An orthotic, a corrective device worn inside a shoe, can help the muscles, tendons and bones of your feet and lower legs function at their highest potential. When appropriately prescribed to treat a medical condition, and custom-made, orthotics can decrease pain, not only in your feet, but in other parts of the body, such as your knees, hips and lower back. They also serve to increase mobility.
Common Reasons to Use Orthotics
Some of the most common reasons for which people use orthotics (also known as arch supports), include treating lower leg tendinitis, knee pain, arch pain, and heel pain. However, there are many other ailments that can be alleviated by using them. Podiatrists will prescribe them for heel spurs, callouses, diabetic ulcerations, and even back pain. If you suffer from any of these conditions, your doctor may determine that orthotics will help you move pressure from specific areas of your foot to ease the pain. If you are on your feet for long periods of time because of your job requirements, orthotics can ensure that you are able to make it through the day without suffering.
Orthotics and Sports
Some athletes also use orthotics when they are involved in sports, to help perform at higher levels. Depending on the sport, there are sport orthotics that can be created to ease the workload on an athlete. Some of the most popular sports for which athletes use them include tennis, basketball, running, and golf. Sport orthotics are designed to endure more activity, and the fabric is more resilient to wear and tear.
How do I know if I need Orthotics?
Just about anyone who feels they need some type of additional support for walking or running is a good candidate for orthotics. It has been estimated that two thirds of the population, old and young alike, have arches that are either too high or too low. Orthotics are especially good for people who want to relieve or prevent familiar foot problems that are known to cause pain, swelling, and discomfort. Even those without pain can often benefit.
Next time you get out of the shower, step onto a dry towel with your damp feet. Have a look at the prints. If it has a gentle curve from the ball to the heel, that’s good. But if the curve is shallow or non-existent, then you have low or flat arches. If the curve is deep or the ball doesn’t join up to the heel, then you have high arches.
Now look at your feet and ankles in the mirror. Do your ankles roll inward? Do your knees cave in? Do you develop callouses easily? Do you have recurrent corns? Perhaps you have arch or heel pain, bunions, sore ankles/shins or knees? Does your shoe wear down quickly? Does your shoe wear down in a particular area more than the other?
Other Issues that Require the Use of Orthotics
These occur when repetitive strains placed on the body cause the tissues to become inflamed, torn or fractured. When walking or running, the repetitive movement of the limbs can overload the tissues. This can be exacerbated by unusual bone structures like flat or high arch feet, pigeon toes, bunions, claw toes, and knock knees.
The amount of overload needed to cause pain and the location of the pain (foot, leg, back), varies from person to person. Generally speaking, if your aches and pains are not a result of a sudden injury, sickness or illness then they are most likely caused by biomechanical factors, and orthotics are a good treatment option.
Here is a look at common symptoms that indicate a need for orthotics due to misalignment of the feet:
- – Bunions
- – Abnormal shoe wear (for example, if one side of your shoe wears down quicker than the other)
- – Chronic heel, knee, or lower back pain
- – Flat feet
- – Shin splints
- – Frequent ankle sprains
- – Gait abnormalities (when your feet point inward or outward when walking).
If you feel discomfort when you walk, you should seek help from a podiatrist or an orthopaedic surgeon. They may be able to help you decide which orthotic device would be best for you. Remember, the longer you leave a problem untreated, the more likely the condition will worsen.
Can I use Off-the-shelf Orthotics?
For some people, off-the-shelf, store bought foot orthotics are fine. However, if you have real issues, you should seek the help of a highly trained professional, an orthotist, podiatrist, or physiotherapist. Proper orthotics can eliminate problems experienced, and correct the underlying cause in many cases. The result? Happy feet and a happier you!
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!