Posted by: Duke Raleigh Hospital | June 12, 2018

Orthotics: What are they and do you need them?

Orthotics range from inlays to heel cups to silicone pads to insoles. Runners most commonly use specialized shoe insoles designed to help support feet and prevent instability that can lead to foot, ankle, shin and knee pain, as well as back strain.

While there are differences of opinion on whether specific running shoe design will prevent injury, it has been shown that orthotics reduce the risk of some injuries — specifically stress fractures. Orthotics have also been shown to relieve the pain associated with patellofemoral syndrome, neuromas, high and low arched feet. Talk with your sports medicine practitioner about considering orthotics for symptom treatment if you have any of these issues.

What else should you know?

  • Soft and hard orthotics: depending on your diagnosis there are various types of materials that could be helpful from soft silicone, plastic polymer to hard plastic.
  • Moldable insoles allow you to fit the precise shape of your foot using heat treatment.
  • Over the counter orthotics last an average of 6 months before they begin to lose their structural integrity, while custom orthotics can last up to a few years.
  • Non-prescription orthotics will typically cost less than custom orthotics. Check to see if you your insurance will cover them as part of your health plan before making your purchase.


Running partners Jocelyn Wittstein, MD, and Melissa Raddatz, NP, work together at Duke Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. Dr. Jocelyn Wittstein is Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic surgery at Duke. She specializes in adolescent and adult sports injuries. She has run several marathons and is an age group competitor. She previously coached Team in Training marathon groups in Eastern North Carolina. Melissa Raddatz, NP enjoys treating athletes and sports enthusiasts of all ages and levels. She ran Division I Cross-Country and Track at William & Mary. She has run a 2:50 marathon and is a five time nominee for New York Road Runners “Runner of the Year.”


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