The Benefits of Orthotics
Orthotics, also called arch supports or inserts, are used to aid people with foot pain. Orthotics can be a very powerful way to change the way that we walk, correct deformities, and keep joints in alignment. The general concept behind an orthotic is that it can be used to give our feet extra support beyond the ligaments and tendons that are already doing that job. For instance, for those with painful flat feet an arch support can help take the strain off the tendons and ligaments that hold up the arch.
Over the counter orthotics are available in a wide range of prices and materials. These can be helpful, but it is important to use the correct ones. They generally are one-size fits all or go by shoe sizes.
Custom orthotics are designed off of your own arch, so that you know they're the right fit. This is done with impressions, plaster casts or scanners.
There are generally two types of custom orthotics – accommodative or functional. Accommodative orthotics are generally softer and are used to offload deformities, cushion the foot, or to provide comfort for diabetic patients. These types of orthotics can be made of cork and leather or very soft foam materials.
The other type of orthotic is functional. These orthotics are used to control motion. Generally, a functional orthotic is made of a rigid or semi-rigid plastic or polymer shell with a softer top cover material. Functional orthotics are used commonly for heel pain, bunions, arch pain, tired achy feet, and many other issues.
Finally, orthotics can be modified to take care of specific issues. Posts, extensions, pads, cutouts and flanges can be used to help control motion or better offload certain areas of the foot. For instance, we may use a metatarsal raise to take pressure off of the forefoot. This is why it is important to be evaluated by a podiatrist who knows the proper modifications to make.
Orthotics can also require adjustments and a break-in period, which is an important part of the process in order to make sure they are the right fit. Ultimately, with so many choices, it is important to have your feet and ankles properly evaluated so that the right orthotics for you are chosen.