It’s that time of year again. Time to get cozy by the fire and enjoy a nice cup of hot cocoa. Winter is here, bringing cold weather and fresh snow along with it—and what goes perfectly with snow? That’s right: winter sports.
For those of us who love the rush and can’t wait to get back on the slopes, skiing and snowboarding is something to look forward to all-year-round. But one thing tends to get in the way of enjoying these high intensity sports—and it’s something many skiers and snowboarders are very familiar with. Foot pain.
Experts in sports and health often recommend custom orthotics for curbing foot pain and soothing discomfort, and people with unique foot shapes or ailments have subscribed to them for decades. But are custom orthotics a worthy investment? How do you know if they’re worth it?
FitMyFoot wants you to have the best possible experience this winter, and knowing whether custom orthotics are the right choice for you could potentially make all the difference. So wrap yourself in a warm blanket, grab that cup of cocoa, and sit back and enjoy our deep-dive into the world of custom orthotics.
What are custom orthotics?
Orthotics (also called insoles, inserts or footbeds), are prescription medical devices that you wear inside your shoes to correct biomechanical foot issues such as problems with walking, standing, or running. They can also help with foot pain caused by medical conditions such as diabetes, plantar fasciitis, bursitis, and arthritis.
Custom orthotics—specifically for skiing and snowboarding—can be added into boots through a multi-step process that includes a thorough exam of your feet, taking a cast of them, then manufacturing and fitting your orthotics. Fully custom orthotics include a custom moldable base that's formed to the user's foot and supported by layers of foam or cork underneath that match the contours of the bootboard and boot shell.
Can you use regular insoles instead?
Yes, you absolutely can. Skiing and snowboarding boots all come with generic factory inserts. However, these inserts don't provide much in the way of support. In other words, the regular insoles may not fit your feet properly. If you experience foot pain throughout the day, there’s a good chance the factory inserts aren’t working for you and your feet may need more support.
Foot pain and why it happens:
Foot pain in skiing and snowboarding is typically caused by the boots rubbing or pressing against skin and muscles, or the feet slipping and sliding around inside which can lead to bruised toes and blisters. Pain and discomfort in your feet is incredibly distracting, and it can quickly drain away from the fun you have on the mountain. That being said, even the most experienced athletes sometimes deal with foot pain.
The main causes of foot pain in skiing and snowboarding:
- The boots are too tight (too much pressure).
- The boots are too loose (internal movement, rubbing and blisters).
- The boots are the wrong shape (uneven pressure).
If these three reasons don’t seem to be the problem—don’t give up just yet. Here are some other tips that can help alleviate pain:
More tricks to help eliminate boot pain:
- Wear a good pair of modern ski socks—the wrong socks can lead to circulation issues and foot cramps.
- Make sure your boots are broken in—it takes multiple trips to the mountain before a new pair of boots can correctly mold to your feet. If your boots are brand new, they may need more use before they can provide the comfort they’re designed for.
- Consider investing in a pair of electric boot heaters—having warmer feet will keep you more comfortable and could alleviate foot pain caused by fatigue.
If none of these tricks work, it may be time to consider some form of effective foot support. Using pre-moulded custom orthotics offers a great alternative to the flat, unsupportive insoles normally found in boots. Custom orthotics use a stiffer template and stabilizer to provide the maximum amount of support and control. Adding them to your boots can give you a more precise fit that will make your feet more comfortable, which may also tremendously improve your performance on the slopes—not to mention the pain it’ll save you from.
How much do custom orthotics cost?
Snow sports tend to require a multitude of different types of gear, and skiing and snowboarding are no exception. They can be notoriously expensive hobbies, and it’s understandable why people want to save wherever they can. With that being said, foregoing custom orthotics is probably not the right decision if foot pain is threatening to ruin your experience.
A pair of fully custom orthotics for ski and snowboard boots is often $250 - $600. If this is the solution for you, pick an experienced technician who knows both feet and ski boots. It can take more than one try to get it right, so make sure modifications are included in the base price.
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Are custom orthotics necessary?
For some people, definitely. They decrease pain and discomfort in ways that other methods just can’t compare. For anyone with specific foot problems such as severely flat feet or high arches, there are incredible benefits to custom prescription orthotics. However, on the down-side, you may have to replace them more often than you think.
How long do custom orthotics last?
While the average custom orthotic might last around 2-3 years, not every case is a typical one. Some will last longer than others depending on how often they’re used and how much pressure is applied to them on a regular basis. Skill level can also help determine their shelf-life, and more experienced skiers and snowboarders may have to replace them more often. The goal is to get orthotics replaced or refurbished before they lose the ability to support and protect your feet.
So, are custom orthotics worth it?
If you experience foot pain on a regular basis—yes. Almost everyone can benefit from getting custom orthotics. Wearing them in ski and snowboard boots can optimize your performance and help prevent pain and injury from occurring. The comfort and support they provide are second to none, and the positives severely outweigh the negatives.