Orthotics, from the Greek, "to straighten" or "align", are used in rehab medicine to correct biomechanical imbalances beginning at the distal kinetic chain: the feet. Orthotics control or guide ones lower extremity into the proper alignment, improve current symptoms and prevent future muscle length-tension deficiencies.
Common Conditions Requiring Orthotics
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Peroneal Tendonitis
- Bunions/ Hallux Valgus
- Hallux Rigidus
- Posterior Tibialis Tendonitis
- Achilles Tendonitis
- Chondromalacia Patella
- Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
- Knee Ligament Strains (ACL/MCL/PCL/LCL)
- Greater Trochanteric Bursitis
What are Shoe Inserts?
Shoe inserts are any kind of non-prescription foot support designed to be worn inside a shoe - the "custom-made" insoles and foot supports that you can order online or at retail stores. Unless the device has been prescribed by a doctor/therapist and crafted for your specific foot, it's a shoe insert, not a custom orthotic device.
Technology has allowed these inserts to become more specific to the individual by standing on a pressure plate in the store. This has improved the usefulness of these devices. However, there benefits are limited. Shoe inserts can be helpful for a variety of foot ailments, including flat arches and foot and leg pain. They can cushion your feet, provide comfort, and support your arches, but they can't correct biomechanical foot problems or cure long-standing foot issues.
What are Prescription Custom Orthotics?
Custom orthotics are specially made devices designed to support and comfort your feet. Prescription orthotics are crafted for you and no one else. They match the contours of your feet precisely and are designed for the way you move. There are a variety of ways to create custom orthotics, including plaster casting or step-in molds, pressure plate analysis, etc. Orthotics are only manufactured after a doctor/therapist has conducted a complete evaluation of your feet, ankles, and legs, so the orthotic can accommodate your unique foot structure and pathology.
Prescription orthotics are divided into two categories:
- Functional orthotics are designed to control abnormal motion. They may be used to treat foot pain caused by abnormal motion; they can also be used to treat injuries such as shin splints or tendinitis. Functional orthotics are usually crafted of a semi-rigid material such as plastic or graphite.
- Accommodative orthotics are softer and meant to provide additional cushioning and support. They can be used to treat diabetic foot ulcers, painful calluses on the bottom of the foot, and other uncomfortable conditions.
Orthotics can be used to address biomechanics related to foot problems such as plantar fasciitis, bursitis, tendinitis, diabetic foot ulcers, and foot, ankle, and knee pain. Clinical research studies have shown that podiatrist-prescribed foot orthotics decrease foot pain and improve function.
Orthotics typically cost more than shoe inserts purchased in a retail store, but the additional cost is usually well worth it. Unlike shoe inserts, orthotics are molded to fit each individual foot, so you can be sure that your orthotics fit and do what they're supposed to do. Prescription orthotics are also made of top-notch materials and last many years when cared for properly.
How do we determine if orthotics are necessary?
A head to toe examination will help the therapist determine if orthotics are necessary for your condition. Additionally, he/she may try temporary forms of support to see if orthotics will be beneficial. This may include taping, shoe ware changes, etc. Additionally, exercise may even be what is needed to address your specific condition.
The information gathered during the exam will help your therapist determine if orthotics might be helpful. If orthotics are needed, your therapist will do a temporary cast of your feet to capture an exact mold. Those casts are sent to a lab, where the orthotics will be created. The goal is to create a custom pair of orthotics that will improve your foot movement and lead to more comfort and mobility. Your therapist might also suggest additional treatments to improve the comfort and function of your feet.
We have Custom Orthotics Specialists conveniently located in both offices. To schedule an appointment with Eric Folmar in Westwood, please see the front desk.
Eric Folmar, PT, DPT, OCS, CKTP