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Butcher's

Dog! Regular outdoor fitness tips from the

canine on creatine. Cold wet nose and glossy coat

guaranteed.

This Month - Feet and Pain...

Feet, pain, pain, feet. Twisted ankles, knee pain etc,

etc, etc. What can you do about it?

Whenever you take a step and shift your weight forward so

it comes onto your leading foot, strange bio-mechanical

things happen. For one, the chances are that the weight will

flatten your arch slightly which will elongate and distort

other parts of your foot. The flattening of the foot is

technically called 'pronation' and can have major

biomechanical implications - to compensate for the

flattening, the whole leg and hips may shift to compensate

which can cause knee, hip and back pain.

Less seriously the constant flattening of the foot will

fatigue it on long walks, but it can also cause a bunion or

painful swelling behind the joint of the big toe, which

again can lead to long term complications.

Note: an estimated 80 per-cent of us pronate to

some extent. A truly neutral gait is very rare.

Sports Podiatrists - Orthotics

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Standard insoles - come

with boots but offer minimal

support to the feet. Really they're just padding.

If you have serious motion problems - you may not

realise it, but the chances are that you will be suffering

from painful knees or other joints, the answer is to consult

a qualified sports podiatrist. He or she will examine your

feet and footwear and probably video your walking or running

gait to check your action.

If you do have an imblances that needs correcting, the

podiatrist may well make up a set of orthotics - remedial

footbeds - designed to compensate for your biomechanical

faults and tailored exactly to you. These aren't cheap -

usually more than £100 - but look at it as an

investment in your longterm health and your activity.

Other Aftermarket Insoles

The original insoles / footbeds that came with your boots

are likely to be pretty basic. Boot makers concentrate on

the main construction of the boot and tend to economise on

the internal trimmings, so what you end up with is an

economic but basic insert that provides minimal support for

the arch and allows the heel to roll around too easily. Not

good.

Shock Absorbing Insoles

We've come across and used two different types of

shock-absorbing insoles - Sorbothane and Noene. Both are

made from dense materials that absorb energy, for example,

if you drop a steel ball on a sheet of either, it'll tend to

stop dead rather than bounce.

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Noene insoles - thin

with decent shock absorbtion

but flat so no arch support

The problem with both, we think, is that they have a

disconcertingly dead feel, particularly if you're used to

springy EVA-type cushioning as used in most running shoes

and some boots. Some people love them, some don't, but don't

make the mistake of thinking that an energy-absorbing insole

will compensate fully for loss of cushioning in running

shoes in particular.

A secondary problem with most of these is that the insert

tends to be flat. As a result if offers little or no support

to either the arch or the heel of the foot. If you insert

them under an existing footbed, they can reduce the internal

volume of the boot substantially, which in turn may cause

new problems.

We're not saying they're useless, but be aware of the

drawbacks as well as the pluses. One option with the flatter

versions would be to use them instead of a volume adjuster,

but like we said, the feel is a personal thing.

More Sophisticated Insoles

Over the last year we've been using two different

aftermarket insoles regularly for walking and more general

use. The idea is that they're a halfway house between full

medically produced orthotics and more basic footbeds. Here's

what we reckon. Bear in mind that the OM paws seem pretty

resilient with no major biomechanical faults.

Conformable Custom Insole

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Conformably insole is

comfy - note pad under

heel, but more of a super deluxe standard

insole

than one with biomechnical

pluses

These are fitted to the feet using a strange vacuum bead

based moulding process. The idea is that the foot is moulded

in an ideal position which the insoles than help to maintain

when walking. The company's background is in skiing, where

there's less movement involved than in walking and our

general conclusion is that while the insoles are comfortable

and cushioned, they have limited biomechanical

advantages.

They do conform nicely to the shape of your foot - a bit

like a pair of light running shoe footbeds after a few runs

- but the arch is still quite low. They also take up more

volume than a standard footbed, meaning they can compromise

the fit of your shoes. They're certainly more comfortable

than a standard version and the fit to your foot means

you're less likely to slide forward on descents say, but

we'd rate them as more of a super deluxe replacement than a

biomechanical aid.

Superfeet Green Insole

We've been using a variety of Superfeet insoles for

around a year now, but the ones we'd actually suggest you

bother with for walking or mountaineering use are the Green

Insoles, so-called because they're green. At around £30

they're not cheap, but effectively what you're getting are a

simple set of orthotics.

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Our choice - the

Superfeet greens are durable - that green

stuff is a hard plastic - with supportiive arch and

a defined

heel well that cups the heel and ups

stability

They won't compensate for major pronation or other

biomechanical problems, but if you suffer from mild foot

aches and minor leg pain on long walks, they could make a

difference. Compared to the Conformables, these have a

higher arch section with a solid, support underneath

designed to prevent your foot from collapsing on

landing.

The other main feature is a very defined heel cup

designed to support the back of the foot firmly and minimise

heel roll on landing. The high arch feels odd at first, but

you soon get used to it and we now use the Superfeet

routinely for both walking and running. They've proven to be

very tough and the hard plastic foundation used means that

the performance hasn't deteriorated so far. Nice.

We've noticed a general reduction in foot fatigue, but

more impressively, friends with more significant

biomechanical problems say they've experienced a huge

difference. Another benefit for some is that preventing the

elongation of the foot under pressure actually means they

can wear smaller boots.

Disadvantages? Slightly higher volume than standard

insoles plus if you're one of the rare minority who don't

pronate then they may not be suitable for you. Superfeet

retailers should be able to advise. Finally, if you do have

major problems, they're not a substitute for properly

designed orthotics, though Superfeet do offer a custom-made

option at a limited number of outlets. See the web

site for more details.

Volume Adjusters

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KSB Volume Adjusters -

no biomechanical advantage

but can make a big difference to fit by reducing

the internal

volume of the boot.

Not to be confused with insoles, volume adjusters are

intended to change the internal volume of a boot and are

flat, dense, non-compressible foam worn under a footbed.

They can improve the foot of a boot for those with low

volume feet and may help avoid heel blisters by stopping

foot movement generally and moving the heel upwards to a

more tapered section of the boot.

Other Foot Hints

Ankles if you have weak ankles, the key to

stability is a good, supportive heel section. High ankles

will feel supportive and, in extreme situations might even

be able to prevent your ankle from turning physically, but

real stability comes from lower down.

Socks Thick socks may impove fit and comfort

initially, but as they pack down, they'll actually allow

your feet to move around too much and can cause instability.

Better to wear thinner socks with cushioning in the right

places.

Fit If you do use orthotics or insoles, take them

along when you buy boots and always try footwear in the

afternoon when your feet have swollen slightly.