“Orthotics” refers to any device inserted into a shoe, ranging from felt pads to custom-made shoe inserts, that correct an abnormal or irregular walking pattern.
Sometimes called arch supports, orthotics allow people to stand, walk, and run more efficiently and comfortably.
While over-the-counter orthotics are available and may help people with mild symptoms, they normally cannot correct the wide range of symptoms that prescription. Custom-made orthotics can. Store-bought orthotics are simply not custom made to fit an individual’s unique foot structure.
Have you ever wanted extra padding in your shoes to help cushion your heels or balls of your feet? Or maybe your arches have ached and you’ve wondered if those inserts you’ve seen at the store could help.
But how do you know what your feet need? Many over-the-counter inserts are not actually able to relieve pressure and pain in the foot, and may make things worse.
Custom orthotics from an expert podiatrist, however, are specifically prescribed to do what those simple pads cannot: correct problems in the feet and ankles.
Defining Custom Orthotics
Custom orthotics specifically fit your individual foot and can be either soft, rigid, or semi-rigid, depending on your needs.
They’re used to stabilize, support, and cushion to accommodate or correct problems in your feet and ankles. By padding and securing your foot, they both aid in proper foot motion and relieve your discomfort from foot conditions.
Insoles and arch supports you pull off a rack at your local pharmacy, or even the fancy ones you can order online, are not truly custom orthotics. Since they are not made to fit your individual foot, they are not able to correct specific conditions that exist. Instead, they offer mild support and cushioning.
For some people, some mild help may be all they need to help relieve their discomfort. For many others, however, those inserts are not enough—and may even make their problems worse.
Dr. Evan Merrill can evaluate your feet to determine if an over-the-counter insert is enough, or if you need prescription-strength support to correct and protect your feet.
Types of Orthotics
Rigid orthotics are designed to control function and are used primarily for walking or dress shoes. They are often composed of a firm material, such as plastic or carbon fiber.
Rigid orthotics control motion in the two major foot joints that lie directly below the ankle joint and may improve or eliminate strains, aches, and pains in the legs, thighs, and lower back.
Soft orthotics are generally used to absorb shock, increase balance, and take pressure off uncomfortable or sore spots. They are usually effective for diabetic, arthritic, and deformed feet.
Soft orthotics are typically made up of soft, cushioned materials so that they can be worn against the sole of the foot, extending from the heel past the ball of the foot, including the toes.
Semi-rigid orthotics provide both foot balance and support. The typical semi-rigid orthotic is made up of layers of soft material, reinforced with more rigid materials.
Semi-rigid orthotics are often prescribed for children to treat flatfoot and in-toeing or out-toeing disorders. These orthotics are also used to help athletes mitigate pain while they train and compete.
How Custom Orthotics Are Made
During an exam, your feet are thoroughly evaluated to determine where your foot needs additional padding or stabilization.
Once we have a clearer picture of your needs, we measure your feet for the orthotics. A mold or cast is taken as well to get your exact foot shape for the insert. Typically, this is done in plaster, but digital scanners also exist to create a model for building the orthotic.
Once all the necessary measurements are taken, a unique orthotic is created to fit to your foot. Once ready, you just slip it into your shoes and go on your way!
Help for All Forms of Foot and Ankle Pain
If you’re experiencing pain in your feet and ankles, don’t ignore it. Rather than make guesses about what over-the-counter insert might help and risk it causing additional problems, contact the experts at Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle. Your feet will be glad you did!