A few years back when I first signed on to get orthotics, a friend wondered teasingly if I’d replied to one of those ads for penis enlargement.
“You’re getting orthodicks?” he chuckled.
Actually, I made that up. But it illustrates the point that orthotics are still a bone of contention in many quarters.
The jury is still out. Some people swear by them. “Can’t run or ride without them,” they say.
Yet some physicians seem to think they’re some sort of snake oil. They give them no more credibility than fancy-sounding drugs for penis enlargement.
All I know is that I’ve experienced success wearing orthotics. They have helped me manage biomechanical deficiencies that even strength training have not entirely corrected. Yet I also cured my chondromalacia (eroding cartilage under the kneecap) through quad-strengthening exercises learned in PT during rehab from an ACL repair surgery.
So I believe in both.
And a friend recently went through physical therapy for a foot problem that for nearly a year had stopped her from running. She was frustrated, sad and a bit angry about it all.
But she did the work. Followed her PT treatment orders. Now she’s back running 12-milers again. The problem was a tendon or ligament in her foot that was restricting her ankle movement. The PT people loosened that up and strengthened her “flabby” foot so that she’s back running on a strong foundation.
And that intrigues me. And makes me feel a little guilty. That’s one of the tarsnakes of endurance sports. Where do you go for the best treatment for your particular injury?
Because I got orthotics way back in the 90s and have worn them ever since in my shoes. My first pair was prescribed by Dr. John Durkin, whose patients included Sebastian Coe, who set world records and won Olympic medals wearing orthotics. Coe wore them because his feet were essentially flat. It wasn’t because Coe wasn’t strong. He could leg press 700 lbs with his 5’8″ frame. But his feet were whacked.
Durkin also treated many other world class athletes. So I don’t think orthotics are snake oil or the product of medical quackery at all. I wear them daily as prescribed by my pedorthist. Same goes for a podiatrist or a chiropractor who prescribes sport orthotics, and knows what they’re doing. It can work for you. But be sure to check around to see if one of these specialists actually knows how to work with athletes. That is crucial.
Orthotics essentially correct foot and leg problems by building support into the insole that our feet do not naturally provide. This can occur through congenital (get the penis joke from earlier?) deficiencies or through degraded foot structure due to wear and tear, or weakness. While the beauty of the human body is considerable, as evidenced in proportion by Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing the ideal man, we all have flaws in our structure. When these flaws are aggravated by running thousands of miles on hard roads, problems tend to crop up in injuries. I don’t buy for a minute that minimalism is the better treatment for wear and tear on the roads. Perhaps if we ran all our miles on dirt or grass, maybe. But 10 miles on asphalt in bare feet or something slightly more? You can have it.
So there needs to be a balance, you might say, in how we fix our body mechanics. Physical therapy attempts to correct these problems through stretching, strength restoration and biomechanical rehearsal.
Orthotics, by contrast, attempt to create a neutral foot position that puts you back into an ideal position for running. I’m a believer in a combination of these two treatments.
As for the penis enlargement industry, which is related to but slightly different than the “male enhancement” business, we can be relatively sure none of that stuff works or else the entire male population would be walking around with what looks like a third leg hanging down between the other two. Because when it comes to the modern interpretation of what makes a man the Ideal Man, times have apparently changed. Modern society has grossly exaggerated the notion of what makes the ideal woman or the ideal man, and there is no orthotic for that. It’s almost like the world is saying, “Da Vinci was wrong.”
Because once you begin comparing dick sizes, there is no stopping the insanity. The recent “small hands” debate between Marco Rubio and Donald Trump featured two candidates for the Republican nomination for President of the United States arguing about their dick sizes in public. Which goes to show that selling snake oil sometimes works better than dealing with reality. But the facts are simple in their case. Both have proven themselves to be real dicks in full view of the public. And there is no orthotic for that.
TRAIN HARD. See what I did there?