Thursday, Nov 14, 2019
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Support your whole body

School is about to start again for the majority of the student population, and it will be time to wear shoes for long hours again. Running, other sports and even walking can put a lot of demands on the feet and ankles. These demands cause stress on the feet that can lead to pain and injuries. Orthotics can help in positioning the foot correctly and prevent pain and suffering in the feet.

Foot orthoses are custom made medically-devised inserts that fit in a shoe or pair of tennis. Commonly referred to as “orthotics” they provide support for the foot by redistributing foot pressure (ground reactive forces) as well as re-aligning foot joints while standing, walking or running. It serves to prevent, support or correct foot deformities and improve foot functioning. The word ‘orthotic’ comes from the Greek “ortho”, which means, “to be straight, upright or correct.”

Orthotics are designed to correct faulty foot function by reducing the amount of ankle rolling and arch flattening while walking and running. They cushion the impact of the hard surfaces we walk on and provide shock absorption. Over time, this will reduce the amount of rotation of the ankles, legs and knees. By correcting the over-pronation, orthotics re-align the feet and ankle bones to their neutral or best position and restore normal foot functioning. Orthotics not only help alleviate problems in the feet but can also help with aches and pains in other parts of the body such as the knees and lower back. Orthotics can actually help correct deformities in children’s feet especially if they start to wear them early, before the bones in the foot are fully formed. The younger the child starts to wear the orthotics the more effective they will be.

Poor foot functioning can be blamed for many common foot conditions. However, research has shown that bad alignment of the feet can affect other parts of the body, including the knees and lower back. Orthotics can be used to effectively treat a variety of conditions such as plantar fasciitis (heel pain), heel spurs, metatarsalgia (pain on the ball of foot), shin splints, bunion pain, Morton’s neuroma, Achilles tendonitis, and knee and back pain. Orthotics can assist with preventing and slowing the progression of bunions and hammer toes. They can relieve pressure by providing support behind a problem area on the foot such as callouses, a neuroma, or a prominent metatarsal head. This is commonly used in persons with diabetes. Orthotics can provide support in cases of flatfoot or over pronation. They can also be used to correct mal-alignment problems such as one leg being longer than the other.

Types of orthotics

Regardless of the type of orthotics available, they are all designed to achieve the same goal – better foot functioning and pain relief. Generally, there are two types of orthotics: custom-made orthotics and pre-made, off the shelf insoles. Orthotics can be soft, flexible, semi-rigid or rigid. The soft, floppy over-the-counter (OTC) insoles can only provide cushioning, padding and shock absorption. The semi-rigid gives more support but are not as hard as the rigid ones which are designed to correct the foot deformity and functioning. Orthotics can be made of various materials such as viscoelastic, silicon, closed-cell rubber or closed-cell polyethylene. The differences in material determines the firmness, durability and cushioning properties of the orthotic.

Podiatrists routinely dispense over the counters and prescribe custom made orthotics. The podiatrist would take an impression of your foot either with a cast or 3D scanner and send it to a lab and the orthotic is made to correct the deformity or support foot functioning. Orthotics are worn mostly in sneakers or closed-toe type shoes like a school shoe for children or a loafer for adults. They don’t fit well in sandals or most high-heeled shoes. Insoles can last a year while custom orthotics are for a lifetime. If you are wearing orthotics, you should see your podiatrist at least once per year to have them checked for condition and functioning. For children, they may have to be changed when they grow or for diabetics they may need to be changed based on the condition of their feet.

Yes, orthotics can help most foot conditions and foot pain. For example, most people who suffer from fallen arches or a “flat foot” will need a firmer orthotic since an off-the-shelf, pre-made, floppy insert will not provide enough correction or support. In the case of children, most often they will need custom made orthotics to correct the deformity and relieve the symptoms. As a rule, the younger the child the more effective the orthotics are and the more correction they will get. They often need them in the school shoe and sneakers. Diabetics especially if they have or had callous to the foot, a foot ulcer or amputation will benefit from custom orthotics.

Remember, your feet are the foundation of your body and orthotics can help restore the balance needed for your feet to function best. If you have foot pain, foot deformity, fallen arches or back pain, see a podiatrist for an evaluation; you may need orthotics. See the podiatrist who can determine the type of orthotics or insoles that will work best for your foot type or foot condition.

• For more information or to see a podiatrist, visit Bahamas Foot Centre, Rosetta Street, telephone 325-2996; or Bahamas Surgical Associates Centre, Albury Lane, telephone 394-5820; or email foothealth242@hotmail.com; or visit www.apma.org.

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