The Mechanics of Running and the Need for an Orthotic

The beauty of the human foot is that it serves two opposite, but equally important, functions for the act of walking or running.

Upon striking the ground the foot serves as a shock absorber so that the impact of hitting hard surfaces is reduced. It also transitions into a rigid lever so there is a firm “push off” at the end of each step.

This harmony of function assumes that the foot is fully functional and that minor biomechanical problems are controlled by the muscles used for walking/running.

Small biomechanical problems of the foot can often be improved with the use of specialty running shoes – those for overpronators (flexible foot type) or supinators (usually a rigid foot type). If however the biomechanical problem of the foot is more than the shoe can control, injury is often the result.

Common running injuries include shin or knee pain, heel or ankle pain and sometimes hip and low back pain. Because the foot is the foundation of standing and walking posture, it can have an effect anywhere along the chain of movement – in this case from “toe to head”.

When running shoes alone cannot improve an injury, foot orthotics may be the solution. Proper custom-made devices are intended to reduce the biomechanical problem by controlling the passage of weight through the foot as the person walks or runs. Truly custom orthotics require several features:

  1. A 3-dimensional cast of the foot. Just walking across a force pad will not result in a proper model of the foot.
  2. They need to fully contact the natural shape of the arch so that there are no pressure points.
  3. They must be matched to the person’s body weight. If they are too soft, they’ll collapse to easily and if they are too firm, they’ll hurt the arch.

If a walker/runner thinks that they may have a biomechanical problem of the foot, they should seek the advice of a foot care professional who specializes in athletes. Orthotics made for this active population are very specific for those needs.


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