Benefits of Orthotics

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What are orthotics?

Orthotics are post-purchase implements we use in shoes that correct the way our feet work. There are two options you will be faced with when looking for orthotics:

1. A pre-molded, prefabricated (usually just an insole) option that is available at all drugstores and footwear retailers and is most often a one-size-fits-most solution. The primary function of regular insoles is to provide cushioning and comfort but they cannot address any biomechanical issues you have in walking and standing.

2. A custom-measured and fitted solution that is unique to your feet and solves a very specific set of issues. Orthotics are a functional, corrective device that lifts, cushions, cups and corrects specific biomechanical issues that can be made from leather, cork, plastic or 3D printed.

 

 

Why do we need them?

The function of orthotics is not limited to just raising and supporting arches, it realigns the feet and ankles and attempts to restore the full function of the feet. It also redistributes your weight more evenly over the breadth of your foot and can relieve the pressure on sensitive spots on your feet. Shock absorption is not a primary factor when looking for orthotics although some do offer a degree of shock absorption- the reasoning behind this lies in that a properly functioning foot doesn’t need external shock absorption.

Biomechanical dysfunctions can lead to a myriad of issues that range from heel pain all the way through to hip and upper spinal complaints. Often, one does not consider that the cause of lower back pain could actually be traced to overpronation- a rolling inward of the foot with excessively splayed toes. Approximately 70% of the American population suffer from overpronation. The reason that this is such a common condition is that we walk daily over hard, flat surfaces as opposed to rugged and varied terrain as we did millions of years before.

 

Choosing between Custom Orthotics and Off-the-Shelf Orthotics

 

Are custom orthotics worth the money? If you have very severe biomechanical issues, then going the custom route is a no-brainer. From a comfort perspective, long-term users of custom orthoses swear by the positive changes they’ve made despite the steep cost of them. The option of getting custom orthotics should be dictated to you by what your body tells you- acknowledge any lower body pains you have and investigate them further.

Why would you choose an off-the-shelf option? >If you’re simply looking for some added comfort, a little bit of a heel lift to allow your shoe to fit better or some additional shock absorption, going this route may well be a better, more economical option than investing in a custom orthotic that you don’t really need. If you fit into any of the categories mentioned further down this article, you should first consult with a medical professional and then consider not using a store-bought option.

choose an off-the-shelf option

What is overpronation?

Pronation is a natural part of walking and running that allows your body to absorb the shock of contact with the ground. As your foot hits the ground, it supinates outward (locks slightly) to absorb shock and allow your foot to regroup itself to propel forward for the next step by pronating toward the inside.

Sometimes, your foot rolls too far inward and this is an overpronation. Through a series of chain reactions, overpronation causes many types of pain in your lower body because the foot is unable to adequately absorb the shock of impact, that is then passed on to your legs, knees, hips and even your spine. Overpronating also forces your toes to do all the work of pushing off for your next step, leading to plantar fasciitis, bunions and calluses.

There are some factors that contribute to overpronation:

  • Tendinitis: inflammation of the tendons of the feet

  • Arthritis

  • Being overweight/ obese

  • Lifestyle changes

  • Aging

  • Genetics

 

Your foot rolls too far inward and this is an overpronation

Who should wear orthotics?

Whilst overpronation is a common complaint, leaving it unchecked will, over time lead to:

  • Degeneration of the connective tissues surrounding the ankles, knees and hips due to excessive wear and tear.

  • Plantar Fasciitis

  • Arthritis

  • Repetitive injuries

The process of getting measured for orthotics is quite an involved one and will involve several visits to the podiatrist/ pedorthist.

 

 

wearing orthotics

Your first visit will include a full biomechanical evaluation of your body. The way you walk, the way you run and the way that you stand will be examined. The data from this examination will determine what your issue is and what the best orthotic is for your condition.

Depending on the modernity of the practice you visit, a casting will be taken of your foot or a 3D scan will be made of your foot.

Your orthotics will then be made and your final visit to the practice will involve a fitting of the orthotics. All orthotics require a ‘break-in’ time. If after this time, they still feel uncomfortable, you will need to visit the podiatrist again.

 

 

If you have any of the following conditions, see a podiatrist or a reputable customized insole printing company like Wiivv.com.

 

 

Runners Achilles Tendinitis

  • Achilles Tendinitis: Inflammation of the tendon that attaches the calf muscle to the back of the heel bone.

    • It feels like: Stiffness and pain along the back of the ankle toward the heel. The area usually feels hot to the touch and in severe cases, ankle mobility is limited.

 

 

 

enlargement of the bone or swelling of the tissues around the joint

  • Bunions/ Hallux Valgus: An enlargement of the bone or swelling of the tissues around the joint at the base of the big toe. It causes the big toe to slant toward the second toe.

    • It feels like:> a firm outgrowth of bone on the inside part of the foot above the ball of the foot accompanied with pain and redness around the area and an inability to freely flex the big toe and the second toe.

 

 

inflammation of the plantar tissue

  • Runners Knee/ Chondromalacia: This is an inflammation of the plantar tissue that runs from the base of your heel to the toes. It occurs when the plantar is stretched excessively for a prolonged period of time and fatigues the muscles and connective tissues surrounding it causing pain and heel spurs.

    • It feels like: pain and swelling on the knee and the sides of the kneecap and in more extreme cases, you’ll hear the grinding as you flex your knee.

 

 

 

Plantar Fasciitis Pain

  • Plantar Fasciitis: This is an irritation of the cartilage under the kneecap- the cartilage becomes rough and eroded because the kneecap ceases to move smoothly when flexing.

    • It feels like: pain at the base of your heel where it meets the arch- it is usually worse in the mornings when your plantar has not yet been stretched out. It eases out a bit during the day but never really disappears.

 

 

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome: When the posterior tibial nerve that runs along the inside of the ankle becomes inflamed due to being overpressured.

    • It feels like: burning, tingling sensations accompanied with pain on the inside of the arch together with numbness in the sole of the foot.

 

 

Amongst the plethora of orthotics available today, here are a few of the most common types:

  • Heel Lifts: Usually used for Achilles Tendinitis and irregular leg lengths

  • Lateral wedges: Used to ‘train’ a foot that that excessively supinates

  • Metatarsal pads: Used to treat Morton’s Neuroma and metatarsalgia

  • Arch Fillers: Used to treat Plantar Fasciitis and runner's’ knee

 

 

Wearing in your Orthotics:

As with all things that change the way we move and use our muscles, getting used to wearing corrective orthotics takes time and getting used to. Orthotics change the way we use our muscles and sometimes activates muscles we haven’t used in while, so leg fatigue and muscle tiredness is normal and with time, your body will adjust to it.

 

 

Follow our suggestions to get the most out of your custom orthotics:

  • Make sure you're wearing orthotics that are the right fit.
  • Always make sure that you have the right orthotic in the right shoe and the left in the left.

  • When using a heel lift or a full bed insole, make sure to place it as far back into the heel as the shoe allows.

  • Always use orthotics in shoes that have a removable insert for an optimum fit.

  • Never wash them with hot water and never leave them inside your wet shoes

  • Use talcum powder if they squeak when you walk, traditional orthotics are made with cork and this causes the squeak

  • Always take your orthotics with you when you buy new shoes and make sure they fit in store - they will not mold to fit a new shoe. 

  • If they are still uncomfortable, cause pain or blisters after the break-in period, revisit the podiatrist

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