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Magnetic Insoles May Not Ease Foot Pain

Insole Cushioning -- Not Magnets -- May Help, Study Shows
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WebMD Health News

Sept. 29, 2005 -- Magnetic insoles may not be better at easing chronic foot pain than insoles without magnets, a new study shows.

Cushioning from insoles -- with or without magnets -- may have helped somewhat, write Mark Winemiller, MD, and colleagues in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Winemiller works at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He and his team studied about 80 adults with chronic, nonspecific foot pain.

Though magnetic insoles didn't show an advantage in this study, the researchers don't downplay foot pain.

"Findings confirmed that nonspecific foot pain significantly interferes with some employees' ability to enjoy their jobs and that treatment of that pain improves job satisfaction," they write.

Similar Results With Real, Fake Magnetic Insoles

Patients who took part in the study were asked to wear magnetic or fake-magnetic cushioned insoles for at least four hours daily, four days per week, for eight weeks. They didn't know if their insoles contained real magnets or not. None of the participants were people with inflammation of the tendons of the arc of the foot or a foot pain from nerve damage.

Patients rated their foot pain at the study's start, midpoint, and end. No significant foot pain differences were seen between the two groups.

For instance, four weeks into the study, about a third of both groups reported being "all better" or "mostly better" in terms of their foot pain. The figures were similar at the end of the eight-week study.

Hampering Job Enjoyment

Patients were asked to rate how much their foot pain interfered with their enjoyment of their jobs. Foot pain had a "notably negative effect," write the researchers.

Patients who wore real magnetic insoles showed a bit more improvement in job enjoyment, but the difference wasn't significant, write the researchers.

Nine out of 10 people wore their insoles as instructed four weeks into the study. By the study's end, that number had dipped to eight out 10 participants.

No Side Effects Noted

No side effects were reported from either type of insole.

However, 26% of those wearing the fake-magnetic insoles and 11% of those wearing real magnetic insoles reported problems with the insoles.

Almost all of those problems were tightness within the shoe or cosmetic breakdown of a colored lining on the insole surface, write the researchers.

Beliefs May Have Mattered

Patients' beliefs about magnets may have made a difference.

Only about nine patients had reported a strong belief that magnets might help them. About half of them reported that their foot pain became "all better" or "mostly better" after wearing the insoles, compared to about a fourth of those who didn't believe in the potential of magnets.

With so few people expressing a strong belief in magnets' potential, the difference wasn't significant, write the researchers.

People who volunteer for a magnet study may be particularly likely to believe that magnets could help. That could influence the results, note Winemiller and colleagues.

The study was funded by an unrestricted grant from Spenco Medical Corp. Spenco insoles were used by both groups. A Spenco spokesperson was not available to comment on the study.

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