How To Prepare For a Marathon or Half Marathon

by Mark Paigen 12 min read

Marathon and half marathon training tips

Pheidippides started the marathon craze in ancient Greece when he ran from Marathon to Sparta to ask for military assistance against the invading Persian army. In modern times, it has become part of many people's bucket list. If you've ever thought about running a half-marathon or marathon, you've come to the right place.


  • When creating a plan for your first longer mileage race, whether a half marathon or marathon, consider details like what to eat to prepare for the race to what to wear on race day.  
  • The night before your race, make sure to drink plenty of water, eat lots of carbohydrates, lay out your gear, and get some rest.
  • On race day, don't go out to fast, remember to hydrate and refuel as you rack up the miles, stop for a restroom break if you need it and most importantly, enjoy yourself!



Half Marathon Tips For Training, Racing and Recovery

You've completed your half-marathon training plan. You've been tapering for the last three weeks, and you feel great. You've got your loyal fan section ready to get out there and cheer you on. Now all you need to do is run.

Three Days Before Your Race

If your half marathon is in another town, state, or even country, you want to make sure you get there early. Traveling can take a toll on your body. Muscle soreness, dehydration, and fatigue are common side effects of long-distance travel. Make sure you're drinking lots of water. When you get to your destination, do a yoga sequence that focuses on travel soreness. Go on a walk or easy jog to loosen up.

Traveling can also take a toll on your mind. Airport delays and traffic can cause unnecessary stress. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get where you're going.

What To Wear For Your First Half Marathon

Before you leave, you want to make sure you pack smartly. Make a list of everything you need to bring and check it off as you go. Figuring out what you want to race in is partly dependent on the weather. Check the weather forecast for your race and plan accordingly. And then plan for the unexpected. The key is layers (and wearing gear you won't be afraid to part with if necessary).

If you're feeling overwhelmed about what you should wear when running a half marathon for the first time, don't sweat it. Think about packing three different outfits: yourtoo-hot-to-handle outfit (for a crazy hot afternoon), yourmiddle-of-the-road gear(for that perfect fall day), and your polar-bear suit(for that cold front that came out of nowhere). Remember to bring rainproof gear to protect against the dreaded thunderstorm. Don't forget sunscreen and headgear. This fun calculator will help you decide your best race-day outfit.

Start Carbo-Loading For The Race

Now's the time to begin  "carbo-loading" so your body has time to store up the energy it will use to get you through your first half marathon. Your body uses both glycogen (which comes from carbs) and fat to fuel you through your day. Glycogen is much easier to burn than fat, so you want to make sure your levels are high before the race.

In the few days leading up to the race, about 85 to 95 percent of your calories should come from carbs like pasta, bananas, oatmeal, rice, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, tortillas, yogurt, juice, pancakes, waffles, and bagels.

Avoid fat, fiber, caffeine, and alcohol. This cool endurance calculator will tabulate how many calories and carbohydrates you need to finish your marathon without "hitting the wall," or the moment when you've used up your glycogen and your body has to begin converting fat to energy.

The Day Before The Race

You've arrived at your race location and have had time to relax. You're carbo-loading. Now what? While it may seem counterintuitive to run the day before the race (won't that make me tired?!), it's actually the best thing you can do. It will loosen your muscles and put yourneuromuscular system into alert mode.

Your neuromuscular system is the connection between your muscles and your brain. You want to make sure they're effectively and efficiently communicating with each other. Every time you run, you activate the system, and you want to keep it primed right up until race day. This doesn't mean doing a lot of running, a 3-mile jog the day before is enough. Afterwards do some strides — short sprints of around 20 seconds —to really fire up your muscles and blood.

Finalize Travel Plans To & From The Race

Having a plan in place for getting to the starting line will make race day less stressful. Check the race's website for tips on how to get to the race location. If it's in a big city, public transportation might be the best option. Often transportation is free or at a discounted rate for race participants. Many systems expand their hours and train lines to accommodate the runners.

Now's the time to make a post-race plan with your friends or family. Figure out a meeting point after you finish (avoid official "meeting areas" as they can be crowded). There's nothing worse than wandering around for an hour after you just ran for four, looking for your cheering section.

The Night Before

You don't want to eat a huge dinner the night before. Just make sure that you get enough to eat and that most — if not all of — of your calories come from carbohydrates. A bowl of pasta (without cream or fatty sauces) is perfect when preparing for your first half-marathon. Avoid alcohol (it dehydrates you), and make sure you are drinking plenty of water.

Lay out your outfit, water bottle, gel shots, shoes, and bib number. Use already broken-in footwear so you won't have any problems during the race. Blisters from new shoes or insoles can turn your run into a nightmare.

Get some rest. Don't worry if you're nervous and can't sleep, it's natural. Your body will be full up on adrenaline on race day, and you won't be adversely affected from one night of poor sleep.

The Morning Of The Race

Most runners think the pre-race dinner is the only meal that impacts your performance. But your breakfast is just as important. Some of your stored energy from carbs (glycogen) will deplete overnight (remember, you are still burning calories even while sleeping). Jackie Berning, Ph.D., reminds us of the importance of replenishing your body's fuel source: "Glycogen keeps your blood-sugar level steady during exercise." What this means is that a good breakfast will sustain you for the entirety of your marathon.

That being said, many of us are nervous we will eat too much before a big race. The key is timing and type of food.

  • What to eat: Your breakfast should be mainly carbohydrates. You digest them the fastest, so they become easy fuel for your body to go on. A small amount of protein ensures you won't be hungry later in the race. Avoid fat, fiber, and caffeine. Fat can be hard to digest while caffeine and fiber can cause GI issues. Try bagel and peanut butter; oatmeal with milk and banana; yogurt and toast; banana and high-carb energy bar; or smoothies, juices, or sports drinks for those with sensitive stomachs.
  • How much to eat: A half-marathon is long, one piece of toast won't cut it. A 150-pound runner needs to consume around 1,000 calories (mainly carbs) for breakfast. That may seem like a lot, but it's necessary to give you the energy you need for the race.
  • When to eat it: The key to making sure you digest your breakfast (and turn it into fuel for your race) is timing. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should eat your breakfast 3 to 4 hours before the race starts. Most races start early, so this means setting your alarm for a bright-and-early wake-up. If this seems unrealistic, try breaking your breakfast into separate parts. Eat about 2/3 of your total breakfast two hours before, and then the rest around an hour before.
  • Don't forget a pre-race snack.Around 90-minutes before the race, have some easy calories from sports drinks and energy gels.

If you're worried about mid-race GI trouble, avoid fiber, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners.

Race Day Tips For Marathon and Half Marathoners

Get to the race with plenty of time. It may be chilly in the morning, so make sure you are wearing the correct layers (that you will peel off later).

If you've followed your first half-marathon training plan, you shouldn’t worry about getting to the finish line. But, you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Don't go out too fast. Adrenaline will be pumping through your body when the starting gun goes off and you might feel like you can sprint to the next mile marker, but don’t.  Your body will hate you at mile 23. Just find the pace you’ve identified in your training as you goal pace per mile and stick to it.
  • Hydrate and refuel. Run with a water bottle (there's plenty of cool gear out there) and some fuel. Whether you’re into energy gel packs or Sports Beans, make sure you are refueling your body with carbs every 30 minutes or so during the race. Rehydrate at water and fuel stations along the route.
  • Stop for a restroom break. Races will have porta-potty units throughout the course. If you're having GI issues, don't be afraid to stop and use them. You'll feel better and have a better time if you do. Sometimes the lines can be long in the first few miles, so wait until a few miles in to stop if you can.
  • Enjoy yourself. You've been training religiously, eating right, and mentally preparing. Now is the time to enjoy yourself. You're doing something most people never will. Feel the wind on your face. Laugh at the funny signs spectators have made. Wave to your family. High five the little kids. You earned it.

You Finished Your First Half Marathon — Now What?

You crossed the finish line with you arms up. You got a medal, a cool t-shirt, and even one of those foil blanketsMake sure you celebrate your accomplishment and help your body recover.

Immediately after the race you should focus on both carbs and protein. For a 150-pound person, a bagel with peanut butter and a banana is a great option. Re-hydrate with water or sports drink. Continue eating lots of carbs with small amounts of protein for 48 hours after the race.

Your muscles will probably be sore after the race (and may be for a week). Avoid hot tubs or warm baths as that will increase muscle inflammation. Icing specific areas, using foam rollers, or even getting a massage are recommended.

It's also important to let your body have a break. Take a couple weeks off from running, particularly if this was your first half marathon and switch to lower-impact activities like swimming, biking, or even walking. Continuing to run high mileage puts you at higher risk of injuries likeplantar fasciitis and stress fractures.

You did it.You can cross running your first half-marathon off of your bucket list. If you’re hungry for the full marathon next, follow these nine simple steps toward training for a marathon.

Marathon Training Guide In 9 Simple Steps

Phase One – Gearing Up

So you think you're ready to cross running a marathon off your bucket list? When starting to train for a marathon, it's important (especially for beginners) to train smart and listen to your body.

1. Building Blocks

  • See your doctor. The 26.2 mile race is no neighborhood fun run. The risk for injury drastically increases when running this long a distance. Talk with your primary care physician about your plans before you start training. If you have a history of injuries and have seen a sports medicine specialist or orthopedic doctor, check in with them as well.
  • Build base mileage.Many first-time marathoners injure themselves because they ramp up mileage too quickly. You need a strong base before you even begin training for a marathon.
  • Try the half.During your "pre-training" period (when you are beginning to run consistently but not specifically training for a marathon), try running races at different distances. 5K and 10K races can be fast and fun. Run a half-marathon. Pick races with terrain similar to your marathon. A hilly trail race is much difference than a fast-paced asphalt course.
  • Get good gear. Make sure you have running shoes that work with your specific stride and gait. Replace your running shoes after the recommended amount of miles (it's just like getting an oil change). Wearing orthotics is a good idea, especially if you overpronate. But don't switch up your gear right before you begin training. This can cause discomfort and even injury. Make sure you have been running with your shoe style and insoles for a couple of months to ensure maximum comfort and support during your training.

Phase Two – Marathon Training Plan

Most marathon training plans for beginners range from 12 to 20 weeks. It's important to map out your runs and follow your plan closely to avoid injuries or over-training. Look at some of the free plans and training options available, as well as the more advanced beginner marathon training guides with customizable options.

If your goal is to run a certain time, try using a pace chart. This tells you what your mile times should be on race day, and you can train accordingly.

2. Weekly Mileage

  • Build your mileageslowly and consistently, running between3 and 5 times per week. You should not increase your mileage by more than 10% per week. And be careful not to run more than 5 days, which can take a toll on your lower body. If you do, you are at higher risk for injuries such as stress fracturesplantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendinitis.

3. The Long Run

  • Probably the most important run each week will be your long run. Every 7 days you need to up your mileage and slow down your pace on a longer run. Because you will already have built up a base mileage in your pre-training, you can start with about a 9-mile run. Increase your long run each week by a mile or two. Every 3-4 weeks shorten up the run so you don’t over train. For example, you could run 12, 13, 14, and then 10 miles over a 4-week period. This run should be at a comfortable pace, one at which you could have a conversation with a running buddy without too much problem.
  • Some training plans will peak at about 20 miles. Some bring you up to the full race length. Your longest run should not be less than 20 miles, or your body might not be prepared for actual race day.

4. Jump On The Speed Train

  • Slow and steady might win the race (or even just finish it!), but speed makes all the difference. While not necessary, it is a good idea to have one speed day per week. This increases your aerobic capacity and teaches your muscles to fire more rapidly. It will improve your endurance–and your time.
  • It's not hard to incorporate speed into a marathon training plan. We recommend interval training, fartleks, or a tempo run.
    • Intervals are the repetition of a set of short distances run at a faster pace than your long run with rest in between. Intervals can differ drastically in length, pace, and recovery. Doing intervals between 800 meters and a mile are best for marathon training. An interval day could be: 1 mile jog warm-up; 4x1 mile intervals run at a fast pace with 5 minutes rest in between (jogging or walking); 1 mile jog cool-down. Try running your miles 30-seconds faster than your goal pace time for the marathon. Adjust according to how you feel.
    • Fartleks (Swedish for "speed-play") can be fun to do in groups. During a medium-distance run, you alternate running at fast and slow paces. A 1-hour fartlek workout could consist of: 10 minutes jog warm-up; 5 x (5 minutes fast pace, 3 minutes jog, for a total of 40 minutes); 10 minutes jog cool-down. If you run with other people, everyone can have a turn leading the fast-paced segments.
    • Tempo workouts are short- to medium-distance runs completed at a fast and sustained pace (but probably slower than your mile interval pace). Don't run your long run at a tempo pace--that run is to build endurance, not speed. Your tempo workout could be: A 5-mile run, with the first mile at normal pace, miles 2 and 3 at a faster pace, and miles 4 and 5 at an even faster pace.

5. Rest

  • Running no more than 5 times a week ensures quality training over quantity. Following a marathon training plan means incorporating rest days so your body can recover from all the pounding on the joints, bones, and muscles. Make sure you have at least 2 full rest days per week.
  • You will want totaper your training plans about 3 weeks before your marathon. Begin slowly backing down your mileage so your body is rested before race day. Scientists have demonstrated tapering eliminates accumulated fatigue without reducing your aerobic capacity. A taper of 3 weeks will make you stronger, not weaker.

Phase Three – Important Training Tips For Beginners

6. Cross Train

  • If you're running 5 days a week, there’s no wiggle room for cross training. But if you are running 3 or 4 days a week, you will have 1 or 2 days for cross training. Non-impact aerobic activities like swimming or biking will work on your cardiovascular endurance without the impact of running. A day of weight training can also be helpful for strengthening your bones and muscles, preventing injury.

7. Stretch

  • Allot 15 minutes for stretching after your daily runs to prevent injuries. Taking a yoga or Pilates class on a cross-training day will also help prevent injury. There are great yoga sequences designed specifically for running.

8. Walk Your Way To Success

  • If you are new to running, consider the run-walk approach to finish a marathon. This method alternates longer run periods with shorter walk breaks, for example running 5 minutes and walking 1. This can help you overcome fatigue, prevent injury, and work through mental blocks, all important for first-time marathoners.

9. Listen To Your Body

  • Easier said than done, but perhaps the most important part of your training plan. If you become injured, you need to rest until you are completely better. Running through plantar fasciitis or a stress fracture will only cause more pain. If an injury gets in the way of completing your training plan and you have to back out before race day, don't sweat it. Take the time to rest and recover and try again.

Completing a marathon can be one of the most invigorating experiences of your life and a great accomplishment of which to be proud. As Oprah said, "People always said it would feel like this, and it was the greatest feeling I believe I've ever had."

Whichever distance you choose to tackle, prepare well, take care of yourself with the right gear, and have fun!



Questions? Drop us a line at We're here to help.

Mark Paigen
Mark Paigen

Mark has always believed exceptional footwear can change lives. He's been in the footwear industry for over 30 years, working with podiatrists, pedorthists, foot care experts, and footwear makers. Mark started Chaco sandals in 1989 and developed a game-changing sport sandal that delivered comfort and durability. After Chaco sold in 2009, Mark ultimately started Tread Labs to continue transforming people's footwear so they can walk better, feel better, live better.

Tread Labs Million Mile Guarantee

Tread Labs Million Mile Guarantee

Tread Labs unique 2-part insole system is designed for the long haul. The molded arch supports are unconditionally guaranteed. Forever. The interchangeable top covers are easy to replace and won't break the bank.  

Our molded arch supports are built to last a million miles. If they ever break or lose their shape, contact us and we'll send you a new pair. No questions asked.

With normal usage, Tread Labs replaceable top covers will last a year. If you're a thru-hiker or ultramarathoner, expect a shorter lifespan. You can replace your top covers whenever you need by ordering a new pair.

Your satisfaction is our priority. If you're unhappy with any Tread Labs product, we want to make it right. Drop us a line and let us know how we can help.

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Is Your Foot Pain A Heel Spur Or Plantar Fasciitis?

When you hop out of bed in the morning and feel pain at the bottom of your heel with your first few steps, you want to know what could be causing it. Even if it ends up going away later in the day, it's still bothersome. You might think it's plantar fasciitis based on your symptoms, but not so fast...could it be a heel spur?


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Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are two terms frequently used when discussing certain types of heel pain. And while they're actually very different issues, they can be addressed with the same types of treatment. 

What's The Difference Between Heel Spur Pain And Plantar Fasciitis Pain?

There are some misconceptions about how plantar fasciitis and heel spurs are connected. People tend to think that heel spurs are a common cause of heel pain, however that's not the case.

While heel spurs might be associated with pain, they are usually not the reason it occurs, as the Cleveland Clinic points out. Instead, the majority of the time when heel pain strikes, plantar fasciitis is the responsible party.

What is a Heel Spur?

A heel spur, as explained by ScienceDirectis a type of bone spur, or calcium deposit, that develops toward the back of the calcaneus, or heel bone, where the plantar fascia inserts. These small, jagged bumps of bone usually develop in response to lots of trauma—or damage—to the heel.

This means that in most cases, heel spurs actually form as a result of plantar fasciitis. If the plantar fascia continues to be damaged for a long period of time, the body will eventually create a heel spur to provide additional support for the heel.

Heel spurs are associated with a similar stabbing type of sensation in the heel that is usually worse in the morning and comes and goes throughout the day. But the major difference here is that the heel spur itself is rarely the actual cause of this pain.

In fact, about 10% of the population has heel spurs whether they know it or not, but only 5% of those with spurs will have heel pain. The true reason for pain in most of these individuals, as you might have guessed, is plantar fasciitis.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

According to Podiatry Today, "plantar fasciitis is at epidemic levels with suggestions that one in six Americans may have the condition." As it has become so common, it's important to understand exactly what plantar fasciitis is.

The plantar fascia is a thick, connective band of soft tissue that stretches from the back of your heel to the base of your toes. As a ligament, it connects the bones in these two areas and it’s designed to be a shock absorber for the high amount of stress you put on your feet.

The plantar fascia is strong and can withstand a great deal of force, but too much pressure can damage or tear it. The body responds to this damage by becoming inflamed, and inflammation of the plantar fascia is called plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis is usually described as a stabbing pain under the arch and/or on the bottom of the foot near the heel. This pain tends to be worse in the morning and after long periods of standing, exercise, or rest. There may also be some redness and swelling in the area.

Sometimes plantar fasciitis can be confused with Achilles tendinitis. As the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons explains, "Achilles tendinitis is a common condition that occurs when the large tendon that runs down the back of your lower leg becomes irritated and inflamed.

The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. It attaches the calf muscles to the back of the heel and allows you to stand on your toes when walking, running, or jumping. When you train too hard or intensely without enough rest, Achilles tendinitis can occur, causing pain at the back of the heel or directly above it.

How Heel Spurs And Plantar Fasciitis Are Similar 

Here is one of the easiest ways to remember how heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are different. Many people have heel spurs without plantar fasciitis or heel pain, but it’s rare to find someone with plantar fasciitis who does not have a heel spur.

According to one study, approximately 50% of patients with plantar fasciitis also have bone spurs. Since about 1 in 10 people would show a heel spur on an X-ray of their foot, they are only considered an incidental—or insignificant—finding unless there is also foot pain.

When a heel spur forms, it is usually not responsible for causing any foot pain on its own. Instead, the pain is due to the foot condition that caused the spur. So, if you have a heel spur and notice pain at the back of the heel, you probably have Achilles tendinitis.

If the pain is on the bottom of the heel, plantar fasciitis is most likely the reason. Many people have heel spurs without any symptoms at all, and experts are still trying to figure out exactly how spurs relate to heel pain.

Since both plantar fasciitis and heel spurs result from a similar process, the risk factors associated with them are shared in common. The following factors increase the chances of developing both conditions:

It’s also important to point out that although the symptoms of plantar fasciitis and a heel spur seem similar, there is one way to help tell them apart. Plantar fasciitis symptoms may be felt in the arch as well as the heel, some patients have it for a while before they notice the stabbing heel pain. In rare cases where heel spurs are responsible, the jabbing pain will be centered in the heel.

Heel Spur vs Plantar Fasciitis

How Do You Treat Heel Spurs And Plantar Fasciitis?

If you’re experiencing heel pain, your doctor will examine your foot and may recommend an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis. Although plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain, it’s important to rule out other causes like Achilles tendinitis, stress fractures, a broken heel, or tarsal tunnel syndrome.

With a diagnosis of either plantar fasciitis or a heel spur, nonsurgical treatments are always recommended first and are usually successful. These include rest and ice, a change in footwear, heel cups, insoles, night splints, physical therapy and cortisone injections:

For people whose pain doesn’t improve after 6-12 months of trying these nonsurgical treatments, surgery is an option. 

Healing From Plantar Fasciitis And Heel Spurs

When it comes to heel spur vs plantar fasciitis conditions, it's important to remember that the latter often leads to the former. The good news is that more than 90% of patients with plantar fasciitis will improve in less than 10 months after following these simple nonsurgical treatments.

On the other hand, allowing the pain to persist or trying to push through it will only make matters worse and can lead to bigger foot problems.

With so many different options for treatment, it can be hard to figure out where to start. But, taking charge of your heel pain by finding one that works for you can have you experiencing more mobility and freedom as your heel pain gradually fades away.

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Do You Need Prescription Custom Orthotics?

If you're experiencing foot pain, you might be wondering if you need to invest in a pair of custom orthotics. You may have even already seen a podiatrist who has recommended you be fitted for them. But the expensive of custom made orthotics can be a hurdle for lots of people, especially since insurance may not cover them. That might leave you asking yourself, "Do I really need custom orthotics?" Let's find out.




Orthotic inserts are foot supports worn inside the shoe that provide more comfort and stability than the factory inserts that come in footwear. Scientific research has shown again and again that both over-the-counter and custom molded orthotics, or orthopedic insoles, are effective in treating lower-extremity injuries and pain. Insoles can also help correct biomechanical irregularities in your feet, and solve many foot issues like fallen arches and plantar fasciitis.

Sports podiatrist and Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) Richard Braver considers orthotics a “cure-all” for many lower-body injuries and pain. According to Braver, “orthotics can prevent and cure a problem by reducing and eliminating the stress that caused it.” Clearly, orthotics are important additions to our shoes. But what are custom orthotics?

What's The Difference Between Custom Orthotics And Over-The-Counter Insoles?

There are two types of orthotics: over-the-counter and custom-made orthopedic insoles (also called custom molded orthotics).

As the American Podiatric Medical Association explains, custom molded orthotics are insoles that have been prescribed by a doctor, often a podiatrist, sports medicine physician, or orthopedic surgeon after conducting a thorough evaluation of your feet, ankles, and legs. They are built for your specific foot and gait, and accommodate your individual foot structure.

Over-the-counter inserts encompass a variety of different foot products including arch supports, insoles, heel liners, and foot cushions. Not all prefabricated insoles are made alike, however, especially when it comes to the level of support they offer.

While scientific research has proven that that insoles help treat and prevent leg, foot and lower-extremity injuries, studies have not found a significant difference between prefabricated versus custom orthotics.

In fact, Dr. Braver believes that for most people, orthopedic or custom-made orthotics should be a last option. Think of it this way. If you have a headache, you rest, take an anti-inflammatory, and drink water. You probably don’t immediately rush off to get an MRI. It’s the same with orthotics. With prices from $300 to $500, prescription insoles are not necessarily the best option for everyone.

So who may be a good candidate for custom orthotics?

People Who May Need Custom Orthopedic Insoles

  1. Diabetics - Diabetes and poor circulation increase the risk of foot ulcers and infections. You might want to see a podiatrist if you have diabetes.
  2. High-performance athletes - Running an ultra-marathon is different than a completing a 5K. If you engage in sustained, high-level activities (particularly weight-bearing ones like running), you could benefit from an orthopedic insole.
  3. People with serious biomechanical issues and recurring injuries that aren’t addressed with over-the-counter versions - If you've tried many over-the-counter options and still suffer from plantar fasciitis, pain or other issues, prescription orthotics may be a good option. However, you'll need to first see a podiatrist or physical therapist to rule out other causes of foot pain such as tight muscles and improper footwear. 

If you don't fall into these three categories, the best over-the-counter insoles might be a better option.

The Types Of Custom Orthotics

  1. Functional orthotics - As William R. Olson, DPM, and former President of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM) writes, “The purpose of the functional orthotic is to accurately and precisely position the foot throughout the gait cycle so as to promote proper function.” These orthotics control abnormal motion. They also treat foot pain and injuries such as tendinitis and shin splints. Functional orthotics are often crafted of semi-rigid materials like plastic and graphite.
  2. Accommodative orthotics - Accommodative orthotics are designed to provide cushion and support. They are often custom-fitted for people suffering from diabetic foot ulcers or painful calluses on the bottom of their feet.

Getting Fitted for Custom Molded Insoles

Podiatrist and range of motion test for fitting orthopedic insoles

If you’ve decided you might be a good candidate for custom-molded insoles, it’s time to see a podiatrist. Here is what you can expect when getting fitted for your orthotics.

  1. A Range of Motion Test - Your podiatrist will measure the motion of all your lower-extremity joints (such as your hips, knees, and ankles) in order to identify any irregularities in joint motion like excessive flexibility or extreme limitation. Your doctor will also establish the weightbearing and non-weightbearing functional positions of these joints by testing them while you're standing and walking on them, and when you are lying down.
  2. A Muscle Examination - Your podiatrist well test the lower-extremity muscle groups like the quadriceps and calves to identify any overly weak or tight areas. This will show if your muscles are adding to your injury, symptoms, or biomechanical problems.
  3. A Non-Weightbearing Neutral Position Cast of the Foot - Your podiatrist will cast your foot to provide a model for the orthotic laboratory. As Dr. Olsen says, “The specific method of casting is critical and must be done accurately in order to achieve an accurate impression of the foot in its neutral position.” 
Because custom orthotics must be based on your foot in it's neutral position, stomp-box moldable orthotics are ineffective in treating biomechanical problems. They take an impression in a weightbearing position, thus incorporating any biomechanical issues into the build of the orthotic.

    Questions Your Podiatrist May Ask

    Your podiatrist should perform a thorough examination that includes all the elements listed above as well ask you questions about your pain and foot problems.

    A good podiatrist will ask you to explain the type, frequency, and duration of all the activities you engage in as well as your overall lifestyle. Are you on your feet all day at work, lifting heavy loads? Your podiatrist should know this. Have a long history of plantar fasciitis or stress fractures? This is important information.

    Your podiatrist should also look at the wear pattern of your shoes to understand your gait mechanics. Podiatrists look for the following patterns:

    A thorough examination is the foundation for effective, reliable custom-made orthopedic insoles.

    Well-made, custom-molded orthotics (a pair of orthotics made for a particular individual) are quite expensive ($300 and up), and there is a small group of people who will benefit from them.

    Custom-molded orthotics are designed to control pronation and increase the comfort and performance of footwear. There are many providers for custom-molded orthotics, and some are better than others. You’ll want to consider a few factors when searching for a provider.

    Finding The Right Custom Molded Orthotics Provider

    A stomp box is used to make custom molded orthotics
    1. Hands-On Evaluation – Great custom-molded orthotics cannot be made without a face-to-face visit. There are a variety of providers who will send out a "Stomp Box," a piece of impression foam in a box. You are instructed to step into the box with each foot and send the resulting impressions off to make your orthotics. Unfortunately, without an experienced provider to position your foot as it makes the impression, your dysfunctional biomechanics may be built into the design of your orthotics.
    2. Type of Provider – A certified Pedorthist (C. Ped) diagnoses foot problems and prescribes orthotics. C. Peds often have the most hands-on experience with orthotics and functional biomechanics. Podiatrists are doctors who specialize in feet. They can diagnose foot problems and prescribe orthotics as well as perform surgery to fix problems.  A chiropractor is involved with the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders. Some provide custom orthotics.
    3. Years of Experience – Getting custom orthotics right is a challenging mix of art and science. It takes years of experience to learn the subtleties of making custom orthotics that meet both the functional and the comfort needs of the client. Choosing someone with a long history of success will increase the chances that the orthotics will be right – the first time.
    4. Hands-On Fabrication – Some practitioners evaluate a client's needs, then transmit the info to a lab that creates the actual orthotics. While this system can work, having the orthotics made at the place of the diagnoses prevents errors in communication and insures that modifications can be easily made if necessary.

    If you’ve decided that custom orthotics aren’t right for you, or that it makes sense to try over-the-counter insoles first, you’ll find you have a lot of choices.

    How To Choose Over-The-Counter Insoles

    The most important thing to consider is that not all over-the-counter inserts are made alike. Their quality and effectiveness varies greatly. And understanding the difference between inserts and insoles is helpful.

    Think about arch supports, feet, and walking the way you think about eyeglasses, eyes, and seeing. Most people (especially as they get older) benefit from some kind of corrective lenses to improve vision. In the same way, most people benefit from arch supports to optimize their stride.

    Shoe Inserts

    Depending on your eyesight, you might need a specific prescription or a simple pair of generic reading glasses found at the drugstore. Generic reading glasses are similar to shoe inserts that don't have much variety in sizing and fit.

    The basic cushioned inserts you find at the drugstore may be cheap, but they lack any structure and they won't provide the needed support.

    Shoe Insoles

    If you require more than drugstore reading glasses, you will need an eye exam, after which you get a prescription for lenses. The prescription is written in a detailed scale because added precision enables better sight.

    Like with glasses, having precision sizing with insoles enables a higher level of support and better biomechanics. For many people, an eye exam and simple prescription is enough, much like aftermarket insoles with precision sizing works for most people in relation to arch support.

    There are different types of insoles:

    When you’re considering over-the-counter insoles as an alternative to custom orthotics, look for proper fitting medical-grade arch supports that provide comfort as well as support. They should control overpronation, prevent and relieve foot pain, and most importantly, support your active life.



    Questions? Drop us a line at We're here to help.

    Best Supination Insoles For Underpronation Relief

    High arches can be a pain – literally. The shape of your foot affects how much pressure is put on other joints with every step you take. If you're not doing the right things for your high arches, you can find yourself with knee and hip problems. But those are the only issues that affect people with high arches. Another thing to deal with is supination.

    THE BASICS ---



    Are High Arches The Same As Supination?

    Nope, high arches and supination are not the same thing. High arches are arches that are raised more than the median height. Supination, also known as underpronation, is when the foot doesn’t properly roll inward upon landingThough supination is not the same thing as high arches, it is a condition often caused by them. Not all people with high arches will supinate, but many are at risk. 

    As part of a normal stride, the foot will roll slightly inward after the heel hits the ground (pronation), cushioning the impact and helping you adapt to uneven surfaces. A normal foot pattern rolls inward at around 15% during your stride.

    When you supinate, your foot rolls in under 15%. Most of your body weight lands on the outer edges of each foot. Conversely, overpronation is defined as the inward rolling of the foot over 15%.

    Supination can put too much pressure on your Iliotibial (IT) band. Some people who supinate will experience knee pain or Achilles tendinitis. Underpronation is less common than overpronation, with up to 10% of people in the U.S. supinating. Those with severe supination are prone to inversion ankle sprains, heel spurs and stress fracturesAthletes with high arches should be particularly careful in order to avoid these injuries.

    Can Someone Have Very High Arches And Still Pronate?

    Yes. Though people with high arches often underpronate, that is not always the case. People with high arches can pronate and even overpronate.

    Who Underpronates and Why?

    There are three main characteristics of people who underpronate or supinate.

    1. People who underpronate are often heel strikers – their heel hits the ground first. Then, the foot rolls out, and the force of their body weight is unevenly distributed to the outer edge of the foot
    2. Underpronation is more common in, but not exclusive to people with high arches. High arches are often more rigid and less flexible. When your foot hits the ground, your arches don't sufficiently flex to accommodate dynamic movement. The force of the stride then pushes the weight towards the outside of the foot.
    3. Tight calves and Achilles tendons magnify the movement of supination. The tightness in the back of the heel and up the leg pulls your foot outwards when it lands. If tight calves and Achilles tendons are the cause of your supination, stretching is an easy solution.

    If you're experiencing these symptoms and the associated pain, there is an easy way to get relief. A quality pair of supination insoles can help. They will give you high arches the support they need to prevent supination as you take a step.

    I Have High Arches, How Can I Tell If I Supinate?

    According to Runner’s World, there's an easy, informal test you can do to see if you supinate. Simply take a well-worn pair of sneakers and place them on a flat surface. Look at the shoes from behind. Do they stand straight? Or do they lean to the outer edges? If they lean dramatically to the edges, there is a high chance that you supinate. See a doctor for confirmation.

    Injuries Associated with Supination

    Like any biomechanical irregularity, underpronation can cause specific injuries. Common injuries associated with supination include:

    Neutral Shoes and Shock Absorption

    For people with high arches, shoe shopping can be a real chore. If you underpronate, you need shoes that accommodate your gait. Because body weight is not distributed evenly across the foot, forces of impact remain concentrated on the outside of the shoe.

    When you push off, your smaller toes do most of the work. This is both inefficient and lessens your ability to properly absorb the impact of your stride. Most specialists recommend finding neutral shoes with extra cushion or shock absorption qualities.

    You should look for shoes that also:

    Best Shoes For High Arches And Supination

    There are many brands and styles that work well for people with high arches. To find the best shoes for high arches and supination, you'll want to try on several pairs before you buy. Here are some shoes you can start with:

    New Balance

    New Balance has great running and walking shoes for people with high arches. Many of their styles provide extra cushioning, which is important for shock absorption that high-arched feet typically don’t have on their own. New Balance’s cushion features their "ABZORB" technology, a proprietary blend of rubber and foam materials that is very lightweight and can endure many miles of wear.


    Birkenstock is a well-known comfort shoe brand. Their sandals provide arch support with a molded footbed. For many, their signature footbed helps redirect and balance pressure. Make sure to try out the sandals in the store. Birkenstock's firm one-size-fits-all footbed is heaven for some but too uncomfortable for others.


    Developed by the founder of Tread Labs, Chaco has been making sandals with robust arch supports for decades. Originally designed for river guides, Chaco now offers many styles for off the river too. The original Z/series of sandals has very good arch support, however some of the more recent models have less-pronounced support. Very durable, Chaco sandals will last for years. 


    Saucony also makes great running shoes for those with high arches. Like New Balance, they provide amazing comfort and cushioning. Their PWRGRID+ technology claims to provide 20% more cushion without adding bulk or weight. A selection of their shoes are designed for daily use for neutral or supinated feet.

    The Best Insoles For Supination

    Since most shoes do not sufficiently support high arches, they won't correct the underlying cause of your supination. That's where insoles for underpronation come in.

    Once you've found the pair of shoes that works best for you, adding a pair of insoles for high arches will ensure you are supporting your feet properly, which will prevent your foot from rolling out. Insoles can also help reduce underpronation, particularly if it is caused by biomechanics rather than tight calf muscles. 

    When you're selecting a pair of insoles to prevent supination, look for ones that:

    With the proper insoles for supination correction, you can prevent injury and develop a more efficient stride, which makes every step easier.

    Are High Arches Genetic?

    There are many causes of high arches. Some people are born with high arches as in inherited trait while others develop them later in life. Causes of high arches include:

    Do High Arches Change With Age?

    There are a few factors, including age, that can cause fallen arches in people who have very high arches. These include:

    A series of tendons and ligaments that attach leg muscles to the foot create the foot’s arch. When these tendons are injured or otherwise loosened, arches begin to fall.

    This change in foot shape can be painful. Feet will tire easily and put even more stress on knees and ankles. To prevent arches from falling, make sure you wear high arch support insoles and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

    The Bottom Line

    Millions of people in the U.S. have high arches. With proper foot care, the right footwear, and supportive shoe inserts, you can participate in sports and activities pain-free. Listen to your body and be aware of any discomfort or changes so that you can proactively prevent injury.



    Questions? Drop us a line at We're here to help.

    How To Treat Bursitis Foot Pain

    More common than you might think, bursitis foot pain may affect up to 42% of adults at any one time. If you have it, all you want is relief from the pain it causes, especially during walking or running. Getting relief from bursitis in your foot will have a big impact on your daily activities and quality of life, so don't wait to start treating it.

    THE BASICS ---



    What Is A Bursa?

    Your foot is equipped with its own cushioning system to help reduce the impact of walking and running on hard surfaces. Orthopedic Surgeon and Sports Medicine Specialist, Dr. Jeffrey Tedder, explains, "The bursa is a fluid-filled sac that’s located around joints to help them function. When these are inflamed or irritated, it’s called bursitis, and can decrease the amount of motion in the joint."

    If the bursa in your foot becomes inflamed from overuse or injury, you may experience pain, swelling, or bruising in your heel, arch, or metatarsal area (ball of foot). 

    What Does Foot Bursitis Feel Like?

    Common areas impacted by bursitis

    What Causes Bursitis?

    There are many factors that can contribute to the development of bursitis foot pain, however the most common cause of foot bursitis is the overuse or improper use of your foot’s muscles, bones, and tendons. Other common causes include the use of ill-fitting footwear and other biomechanical issues in your feet.

    Overuse Injuries Can Cause Bursitis In Foot

    Repetitive activities like jumping, dancing, power walking, or running can lead to foot bursitis. This can be especially true if you don’t take the time to stretch and warm-up your body—especially your feet—prior to exercise. Always spend time stretching your body and feet prior to athletic activities to ensure your muscles and tendons are warmed up, with proper blood flow and oxygen.

    If you are not accustomed to strenuous activity, take things slowly when you first begin a new exercise regimen. While you may (and should) be enthusiastic about your healthy new routine, your body needs time to adjust to the new demands. Pacing yourself in the beginning is an important step in becoming fit and avoiding injury.


    Ill-fitting footwear is another culprit when it comes to bursitis. If you regularly run, jump, dance, or spend many hours at a time on your feet, be sure your footwear has:

    Biomechanical Irregularities In The Foot

    Sometimes, bursitis foot pain can be caused by an existing foot irregularity, like Haglund’s deformity—a bone spur that can develop on the heel. The bursa can become inflamed as it tries to cushion the heel and the spur from impact.

    Other conditions that may cause or contribute to bursitis include problems with thyroid levels, infections, arthritis, or diabetes. These medical conditions can be life-threatening if left untreated, so it is important to see a physician if you have symptoms of bursitis in your foot.

    How is Bursitis of the Foot Diagnosed?

    If you're having foot pain, you'll want to see a medical provider to get properly diagnosed. Because bursitis foot pain is often confused with other foot conditions like plantar fasciitis, a heel spurAchilles tendinopathy, Sever’s Disease, a trapped nerve, Haglunds’ deformity, or a stone bruise, your doctor will need to do a thorough exam.

    According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, you can expect your doctor to ask questions about what type of exercise you do, what type of sports you participate in, and whether your job involves standing and/or repetitive motion.

    To rule out an underlying illness, injury, deformity, or bone fracture, your doctor may order an X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, or blood work. If they suspect an infection, they may remove some fluid from the bursa to test it for gout. Depending on the condition your doctor finds, they may refer you to a rheumatologist, orthopedist, or podiatrist.

    How Do You Treat Foot Bursitis?

    The good news about foot bursitis is that it can be easily managed with proper and prompt attention. A few common bursitis foot treatment options include rest, ice, elevation, stretching, a change in shoes, and adding insoles to your footwear.

    If you're an athlete suffering from bursitis in your foot, you're not alone. Foot bursitis is especially common among runners. Start by cutting back on your training until the pain goes away. You'll also want to incorporate stretching and strengthening exercises into your routine, with particular focus on your Achilles tendon. 

    Can Insoles Help Foot Bursitis?

    Because footwear manufacturers design their shoes to fit the widest range of people, the vast majority of shoes have minimal arch support. Footwear makers do this because they expect that people who need additional arch support will add an insole. Insoles with firm arch support can help relieve bursitis foot pain.

    You'll get the most out of your footwear by replacing the factory inserts that come in your shoes with firm, supportive insoles. To get the most out of the arch support insoles you're adding to your shoes, look for ones that:

    Podiatrists recommend firm support to improve alignment, control pronation, and deliver long-term comfort. Insoles are a small investment in good lifelong foot health. Add them to your footwear and reap the benefits.



    Questions? Drop us a line at We're here to help.

    Fitting Guide

    Order insoles in the same size as the shoes they will go in.

    Choose between low, medium, high and extra high arch heights by comparing your wet footprint to the chart below.

    What Does Your Wet Footprint Look Like? Describe Your Arch Your Best Tread Labs Insole Height
    Flat Foot Footprint My arch is flat when I stand or sit. Low 
    Flat Foot Footprint My arch is flat when I stand but appears when I sit. Medium
    Medium Arch Footprint My arch is close to but doesn't touch the ground. Medium
    High Arch Footprint My arch is high off the ground when I stand. High 
    High Arch Footprint No one has higher arches than me! Extra high 

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