Getting rid of orthotics

Submitted: Sunday, Aug 21, 2011 at 16:43
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Over the last few months I've been working on coming forward to a forefoot strike. However, I have been wearing orthotics. I have been pain free but have felt the orthotics were getting in the way. So, after the Busso 70.3 I decided to experiment and see if I could continue running without pain, and without the orthotics, but I felt the key was to learn how to come forward with the foot strike.

I started slowly at first - constantly thinking of placing my foot on the ball. I was running 3 times per week (distance at or below 10k) and wearing orthotics for 2 of those sessions, but one session per week without (interval session on grass oval). It didn't take long to keep the orthotics out of my shoes for all session, as it just felt great, but still keeping distance at or below 10k and no more than 3 sessions per week. After 8 weeks of this, I then spent 2 weeks on a beach holiday and ran barefoot every 2nd day on the sand up to 6k - apart from blisters from the rubbing of sand, I loved this! I alternated these runs with 8k trail runs (sandy hilly corrugated 4WD tracks) in shoes but no orthotics - still aiming for forefoot strike. By the end of the holiday, my ankles and toes felt much stronger and I felt a burning desire to want to retain that "feel" when running so I have found myself loving a bit of barefoot running at home too. So, I have not worn the orthotics at all for a few months now.

However, today was the final test - back into the orthotics and out for a 12k bitumen run. Epic fail. Not due to pain, but restriction of movement, and a massive reduction of pace as a result. I cannot run in orthotics....

To explain, when running with the orthotics today, I felt I could not get enough lateral movement in my foot to feel the "push off" in the back foot to drive forward - and my Garmin showed my pace was the worst I've seen it for 6 months. Admitedly, the weather was hotter but I just didn't even enjoy my run so perhaps it was just a bad day?! Anyway, I cut the run short and started to head home. Then I thought I should try an experiment...

What would happen if I took out the orthotics now? Would my pace improve, would I feel better? So I stopped, took them out and literally flew home with a smile on my face!! Incredible!. For me, this is proof that I've outgrown my orthotics - I feel they were a useful tool at the time, but I have worked hard to improve my natural running form to the point that not only do I not need them anymore, but that they actually hinder my ability to run to my potential.

I know my barefoot friends would love to hear this, not that this is barefoot, but the first step towards minimising artificial elements of my footwear. And I'm thrilled, I feel so liberated. Goodbye orthotics!

Any podiatrist/physios out there might think I'm crazy, I don't know. I just know what feels right to me. Anyone else got rid of orthotics successfully? Would love to hear from you...
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