feet

Foot orthotics may be for you

Have you ever wondered if custom foot orthotics would benefit you?  Have you had orthotics in the past and didn’t notice any change in your symptoms?  Do you have orthotics now and love them?  This article will educate the reader on orthotics and will hopefully shed some light on whether you are a candidate or not.

The foot is a complex structure which provides two main purposes for the human during walking and running.  In walking and running, it acts both as a lever and a shock absorber.  When the foot is coming into contact with the ground, and while it is on the ground, the foot absorbs the weight of the body, distributing the force more gradually and evenly.  As the foot begins to leave the ground, it tightens up and acts as a lever, helping to propel the body forward.  The foot has several arches, not just the main arch we typically think of along the inner aspect of the foot.  These arches work together to provide the shock absorption and lever roles of the foot.  Strong ligaments and connective tissue as well as muscles provide support, restraint and mobility to the foot.  All of these structures have the potential to be abnormal due to various causes, ie, repetitive stress, injury, malformation.

Traditionally, the general public refers to foot orthotics as “orthotics.”  Technically, this is incorrect.  The term “orthotics” refers to the field of study of “orthoses” and when one refers to the actual device, the appropriate terminology would be an “orthosis.”  When one has two or more “orthoses” they may be referred to as “orthotics.”  Clear as mud, right?!  To avoid confusion, this article will use the traditional term orthotics when referring to foot orthoses.  Orthotics are a type of medical device which provide support to a joint or limb of the human body.  There are orthotics for essentially any joint in the body including the knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows and feet.

To determine if you are a candidate for orthotics consider these questions:

  • Do you have a foot abnormality? For example, bunions, hammer toe, diabetic neuropathy, etc.
  • Do you have a lower extremity abnormality? For example, knock knee’s, bow legs, pigeon toes, high or low arches.
  • Do you have a history of foot pain from plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, or the big toe?
  • Does your arch change shape from non-weight bearing to weight bearing? For example, if you sit on a chair and hold your foot up and you have a nice arch but when you stand up it completely flattens out.

Foot orthotics are designed to align your foot in what is termed “sub-talar neutral” which puts your foot in the ideal posture to bear weight and to act as a lever.  There can be many adjustments made to an orthotic to customize them to your specific needs- such as extending the semi rigid material toward an arthritic big toe, channeling out the orthotic for a tight plantar fascia or deepening the heel to provide greater stability to the foot during weight bearing.

The physical therapists at Aspire Physical Therapy can meet with you to determine whether you are a candidate for foot orthotics.  Additionally, they can take the necessary measurements and make a cast of your foot as a mold and have custom foot orthotics made for you.