You have foot pain and you keep hearing about custom foot orthotics? “Will they help me?” you wonder. When you start talking to your friends and coworkers, you find out how many people are successfully wearing foot orthotics in their shoes. Then some people express their negative experience and tell you that orthotics are a waste of money.
Who is right? The truth is that, when done properly, custom foot orthotics play a vital role in medicine today. They add a new dimension in the treatment and prevention of overuse injuries of the lower extremities, hips and back. Despite this, there is still confusion as to what orthotics are, what they can and cannot do, along with who really needs them.
Let’s start first with what custom foot orthotics are and how they work.
Orthotics are corrective devices worn inside the shoe that can help the muscles, tendons, and bones of your feet and lower legs function at their optimal level. They are always manufactured from a 3-D image of your feet, using various raw materials. Anything else will not work.
Custom foot orthotics change how your heels strike the ground and help support and realign your feet as you walk. They are prescribed to:
- Reduce or eliminate aches and pains in your feet, hips and back
- Provide support
- Reduce fatigue
- Prevent or slow the progression of a foot deformity
- Improve the overall structure and function of your feet and lower legs
- Increase stability to reduce the chance of injury
- Enhance performance by promoting efficient muscle function while participating in your favourite activities
As you can see, custom orthotics are NOT simply arch supports. They are so much more! Like prescription eyeglasses help to control the mechanical instability of your eyes, orthotics are prescription devices that account for a mechanical instability in your feet.
Why are Custom Orthotics Better
Than Off- the-Shelf Arch Supports
Off-the shelf arch supports may be effective for treating minor foot pain but they do not correct the function of your feet. If all you need is additional cushioning or slight support, arch supports may do the trick.
If you are suffering with chronic foot pain that just won’t go away, you probably have a significant biomechanical problem and will likely require custom made foot orthotics to relieve your pain long term. This is especially true if you are standing for long periods during the day, a runner or are very active in other sports.
Custom orthotics are like custom eye glasses for your feet. Sure you can get some relief from “cheater-readers type” glasses that you can purchase at your local pharmacy, but the glasses made specifically for you by an optometrist or ophthalmologist are much better in correcting your vision. Custom foot orthotics are exactly the same.
Custom orthotics have been the mainstay of treatment for many foot and ankle conditions for over 50 years. There is good evidence that foot orthotics work for foot and ankle problems caused by faulty biomechanics including plantar fasciitis (heel pain/spur), bunions, metatarsalgia (pain in the ball of your foot), Hallux limitus (stiff big toe) adult-acquired flat foot (posterior tibial tendon dysfunction), rheumatoid arthritis, tarsal tunnel syndrome and lateral ankle instability.