Tools, Toys, Crutches, And How To Tell The Difference When It Comes To Shoe Orthotics


Definition ‘crutch’ from

  1. A staff or support to assist a lame or infirm person in walking, now usually with a crosspiece at one end to fit under the armpit.
  2. Any of various devices resembling this in shape or use.
  3. Anything that serves as a temporary and often inappropriate support, supplement, or substitute; prop: “He uses liquor as a psychological crutch.”
  4. A forked support or part.
  5. The crotch of the human body.

Definition of ‘orthotics’ from Stedman’s Medical Dictionary.

The provision and use of artificial or mechanical aids, such as braces, to prevent or assist movement of injured joints or muscles.

Hi folks,

Chez Ollie

BSA 650 Gold Flash motorcycle, just like the one owned by FitOldDog in the early 1960s.

In my teens and early 20s I had several motorcycles, and the one I like the best was my BSA Gold Flash. This, by the way, was not the bike that I admired the most, which was the one with the little Villier’s two-stroke engine that I talked about previously. I liked my BSA Gold Flash because it was ‘cool.’ However, unlike the human body, a motor cycle cannot repair itself or adapt to damage or other stresses without the intervention of some external force, which is generally wielded by a human. I experienced a serious crash on this bike, which broke my right ankle and almost completely destroyed my lovely machine. That wonderful tool, my motorbike, which had taken me all over England, went off to be sold for parts, and I ended up on crutches for several months.

running shoes, orthotics, arch support, FitOldDog's advice

Here are the shoes that FitOldDog is currently using: tools, toys, or crutches?

Now, was that motorcycle just a tool, or was it a toy or a crutch? I contend that it was all three depending on the context of its use. When I was tooling around in the countryside, just enjoying the fresh air and the speed of my bike, it was clearly a toy. When I needed to go from Bristol to Yorkshire for my veterinary studies it was a cheap and convenient alternative to the rail and bus system, making it a tool. When dealing with my self-esteem problems and thus needing to impress my peers with the power of my bike, it was a crutch. This brings me to the interesting subject of orthotics, and I’ve tried a few, most of which stemmed from guarding my ankle for the 40 years following my motorbike accident. The success that I had with this issue due to the application of The Feldenkrais Method is discussed elsewhere. My accident terminated my pursuit of competition diving, whilst the ankle guarding went unnoticed until it reared it’s ugly head in the late 1990s as I learned to run during the early days of my triathlon training. I visited a number of doctors and physical therapists for running-induced knee pain, and was fitted with a several types of  shoe-insert orthotics to address ‘leg-length discrepancy’ and ‘weak arches.’ I continued running but I had to use my orthotics or the knee pain returned.

deer, yard, writting, FitOldDog's advice,

A family of deer who wandered into our yard while I was writing this blog post and I couldn't resist putting it in here.

I then tried bare-foot running, which is really excellent except on roads with sharp debris, and it should be included in any running program in my opinion. Based on this experience, and information gleaned from that excellent book, ‘Born to Run,’ It became clear to me that the only critical component of a running shoe is the hard sole that protects your feet from sharp objects. It would appear that the running shoe and physical therapy industry, with probably all of the best intentions, have converted a great tool, the shoe, into an orthotic that has rapidly evolved into a crutch. My recent Continuum/Feldenkrais/Therapy/Rolfing and extremely painful (Rebecca is right, I’m an Ironman baby) session clearly revealed severe problems with my understanding and use of my arches. This is not surprising given the extensive support provided by my running shoes, in which I also have arch supports (Superfeet). The trick will be to safely move away from these foot tools/crutches to the development of healthy happy orthotic-free feet, but it will take time.

FitOldDog’s advice when it comes to shoe orthotics is that you determine whether you really need such equipment or are they a tool that became a crutch? Work with a skilled mentor to improve foot (which means whole body) mechanics. Use your running shoes until they fall apart and the arch support has completely collapsed (my shoe approach to the 10% rule), keep the laces on the loose side, incorporate barefoot running into your training, and eventually you will develop your very own neuromuscular orthotics. All of this must be carried out slowly and wisely, with due attention to your particular situation.

I suspect that any tool we turn into a crutch, including training equipment, alcohol, relationships, or even reading books, have the potential to turn us into a cripple of one kind or another.

Once again, awareness is the key to health and happiness.

-k @FitOldDog



  1. Its really tremendous news. I think its a great job by them. Thank you for sharing with us. I think it would be helpful for all.
    orthotic devices

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.