Thursday 22 August 2019

How small, affordable changes help foot pain


For some athletes the jury is out on the benefits of insoles or orthotics. Barefoot running became a big trend in recent years, largely due to the fantastic book by Christopher McDougall Born to Run, which I think even non-runners will love.

It's based on the author and journalist's own struggle to keep running despite repetitive injury.

He eventually went to South America where he learned to run barefoot with a tribe in the Copper Canyon called the Tarahumara, and over a period of time he found a different way of running - injury-free.

The tribe can run vast distances without injury and McDougall's reportage of their ways is often credited for starting the barefoot running trend.

Many of our clients now use barefoot runners, which are basically a very thin layer of foot protection. It works for some people but not for everyone - and given that we are not used to operating this way you should never just suddenly decide to run barefoot.


Caution should also be advised with it comes to insoles and orthotics - my own experience was certainly mixed. While preparing for the marathon I went into a reliable store to buy new runners.

The assistant recommended special insoles, which on his advice I used for the marathon. Big mistake. Previously I had been pain-free but after completing the course the pain in my foot was so bad I could hardly walk.

The next day I returned to the store and was told I should have only worn the insoles for 20 minutes daily before that marathon.

Years later the pain was still bad. A physio said it was metatarsal damage, €750 later I had specially-made orthotics, which made things worse.

But for some people, over-the-counter insoles and specially-made orthotics work well. So it's a very individual problem.

No physio or podiatrist can guarantee results and costs vary.

If you have issues and want to try something then I would suggest Dr Scholl insoles. Many foot problems can clear up with a simple adjustment - so don't rush into making major changes or spending huge sums of money.

Also do not spend too much time in trainers, which can spread the foot flat and wide, or regular shoes that squash and compress the toes. Change really is good!

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