no! While they are not going to be solely responsible for shaving minutes off your personal bests or making you jump like Michael Jordan, they can help you in many key ways—including reducing your risk of injury, and allowing you to train harder and longer without discomfort.
What Do Custom Orthotics Do?
Custom orthotics provide precise levels of cushioning and/or corrective support exactly where you need them, helping you to address issues of discomfort and misalignment.
We do this by fully examining each patient’s feet, gait, and needs. We then create a model of the feet through a computer scan (or plaster mold), and prescribe orthotics to be made specifically for that patient’s foot shape and needs.
For milder problems, we might recommend a pair of prefabricated orthotics instead. These are obviously less specific to an individual’s foot shape, but we can properly adjust and fit them to a patient’s feet fairly well provided they have a relatively close to normal foot shape and structure. Prefabricated orthotics at our office will typically provide you better support than any inserts you will find off a pharmacy shelf.
You don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from orthotics. We prescribe them to patients with a wide range of lifestyles and needs. But many of the ways that patients can generally benefit from orthotics can definitely help in sports!
Reducing the Risk of Sports Injuries
If your feet are not properly aligned, it can affect the ways in which your weight is distributed across your feet while moving. If this leads to an excess of force in certain areas, that can increase your chances that an overload will cause a sports injury.
Plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, neuromas, and Achilles tendinitis are just a few of the sports injuries that can occur to the feet and ankles when there is an abnormality in your foot structure. Addressing this abnormality through orthotics can properly redistribute forces across the feet and make injuries less likely.
Athletes who play sports that involve repetitive impacts such as running and basketball can particularly benefit from orthotics in this way, but don’t take having them as a ticket to go flat out all the time! You still need to condition and pace yourself properly to avoid overuse.
So your feet may be a bit out of alignment. It might increase your risk of injury, but it can’t really affect your actual performance that much, right?
Well, there is potential that it can!
Feet that are out of alignment can move in non-ideal ways. One common gait abnormality is overpronation, when your foot rolls too far inward with each step while you are walking or running.
That excess movement already forces you to expend some extra energy there, but then you must remember everything that is connected to your feet as well!
When your feet move excessively, it can force other parts of your body to adapt in order to maintain balance and stability. This can cause muscles in your legs to fire in ways they normally wouldn’t, or make your knees, hip, or lower back move to positions they normally wouldn’t be in.
Not only is this all costing you energy and reducing the efficiency of your movements, but it can increase the strain and pain in these areas as well. So not only do your feet become fatigued a bit sooner than they would normally, but so can your whole lower body!
Even in a sport such as cycling, where you’re relying on more than just your body to propel you forward, a pair of good orthotics can help you deliver a bit more power to your pedals more effectively.
Accommodating Athletic Footwear
Sports shoes are designed to provide your feet and ankles as much support as possible for the demands of each activity, and the right shoe should always be worn for the right events. However, that does not mean your sport-specific footwear can’t use some extra cushioning.
Cleats, for example, can often be somewhat slim and may be lacking in support. Some players – especially those with flat feet – can soon find their feet, ankles, and shins suffering after some time. Proper orthotic support can help address this issue.
Are Custom Orthotics a Must-Have for Athletes?
Orthotics can provide noticeable benefits for many athletes, but that does not mean we would prescribe custom orthotics to all of our patients.
For those with abnormalities in foot structure or other general needs that can be addressed by custom orthotics, we may very well recommend them. Improved sports performance may be one of the welcome bonuses on top of overall greater comfort and reduced pain.
For those who do not have significant structural or other needs, prefabricated orthotics may still provide more comfort and control during athletic performance.
The best way to know whether orthotics are a good choice for your athletic needs is to come see us about it! We’ll be happy to discuss not only orthotics, but other means of helping to keep your foot and ankle game strong, including conditioning exercises and general training plans.
Schedule an appointment at our Colorado Springs office by calling (719) 266-5000 or by filling out our online contact form. We also have telemedicine consultations available if you prefer to speak with one of our doctors from the comfort of your own home.
Get Our Running Guide Today!
In our guide, you’ll learn more about:
- The benefits of a well-planned running routine
- When you should see a doctor if you have concerns or an injury
- How fast you should progress
- The best shoes to get for your feet
- The best food for recovery
Inside, you’ll also receive a running calendar that can help you get started for a 5K run!