Can Magnetic Insoles Provide Pain Relief?

Magnetic Insoles

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Magnetic insoles claim promising reflexology and acupressure benefits. The footwear products are easy to find online or in specialty foot comfort stores and range in price from $5 to $75 (or more) per pair.

Before you buy, you might want to know if magnetic shoe inserts actually do anything to relieve tired feet and foot pain—or if it's just another example of the placebo effect.

A Brief History of Medical Magnets

The use of magnets in medicine and wellness dates back the 15th century to physician and alchemist Paracelsus (1493–1543) who supposedly used magnets to draw disease away from the body.

By the late 1800s, medical magnets were big business. Figures like Dr. C.J. Thatcher (dubbed by the medical establishment as the "King of the Magnetic Quacks") operated successful mail-order enterprises aimed at people seeking cures.

Medical magnets fell out of favor in the early 20th century. However, they made a comeback in the late 1990s when several Japanese firms started promoting ferrite and rare-earth magnets as therapeutic tools for deep muscle relief.

Magnetic insoles became popular, especially after being endorsed by golf pros. For several years the products were produced by well-known companies like Florsheim, Dr. Scholls, and Nikken.

How Medical Magnets Are Meant to Work

The purported action of medical magnets starts by facing the north and south poles of bipolar magnets directly at the injured body part. Then, the circular, triangular, or checkerboard field created by the magnets relaxes capillaries and increases blood flow (supposedly by directing the movement of iron molecules in hemoglobin).

For example, if someone has inflammation in a specific part of their body (which involves the swelling of capillaries) the effect of the magnets is said to be beneficial at providing localized pain relief.

Others have claimed that magnets can alter nerve impulses, reduce acidity in body fluids, and increase the oxygenation of tissues.

Clinical Research on Magnetic Shoe Inserts

A number of double-blind studies were conducted in the early 2000s involving an actual magnetic insole and a placebo (an inactive dummy).

In the majority of the studies, both groups reported improvement in their condition (such as plantar fasciitis or nonspecific foot pain). These findings indicate that the magnets were no more or less effective for treating pain than a disk of plain metal.

These results were not surprising given that the placebo effect (in which a person's belief in a curative treatment or product can alter that perception of illness) can be very powerful.

Most of the available research suggests that magnetic shoe inserts are no more effective than placebo treatments.

The placebo effect is frequently seen in medical research, with anywhere from 10% to 60% of patients report improvement (often with nothing more than a sugar pill). These findings are especially true when it comes to the relief of pain or fatigue.

A 2003 study (which was touted by the Nikken company) reported some positive effects of magnetic field therapy for people with symptomatic diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

FTC Takes Action Against Medical Magnet Claims

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken action against several companies promoting the medical benefits of magnets.

The FTC forced Magnetic Therapeutic Technologies, Inc. to stop marketing their magnetic products (including knee supports and sleep pads) as a means of treating cancer, high blood pressure, HIV, diabetic neuropathy, and multiple sclerosis.

What to Do If You Have Foot Pain

Magnetic insoles have not been proven to be any more effective than regular insoles for relieving foot pain or fatigue.

Rather than spending extra money on magnetic products, shop for insoles that will provide your feet with ample support. Look for products that are made with foam or gel cushions.

If in-shoe support is not enough, you might need a custom orthotic. These products must be prescribed by a doctor or podiatrist and be fitted by an orthotic expert. Your medical insurance may cover the cost.

Well-fitted shoes can make a huge difference in how your feet feel. If you suffer from chronic foot pain, find the best athletic shoe store in your area. The employees there can help you find the shoes that are most appropriate for your foot type.

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Article Sources
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