Can I wear softer shoes when running with a custom orthotic? Well, that’s a great question, and that’s what we’re talking about today on the Doc On The Run Podcast.
I’ve been working with an elite athlete recently who came up with a great question. He called me up and he said, “Well, I have custom orthotics and I know they support my foot better. So the question is, can I use a broader range of shoes?” And his question makes a lot of sense. What he’s saying basically is, since I have an unstable foot that’s now stabilized by the custom orthotic supporting the foot, does that mean that I can wear shoes other than something like a true motion control shoe? Could he wear a shoe that has a little bit more flexibility, does he have to stick to a true motion control shoe? And the short answer is yes, you can wear a broader range of shoes when you have custom orthotics, if it has structural integrity.
In this particular example, we’re talking about somebody that has relatively flat feet and fairly flexible feet. And so when you’re talking about you have too much flexibility in your foot, most often referred to as too much pronation, well, that means that you need something to stabilize the foot to prevent you from getting tendonitis and a bunch of other problems. And so in his case, I said, yes, you don’t have to wear motion control shoes all the time. You could wear some shoes that are a little bit more flexible, but you don’t want them to be too flexible because what you do not want to do, if you have a flexible flat foot, even with an orthotic, you do not want to pronate through the orthotics with the shoe deforming under you.
So if you think about this, if your foot’s flexible and the arch is collapsing, then you put an orthotic in there that holds you stable in a little bit more corrected position. But then the shoes are so flexible that the orthotics are actually bending into the shoe basically because it’s really, really soft foam and it’s really, really flexible and just not structurally sound. You can still basically pronate through the orthotic in a way that can cause trouble. So, you have to be sure of that.
In the sort of opposite example, if you have high arches or what we call a neutral foot type, and you don’t have those sort of flat foot flexibility problems, your foot’s kind of too stiff, and so a doctor has made custom orthotics for you to impart a little more motion in your big toe joint or something like that. Well, in that case, you just have to make sure the shoes you add aren’t too stable. So if you, instead of using just a truly neutral shoe, you’re using something that’s like a neutral cushioning type shoe.
For example, a true neutral running shoe, one of the most popular ones is called the ASICS Gel-Nimbus, and it’s very cushiony, it’s good for people with high arches. The one that’s a structured cushioning kind of really close neighbor to the Nimbus is actually the Gel-Kayano made by ASICS. And so that has been many, many years, was named as the number one running shoe in Runner’s World Magazine, but it has a little more structural integrity. So if you use something like that, you might get away with it. But if you use something even more stable than that, that’s really built for people with flat feet, it might be way too stiff with the orthotic and you could be at risk of stress fractures.
So the short answer is, yes, when you have custom orthotics, you can generally use a little bit broader range of shoes, but it’s based on making sure that you’re still getting the right amount of control and cushioning for you.
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