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Orthotics saved my running career. Without them I would not be able to train more than 10 miles a week due to my severe pronation. In other words, my foot badly turns inward when I land, which puts tremendous strain on my IT-Band and hips.
When my foot hits the ground, it leaves a print like the far left image. Some people have feet that roll outward, which would leave a print like the far right image; this is known as supination and also is helped by custom orthotics.
My pronation orthotics are designed in a way that, when each of my feet hit the ground, my foot, ankles, knees, and hips are all properly aligned; this ensures that minimal torque is placed on my body. If you are having consistent injury problems, definitely consider trying orthotics. This alignment function of orthotics is what differentiates them from shoe insoles or inserts, which serve mainly to cushion the foot. It is also the reason why orthotics must be custom made out of a mold of each foot.
When you visit your podiatrist or buy custom orthotics online, make sure that this mold is made of your foot. Podiatrists generally use plaster of paris to create an exact mold, while online companies should provide memory foam or some other way to obtain an imprint of each of your feet.
Perhaps the most important thing to know about orthotics is that they absolutely must be broken in. You simply can not start to run with orthotics immediately after receiving them. Try to walk 1 hour a day in them for a few days, then try 2 hours a day a few more days. Gradually increase to spending an entire day in them before testing them out running.
By allowing your muscles to get used to orthotics, you will cut down on the risk of injury. Do not underestimate the muscle soreness caused by orthotics; they activate muscles that you have never used before.