Why gel inserts for soccer shoes?

Written by chris wolski
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Why gel inserts for soccer shoes?
Quality shoe inserts are recommended for athletes such as soccer players. (soccer shoe image by Daniel Gillies from Fotolia.com)

While there may be fewer traumatic injuries in soccer than other sports such as football and rugby, soccer is physically demanding. Common lower body injuries and inflictions are often connected to the foot. The stop-and-go sprinting and hard-cutting actions of competitive players place a great deal of stress on their feet. Playing on artificial surfaces and training off the field can increase this stress because the body is forced to absorb the full impact of the ground. Today, many podiatrists and professionals in the athletic health industry encourage the use of quality shoe inserts. They help reduce unhealthy stress to lower body muscles and ligaments, and lower the potential for injury.

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Heel Pain

In soccer, the heel is pounded into the ground with regularity. This can result in fatigue and cumulative trauma to the joints of the feet, legs and back. Gel inserts can reduce the traumatic impact to the heel, and may lower the chances of players developing sporadic or chronic heel pain. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammatory condition causing heel pain for some, and it is common among athletes who pronate excessively, such as soccer players. To prevent and to combat this infliction, podiatrists recommend viscoelastic orthotic shoe inserts, such as gel inserts, to reduce over-pronating and to help relieve pain. Gel inserts also have the advantage of distributing pressure throughout the bottom of the foot, so that stress is not targeted in one place.

Blisters and Calluses

In soccer, blisters and calluses form when the foot is given too much mobility within the cleat. The firm and rugged exterior of an outdoor cleat can sometimes translate into a rugged interior. When toes and heels rub against the shoe at high speeds, blisters and calluses can develop. Gel inserts can reduce the amount of movement in the shoe, while the properties of the gel stop the insert from making the fit overly tight. For soccer players who have developed these problems already, the comfort of gel inserts may provide partial pain relief.

Stress Fractures

According to Dr. Richard T. Braver, podiatric physician for the Fairleigh Dickinson University and Montclair State University soccer teams, the sprinting and sharp-cutting actions involved in soccer place a lot of stress on the metatarsal bones of the foot. A "Jones fracture" is common among soccer players, and the use of a metatarsal pad or cut-out is recommended. Gel inserts can help reduce instances of stress fractures. They conform to parts of your foot and work to hold your feet and toes in their natural position.

Shin Splints

Starting and especially stopping at high speeds, frequent activities among soccer players, increase the chance of an athlete developing shin splints. While shin splints in athletes are typically caused by many factors that include an athlete's flexibility and fitness level, shin strain caused by rapid acceleration and deceleration can be relieved by the use of shock absorbing insoles, according to Sports Injury Clinic. This will help reduce instances of shin splints. Dr. Braver agrees, saying that "adding a shock absorbing insert to a soccer shoe" can reduce shin pains related to shock forces, especially during training off natural field surfaces, which are harder. That said, neither authority specifically recommends "gel" insoles.

Considerations

Gel inserts are just one of many types of orthotic inserts that may be recommended for athletes by podiatrists and athletic health professionals. Inserts are not the only consideration when trying to improve foot support for soccer. Soccer shoes should conform to your running alignment, foot arches, height and weight, and level of fitness. Experts say they should feel comfortable immediately, and "you should not have to break in athletic shoes," according the Estrella Mountain Wellness Workbook. It is also recommended that you change your soccer shoes after every 300 to 500 miles of play.

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