I’ve written a previous post about Orthotics for fashionable footwear, but today I thought I’d explain with a little more detail how orthotics are made and how they can help relieve chronic pain.
What are orthotics?
Orthotics are special inserts that you wear in your shoes to control or correct abnormal foot function and/or to accommodate painful or sensitive areas of your foot.
A chiropodist/podiatrist can assess your feet and design customized orthotics to fit properly and provide any corrective measures, cushioning, or support that your feet need. Orthotics work by slightly altering the way your feet strike the floor when walking or running, to correct any irregularities in your footsteps.
Orthotics not only help with pain in your feet, they can also help with other bio-mechanical issues such as pain in your ankles, knees, hips, pelvis and spine. They can even help with headaches caused by misalignment of your foot.
How are orthotics made?
Orthotics are usually made from rigid materials such as plastic. Your orthotics are made to fit a plaster impression of your feet, and then modified based on your chiropodist/podiatrist’s evaluation of your specific problems. They are usually very comfortable, and don’t feel hard once fitted into your shoe.
Rigid orthotics normally last for years. Some additions such as top covers or extensions might need to be replaced occasionally.
Some patients, particularly the elderly, may not be able to tolerate rigid orthotics. In this case, the chiropodist/podiatrist will prescribe orthotics made with softer materials such as rubber, cork, leather, and softer plastics.
As outlined in the college of chiropodist’s guidelines, an orthotic impression/cast should only be taken while you are off your feet. In other words, your feet shouldn’t be bearing any weight while the impression is taken, and shouldn’t be pressing against anything hard enough to change it’s shape.
An alternative to non-weight-bearing plaster of paris casts and non-weight-bearing STS slipper casts is a three dimensional, non-weight-bearing scan of your feet.
Before orthotics are prescribed, a chiropodist/podiatrist should complete a thorough bio-mechanical exam which includes taking measurements of your feet, and a stance and gait analysis.
Things to watch out for when considering orthotics
Don’t confuse over the counter arch supports with orthotics. While these “one design fits all” inserts might help the occasional patient with minor arch discomfort, they fail to address most problems that cause chronic pain. This is because they do not control the movement of your foot, and they usually don’t properly fit your feet. They also aren’t customized to correct your specific alignment issues or to cushion or support your feet exactly where you need them to.
You should also be wary of getting orthotics from anyone without the proper training and certification. Only a chiropodist/podiatrist or medical doctor can properly diagnose what your specific needs are, prescribe and design appropriate orthotics if need be, and assess other potential treatment options.
Will orthotics fit in all my shoes?
No, orthotics won’t fit into every kind of shoe, especially those with a shallow heel counter (the back of the shoe that wraps around the heel). It’s usually dress shoes that are the most difficult to fit your orthotics into. Women tend to have more trouble fitting their orthotics into dressier shoes than men do, due to shoe fashion. You can find dressy shoes that will fit nicely with your orthotics, but your options are more limited. There are some special dress shoe orthotics that fit more easily into fashionable shoes. Speak with your chiropodist/podiatrist to see if these are suitable for you.
If you are having chronic pain in your feet or in the joints along your legs, hips, and back, maybe orthotics can help. Come visit us at Step by Step Professional Family Foot Care to have your feet assessed and to discuss possible treatments.