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Orthotics or not

Representing Croydon Harriers in the UK National
League 3000m Steeple (9:43.8, 4th) in May 1975
I put my orthotic insoles into my running shoes this morning with the intention of running an 11.5 km course after the Thursday morning track session at the Terrigal Haven.  I hadn't worn them since Tuesday morning's run, and they felt uncomfortable as I walked around during the track session.

Afterwards, as usual, I returned to my parked car and stripped off to prepare for my own run.  My feet still didn't feel comfortable with the insoles, so I decided to take a chance and remove them for my run.  It was at this point I realised that I had put my orthotic insoles into my shoes without removing the original shoe insoles.  Duh!

This still left me in a quandary as to whether or not to I should run with the orthotic insoles.  My preferred long-term option is to return to the regular insoles, but as mentioned yesterday, I have short-term concerns that my sore arch still has some way to go before reaching full function.  I had managed an easy 5km yesterday, but would a harder 11.5km this morning set me back.  To a non-running reader this issue would seem trivial, or even insignificant.  But most runners can identify with the small decisions that need to be made on a daily basis with respect to shoes, socks and insoles, especially when dealing with an injury.  What works best, and what is the cost of a poor decision?

I took a calculated risk and went with the regular insoles (originally supplied with the shoes) and could immediately feel the difference.  The ground felt harder underfoot and both calf muscles were very tight.  This wasn't surprising and confirmed to me the wisdom of ditching the orthotic insoles as soon as feasible.  They are more cushioned than the regular insoles, with the advantage of softening foot impact, but I fear the extra cushioning will atrophy the foot muscles that usually take the strain.  Similarly, the orthotic insoles have a slightly higher heel and this will lead, over time, to the Achilles tendon and calf muscles shortening.  This is fine as a short- or medium-term strategy for dealing with Achilles tendon injuries, but I believe there is a cost in terms of stride length and running balance.

My arch was maybe a little more sore at the end of the run, and the run seemed very hard work, especially the two long climbs.  However, I was happier when I saw my time was just under 58 minutes.  I had set out cautiously and slowly and never felt like I was trying to run fast.  Assuming my arch doesn't become more sore in the next 24 hours, I'll have to decide whether to use the new, lighter and lower (in the arch), insoles that arrived in the mail today.