Orthotics are devices made of leather, rubber, metal, plastic, or another synthetic materials that are inserted into footwear. They are used to balance the foot in the proper position as well as cushion it, which improves overall foot function. There are numerous types of orthotics that treat a variety of foot problems. They can help control pain if you have a specific foot issue, like a deformity or pronation. These medical devices have also been shown to successfully treat flat feet, plantar fasciitis, neuromas, hammertoes, and Achilles tendonitis.
What’s the difference between over-the-counter orthotics and prescription orthotics?
Over-the-counter orthotics are not truly “custom orthotics”, even though some are labeled that way. To clarify the difference, think of prescription sunglasses and a pair of off-the-shelf sunglasses. The sunglasses from the drug store will help block out the sun, however, they are not customized to improve your eyesight. Just like sunglasses, over-the-counter orthotics may help simple foot function or mild symptoms, however, they may not completely correct the problem.
What are the different types of foot orthotics?
There are three main types of foot orthotics:
- Rigid orthotics – These are used to control foot function, specifically while walking or wearing dress shoes. They’re usually made from a firm material, like carbon fiber or plastic. Rigid orthotics are made from a mold after a podiatrist takes a plaster cast or another image of the foot. These devices control motion in the two major foot joints found under the ankle joint. Rigid orthotics are helpful in improving or eliminating strains, aches, and pain in the legs, lower back and thighs.
- Soft orthotics – If you have deformed, arthritic, or diabetic feet, soft orthotics are recommended. They’re used to absorb shock, take pressure off sore spots, and increase balance. Soft orthotics are made of cushioned, soft materials so they can be worn on the sole of the foot. Some extend from the heel past the ball of the foot to the toes.
- Semi-rigid orthotics – Athletes and those that walk often will benefit from semi-rigid orthotics. They help provide balance while participating in physical activity. They also mitigate pain while athletes train or compete. Semi-rigid orthotics are made out of layers of soft material then reinforced with more rigid materials. Often, they are prescribed to children suffering from flat feet, in-toeing or out-toeing.
How do I know if orthotics are right for me?
The best way to know if orthotics are right for you is to schedule an appointment with your podiatrist. Dr. Gregg Neibauer often sees patients who are considering custom orthotics. During your appointment, Dr. Neibauer will take measurements of your ankles, knees, feet and hips during a biomechanical exam. X-rays may also be taken while you stand to examine your bone structure. After the exam, a prescription will be made for custom orthotics that will correct your mechanics and help you walk as effectively as possible.
Custom orthotics are almost always recommended if you have a foot deformity, like bunions or hammertoes. Properly made orthotics will help alleviate the pain felt due to foot or ankle problems and could even help you avoid surgery down the road.
Call and schedule an appointment at Alpine Foot & Ankle Clinic or visit us online if you are considering custom foot orthotics.