Do Orthotics hinder speed?

As an athlete who wears Orthotics due to over-pronation which causes me shin pain, i have a number of questions that need answering.

Does anyone who wears orthotics find that it effects their speed. ie causes calfs to be tight, which results in running movement to be hindered.

Does orthotics effect other muscles? Cause injures to hamstring, quads, muscles around pelvis etc?

Do any Elite Athletes wear them?

Any one esle have any ideas or views on this subject?

over the past few years i have used orthodics successfully in my flats and in my spikes.the pair used in my flats are the normal 3/4 lenght 1/2inch or so heel.i have also used a super slim pair in my spikes which are incredible which i have used over the past 4years or so.they actually cushion the foot even more and make the feeling of harshness ina spike drop.if you can try and get a pair of these made.the cast is the exact same but make sure you take your spikes along with you to the lab.

orthodics slightly raise the calfs more thus leading to less pressure on the achilles which is great.calfs will not be affected and from what i know the gate of the athlete is improved by the use of orthodics.the use of these is to correct alignment

These are all interesting and relevant questions. As a young athlete, I was always prescribed orthotics for everything (sore knees, shins, low back). Did they help? I’m not sure. The usual progression is - get injured, get physio, TAKE TIME OFF, get orthotics, feel better. So what actually made me feel better? I think it was the time off.

One doctor also noticed that I had a leg length difference and prescribed a lift in one of my orthotics. That messed me up big time, with lots of hip and low back pain. It makes you wonder if your body has adapted to assymmetries and adjustments are not necessarily necessary.

When I was competing as a long jumper and triple jumper, I noticed that when I had orthotics in my spikes, it took something out of my jumps. It was if I wasn’t able to fully utilize the elasticity of my foot for jumping and quick ground contacts. Additionally, I got more SI joint and hip pain when I had orthotics.

When I hit my mid-twenties, I threw my orthotics out, and have had no problems whatsoever now that I’m 35 years old. Of course, I’m not training quite as hard as when I was competing, but I’m still able to put up the same weights as when I was competing. One of the big differences between then and now is that when I feel sore in my feet, calves, knees - I can drop my training volume and step back and not feel guilty (or as guilty) for missing workouts. More importantly, I avoid injuries much better.

While using orthotics may help many athletes, my personal experience as an athlete was that orthotics were overprescribed in my case. It was a band-aid solution in many cases - a panacea of injury prevention. Rather than looking at the deeper causes of the injuries I had, the doctors simply prescribed me orthotics, using measurements that I’m not certain were that precise.

When are orthotics commonly prescribed? When the athlete is broken and not in a proper functional state. Orthotics should be fitted when an athlete is healthy, not when they are limping around with lots of compensation occurring in different areas of the body.

I’m not saying orthotics are bad - but like many training tools - just improperly applied.

BTW - None of my current athletes have orthotics, and we have no overuse problems whatsoever. Following the Charlie Francis philosophy and method of training will maximize your chances of avoiding spending money on rehab, physio and prescriptions.

Are you a heavy athlete or a lite on, fat or skinny?

Chances are you have either fallen arches or high arches (sometimes known as hammer toes). Go to a profesional foot doctor, he might be the only one who can help.

What happens is that human beings where shoes there whole lives and so there feet are always supported. This is bad because it causes the foot to become weak to some extent and if your overweight but a fast/powerful athlete then you will feel this even worse. Human beings were not designed to wear shoes, as evolution dictated what we needed. Now that were wearing shoes we end up screwing ourselves over. Running without shoes might help but not in the near future. Go see a professional foot doctor, if he says you have fallen arches then your next step is to get orthodics. These orthodics will take away all pain within a month and you have to wear them pretty much all the time except when your at home and off your feet for most of the time. I had this problem and it was cured by custom made orthodics.

In addition to orthodics, here are some exercises that will help. From the book “Peak Performance Fitness” lay down on your side and put a towel underneath your foot above the ankle, then put some put some strap on ankle weights around your shoe, then you can raise your foot (which is laying sideways) up and down for one rep. This exercise is called ankle eversion.

The next exerise is called ankle dorsiflexion. You should be sitting on a chair/stool, next raise your foot up and let come down for one rep. The weight at first should be 0lbs and then you can move up to 5-10lbs depending on your size. You should do 3 sets of 15 reps.

The last exercise is the towel grab which you should perform 100 times.

Finally make sure you have tight fitting socks that don’t slip when you run. The author states that a good kind of sock is “Thorlos”, remember a sock not “only acts as a barrier between you foot and the shoe, but it also acts as a shock absorber.”

Finally EMS I believe is what Charlie Francis used on his athletes to strengthen their feet, but you would have to ask him about the usage and intensity levels.

I personally have not done the exercises above but plan to soon. My orthodics solved all my problems in time.


Cheers for the replies guys,

X-man, I had a pair made for my spikes as well, the way they differ from the ones I use just walking around is that they are longer. Instead of the usual 3/4 length, they extend to the ball of the foot. There is a firm but flexible piece attached ( more so towards the big toe side) . So when the foot strikes the ground when sprinting, this piece prevents the pronation, not fully but enough to let me run pain free. I found these great but have noticed some side effects.

Number two, I am intrigued to hear that you got rid of your orthotics in your mid 20s, did your training volume decrease at that stage or did you continue to train just as hard with no problems?
I have found that since I started wearing them that my calf’s are constantly tight and this has really affected my acceleration.
Also I have noticed that the way I run is different. Supervenomsuperman I am a light sprinter about 67kg, not a power sprinter. I used to be very light on my feet, a quiet runner, but since the wearing the orthotics I hit the ground very hard, loud runner, seem to just pound down the track.( most likly due to tight calfs ) Any ideas why this is happening, how to change it.

So the problem is if I don’t use the orthotics, my pronation is too great which causes very painful shins and if I do wear them my calf’s and speed are affected but my shins are pain free, well 90% of the time!!

Your body will adjust, however try the exercises I recommended immediately while still wearing your orthotics and then slowly move away from the orthotics and see if there isn’t any change.

If your feet are to flat my friend then its to late and you have to wear orthotics all the time! Take an ink print of your feet on a piece of paper and then compare that to totally healthy person’s foot and you will see where you are!

I believe too many people are told they need orthotics when in reality they probably don’t! A lot of money is made off of orthotics so that doesn’t suprise me. Unless you truly have a pathology that absolutely requires them, I’d rather have someone try to build the arch support mechanisms by doing one or more of the following things:

  1. Do some barefoot running in some quality grass (tempo work works nicely)at least once a week. Don’t do this however if you’re diabetic or have any type of lower extremity neuropathy.

  2. Get some EMS on the bottom of you feet to build up the muscles of the arch. I think Charlie had posted on this before.

  3. Get some regular massage on your lower legs and feet. I’m talking the deep stuff, not some wimpy spa massage. Also make sure the joints in your feet are moving properly. This can be assessed by a choripractor who knows how to specifically adjust the extremities.

  4. Do some exercises that develop the invertors of the foot. Basically the muscles that oppose pronation. BTW, pronation is a natural part of the gait cycle and it’s only when it’s excessive or fails to reverse that it becomes a problem.

While orthotics can be helpful, I feel that people just assume they need them and don’t exhaust some of the other “low-tech” approaches first. Just my 2 cents.

The arch of the foot generates a large proportion of the elastic energy created during sprinting. Orthotics may impede the elastic properties of the arch and thereby effecting speed. I don’t know if this is supported by research however I could look into it further.

You can’t sprint if your in constant pain like your having your wisdom teeth pulled out everytime your sprint on the track without orthotics. :eek:

I totally agree with Number Two and I prescribe orthotics as a podiatrist! Too often, medical professionals prescribe orthotics for every overuse injury that comes about without looking at the biomechanical or root cause for the injury (a lot has to do with the fact that they are lazy!). There hasn’t been any conclusive study to show that orthotics really have a significant biomechanical effect; in fact, some studies suggest that it has a somatosensory effect! Instead of throwing orthotics at everybody (which I admit I have done on occasion), I suggest exercises which strengthen the feet (barefoot running is a great example), and a full biomechanical examination. Any overuse injury has intrinsic and/or extrinsic origins and they must be explored or examined!

I was prescribed orthotics without any relief in my shin splints. Also a lot of arch stengthening, calf stretching etc. Man, you gotta look at the big picture and not focus on the painful spot. The root cause may well be higher up the kinetic chain, usually in the hips. Of course the foot muscles need some work too, but you can’t compensate an unstable hip with strong foot inverters, think about the strength difference.

How much elastic energy do you think a flat arch is going to produce? :rolleyes:


I tried to do the barefoot running on the grass and it hurt so bad that I had to crawl to get my trainers back on. I got the orthotics but the really did not help my plantar faciitis. I got really desprate and got a cortisone shot it helped for a week or so. It does not hurt that much any more but I am not sprinting on the track either. My question was do you see better results in getting the feet strong via strength exercises or do you think some sort of treatment is better? (orthotics, shock or cortisone etc) Being a podaitrist Would you happen to know of any good ways of getting rid of plantar faciitis for good?


It usually is a gradual process which there is improvement slowly but surely. Now is a good time to get a proper biomechanical examination to see if there is any structural reason for the plantar fasciitis. I find things like immobilization (nonweightbearing), psyiotherapy, and shock wave therapy as ways to deal with chronic plantar fasciitis. If you still are in pain with barefoot running, you definitely have a structural problem and would be a candidate for a biomechanical exam and one of the above options. Also there is a possibility that the orthotics were not made properly for your feet! I suggest seeing a podiatrist that specializes in sportsmedicine; I have seen too many orthotics made incorrectly!

Interesting thread…I also use orthotics. This due to a physio telling me that pronate quite a bit. This was causing me to have a lot of pain in my knees after bounding over hurdles. The orthotics helped relieve the pain considerably. I don’t do any gym work without them inside my trainers or lifting shoes. I compete in the othortics but they make my spike feel heavy! I’ve experimented in a race without them and coped fine. My spikes felt lighter and i had ‘more contact’ with the ground. By this i mean i actually felt the track and was able to react quicker with this touch. With the orthotics, its like i can’t feel the track. Anyone else get this feeling? Does anyone know if the elite world class guys use othortics?

Can a podiatrist w/sports med can do the biomechanical exam?

A GOOD podiatrist should be able to do a lower extremity examination, but not necessary be able to treat everything. Podiatrists are restricted to the foot and ankle.

That depends on how stiff or compliant the tissues in the arch are. A high arch doesn’t necessarily mean that more strain energy will be stored and released. A compliant high arch will store and release less strain energy then a stiff non-compliant flat arch.

Please elaborate.

P.S. Evolution has lead man to walk around without shoes until a couple of centuries ago where man decided differently. In man’s continuing pursuit for having less pain (i.e. walking on land with barefeet) and being highly civilized (looking proper and clean) man may have ultimately shot himself in the foot.

Walking and running without shoes for a persons entire lifetime will strengthen there feet far beyond any orthotics or medicine; however, in modern life there is a place for shoes so that man can “Fit into society’s beliefs and views”. This is why orthotics along with feet exercises, EMS, anti-inflammtories, and running barefeet must all be used together for the total combined effect/benefit of our feet.