Advanced Podiatry Case Study:  Orthotics Relieve Numbness in a Runner’s Feet

Last year, 16 year old girl presented to our office complaining of numbness and tingling on the bottom of her feet.  Upon further questioning, she was a competitive cross-country runner who would only experience these symptoms while running.  She states that it gets worse with the more miles that she logs during her run and feels like she can fall at any time. Her sensations come back upon ceasing activity and running.  

Medically speaking, numbness in the feet is known as Peripheral Neuropathy.  It is very common in diabetics, people with a history of alcohol abuse, and in the older population.  So when a young, healthy teenager comes in with the same issues, it is quite alarming.

A quick glance at her x-rays showed no broken bones or any abnormalities to worry about.  

My physical exam on her was mostly unremarkable until I had her stand up and walk around.  Then it became clear as day as to why she was experiencing her symptoms. Her arches would collapse as soon as she put weight on her feet.  When your ankle turns inwards and your arch disappears, it is known as pronation. In this patient’s case, she was pronating so much that it was cutting off the nerve supply to the bottom of her feet.  

The solution was simple: a pair of custom orthotics.  By preventing the pronation, the nerve would no longer become impinged during her runs.  After molding her for inserts that are tailored just for her, she was sent off to test them out and was instructed to come back in a month to update me on her progress.  However she didn’t come back in a month. Instead, she came back in year. The custom orthotics worked so well that she didn’t think she needed to return for a follow up.  Not only did they relieve her of the numbness in her feet, the inserts also helped her to consistently place Top 10 in all her cross-country races. The only reason that she could is so that she could get fitted for a second pair.  

Custom orthotics are a medical device that are designed to realign the foot in the correct anatomical position.  This allows our body to walk and to run normally without working extra to reposition the foot. Without orthotics, a mis-aligned foot has to compensate in other areas which leads to aches and pains like plantar fasciitis, heel pain, stress fractures, and the formation of bunions.  If you think you’re having any issues with your feet, a custom orthotic can help. Call our office at (813) 875-0555 to get fitted by one of our doctors today.