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Can an aggressive arch support damage your foot?

Posted by Joiner on 10/14/04 at 14:45 (161511)

After being diagnosed with plantar fascitis a few months ago, one of the first places I visited was a Good Feet Store. I tried one of the Alzner inserts and was amazed at how good the support felt and how it 'energized' my step as I walked. However, the cost seemed out of line so I didn't purchase anything. But I haven't forgotten how great they felt.

Since that time I've been searching for an insert from a more trusted source with a similar 'aggressive' arch support. This search took me to my local Birkenstock store where I tried and purchased their 'BirkoBalance' arch support. It is described in their literature as having aggressive longitudinal and moderate metatarsal support. Although not as strikingly comfortable and energizing as the Alzners, they do feel great when I first put them own and I really like the extra 'pressure' or 'push' that I feel under my arch. It is much more pronounced than my Powersteps.

I've worn them for about 3 days now for an hour or two each day to begin breaking them in. Although they feel great at first, I begin to experience discomfort in my arch and heel after a fairly short period. I realize that they need to be broken in and have been encouraged by others to give them some time.

My question is, how does one know if an arch is simply too aggressive? Can wearing an aggressive arch from a reputable company such as Birkenstock actually damage your foot in any way? Have any other professionals or PF sufferers on the board had any experience with this particular support?

Thanks for your thoughts.


Re: Can an aggressive arch support damage your foot?

Richard, C.Ped on 10/14/04 at 16:04 (161517)

Hi Joiner,
It is very possible that something such as this can cause other problems. The thing with an off the shelf insert (Good Feet cost way to much) is that it is not your specific foot shape, ie: custom device. If the device does not get you in, or as close to, neutral position, it could cause excess strain on other parts of the body. This is because your body will compensate for the problems.

Re: Can an aggressive arch support damage your foot?

Angela on 10/14/04 at 16:06 (161518)

PLEASE read my post under 'Treatments, Symptoms, Products' entitled 'Relief for Heel Spur Pain.' It discusses a heel insert designed by several podiatrists. It is extremely reasonable priced--just under $25--and it has brought me GREAT relief. I too had tried expensive, custom made arch supports for plantars, and I had worse pain after a couple of days of wearing the arch supports that were supposedly 'perfect' for my feet than I did with the heel spurs alone.

But as soon as I put in these heel inserts, I had INSTANT relief and could walk normally! I am pinching myself to see if this is a dream after two years of so much pain!

Hope it will help you.

Re: Richard C.Ped - Follow up Re: Can an aggressive arch support damage your foot?

Joiner on 10/14/04 at 20:31 (161541)

Thanks for your response. I appreciate the insight. The BirkoBalance arch supports seem to put my foot in a comfortable neutral position (ie no undue pressure on either the heel or ball of the foot)in all the different shoes that I've tried them in. In addition, they provide a more noticable (and initially an enjoyable) support for the arch than the other over the counter products I've tried.

As I noted in my initial message, I have had them for only 2 or 3 days and am trying to break them in by wearing them a couple of hours each day as instructed. I have not noticed any other problems develop such as back, knee or ankle pain from wearing them. The only discomfort is my arch which seems a little sore after I wear them for an hour or so. I'm perfectly willing to give them a reasonable amount of time given the great things that people on this site say about Birkenstock products. However, your point is well taken and I don't want to cause any other problems in addition to the PF.

So, to rephrase my question in a clearer way:

1. What has been your experience, if any, with Birkenstock inserts and the BirkoBalance deep arch support in particular?

1. Assuming that it isn't causing any secondary problems like back, knee or leg pain, is there any signifcant risk in trying an aggressive arch support from a reputable company like Birkenstock for a few weeks and see if it addresses the heel pain associated with my PF? Put another way, does the stronger support somehow stretch something thus making me unable to go back to a less aggressive support?

Thanks so much for taking the time to help. Your opinions and insight are a big help.


Re: Richard C.Ped - Follow up Re: Can an aggressive arch support damage your foot?

Richard, C.Ped on 10/15/04 at 09:14 (161570)

I really have not had much experience with Birks. I know many here love them, and others do not care for them. To each their own I guess.

A more rigid support keeps the fascia from over stretching. I mainly use a semi rigid material when we make orthotics. I have found that many out there can not tolerate a harder orthosis. The soft/semi-rigid we make easily lasts around 5 years or so. I judge it on the person. I would not use the softer material on a 250 pound football player.

With many, it is finding the right support for your foot.

Re: Can an aggressive arch support damage your foot?

Carole C in NOLA on 10/15/04 at 12:36 (161587)

Joiner, no matter what you put on your feet, I would suggest that if you experience pain from it your feet are telling you not to wear it so much. 'No pain no gain' does not apply when it comes to PF.

Carole C

Re: Richard C.Ped - Another Follow up Re: Can an aggressive arch support damage your foot?

Joiner on 10/15/04 at 14:44 (161595)

Thanks for the additional insight.

If I understand you correctly the semi-rigid or firm supports, like the Birks and the ones you make, help keep the fascia from over stretching. If that is correct, then that helps alleviate my concern that an aggressive arch with semi firm support like the BirkoBalance ones would somehow damage my foot or stretch the fascia too much.

I think my concern stemmed from a basic misconception about which way the fascia is stretched. Initially, I thought the stretching which caused the heel pain resulted when the fascia was stretched upward in an arch (ie as if you were pushing too much from the bottom of your foot). However, if I understand what you are saying, the damage comes when the fascia is stretched too much from downward pressure caused by inadequate arch support. If that is a correct understanding, I think I understand now why an aggressive arch would not cause damage.

Do I have it basically correct? Thanks again for help. I really appreciate it.


Re: Richard C.Ped - Another Follow up Re: Can an aggressive arch support damage your foot?

Richard, C.Ped on 10/21/04 at 14:04 (161902)

The damage comes from taking a step without proper support. That puts to much stress on the fascia. The support will reduce or prevent that stretching.

Re: Richard C.Ped - Another Follow up Re: Can an aggressive arch support damage your foot?

Janice C on 10/24/04 at 23:58 (162074)

I am in AGREEMENT with Angela!!!!!! I bought the HTP heel seats on her recommendation because I have steadily deteriorated over the years, much faster this year than ever (age 52). I was actually eyeing the electric shopping carts at Wal-Mart. Getting depressed. My custom orthotics uncomfortable. Had endoscopic plantar fasciotomy last July in right foot, planned on doing left foot soon. I had my doubts about the heel seats, also ordered the bio-gels at the same time. Got the gels first, no luck. Got the heel seats, they form their own arch, so my best experience was to put them in my lace-up Ropers, low heel, very firm soles, lots of toe room, cushioned flat insole. Put them in the boots, they are marked right & left. I was in shock. I had written a diary of my burning soles a couple days before, and how 3 toes on each foot are numb all the time. I had tried to do my shopping, could not stand in 1 place when in line to check out, had to constantly shift from 1 foot to other. Came home in tears, took me most of the day to try & shop, could not finish due to the pain. So got home that evening the HTP's came in the mail. It was unbelievable. No burning! The next day my feet felt a little better. Every day is a small improvement. I expect it to take some time, will let you all know how it is going. I am praying to the Lord Jesus this is the answer. I am off my pain meds also- I am not 100%, but ANY improvement was better than what I was going through. I cancelled my left foot surg. Also have a morton's neuroma in both feet, but I got out of the shower & felt what I thought was the cat's tail under my right toes & jumped! I was feeling the fuzzy rug for the first time in months! One person had said these heel seats just elevate your foot. I disagree. I would not have used them if that was the case, he is right, that would not help. The actual part that goes under the heel is thin. The seats have a bar that from the diagram on their website looks like it supports the bone that forms the arch. It is uncomfortable at first, but I also have a high pain threshold, and after the other pain, this is minor discomfort in trade for the relief of burning & numbness. I actually went shopping and though my feet were aching & tired, I was happy, & the next day, my feet were good to go- before, if I continued on my feet, I suffered 2 weeks & had to take extra NSAID's which I am afraid have given me an ulcer. I have hope again. They are worth a try & have a money-back guarantee. I tried to wear them in my Reebocks,but I am unable to tolerate them well right now. Maybe it will get better & I will be able to go to the Reebocks. I used to grieve over not being able to wear pretty dress shoes, now, who cares as long as I can walk without that terrible pain. I have drawers of insoles, orthotics. I have spent $$$$ on Drs & this surgery not to mention Mephisto shoes, which are 100 times better than Birks to me (Birks are too flat for me). So I was willing to try this $25 insert. I hope it helps other people too-I am still in shock myself after all these years of pain to be rid of 75% of it. Thank the good Lord!!!!!!! I hope it helps someone else. THANK YOU ANGELA for telling me about your experience with them. You are a God-send. Janice C

Re: Can an aggressive arch support damage your foot?

Tom H on 10/25/04 at 20:54 (162146)

See my 'looking for information' response above.