After being prescribed orthotics almost 3 years ago due to Patellar-Femoral syndrome (knee pains), I bought various different orthotics depending on my shoes. Initially they seemed to help a little, but after time, they didn't seem to fix the underlying problem
Last summer I went to a different doctor (MN Vikings Sports doc) and he looked at my issues as more of a muscle imbalance than a need for orthotics, prescribed some PT and sent me on my way. This sent me down a road of research on why the muscle imbalance?
At the time, I was unable to run more than a 1/2 mile without severe knee pain or hike more than about 6 miles without relying heavily on my trekking poles.
Late last summer through my research, I discovered that maybe it was my shoes and how I am walking and running that is causing the issues. Here are a couple articles that I came across:
Last fall I started running and training in a minimalist shoe that offered no support, no structure, and no padding. I bought a pair of Vibram Fivefingers, put them on and went for a 3 mile run with no pain. Granted I was forced to run very different than I used to, but that was the whole idea. My calves were super sore and my achilles were really tight for about a month during this transition, but I could deal with that kind of pain. The minimalist shoes were allowing my feet to function the way they were designed to.
It didn't take too long for me to realize that my orthotics and structured shoes were not allowing my feet to function properly. They were like casts for my feet. In fact, wearing the orthotics and stiff shoes quickly became very uncomfortable as my feet got stronger and wanted to be able to move. I have since discarded all my orthotics, and rarely wear a shoe with a raised, padded heal.
I do hike in a pair of Inov8 295's with the insole removed, but they have no arch support and have a minimally raised heal. I wear them primarily for the traction as there are not very many options out there for a minimalist shoe with traction.
That's my food for thought. Wouldn't it be nice not to have to wear the orthotics??