Running; tennis, and other sports; and even walking can make lots of demands on your feet and ankles. These demands cause stress on the feet that can lead to pain and injuries. Orthotics can help in positioning the feet correctly to prevent this pain and suffering.
Foot orthoses are custom-made medical devices or inserts that fit in shoes or tennis. Commonly referred to as “orthotics”, they provide support for the foot by redistributing ground reactive forces as well as realigning 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 realign the feet and ankle bones to their neutral, or best, position and restore normal foot functioning. Therefore, 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 feet 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, knee and back pain. Orthotics can also 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 calluses, a neuroma or prominent metatarsal heads. Special orthotics are commonly used in people with diabetes to prevent high pressure and ulcers on the feet and to support and realign the foot, especially if they have had an amputation on the foot. Orthotics do an excellent job providing support in cases of flatfoot or over-pronation. They can also be used to correct malalignment 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 often gel over-the-counter (OTC) insoles can only provide cushioning, padding and shock absorption. They are not effective in providing foot support or realignment. The semi-rigid orthotics give more support but are not as hard as the rigid ones which are firm and are designed to correct the foot deformity and malfunctioning. Orthotics can be made of various materials such as cork, viscoelastic, silicone, closed-cell rubber or closed-cell polyethylene. The different material determines the firmness, durability and cushioning properties of the orthotic.
Podiatrists routinely dispense OTC, and prescribe custom-made orthotics. The podiatrist takes an impression of your foot either with a cast, foam, or 3D scanner and sends it to a lab where 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-type shoe for men and women. They don’t fit in traditional sandals or most high-heel shoes. There are special sandals that can accommodate orthotics.
Insoles can last about a year depending on how much your wear them, while custom-made orthotics can last a lifetime but may need to be refurbished over time. 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, the orthotics will have to be changed as they grow; diabetics’ may need to be changed based on the shape and condition of their feet.
Orthotics can help most foot conditions and foot pain. For example, most people who suffer from fallen arches or flat foot will need a firmer orthotic since an off-the-shelf, 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-made orthotics.
Remember, your feet are the foundation of your body and orthotics can help restore the balance needed for your feet to function at its best. If you have foot pain, foot deformity, fallen arches or back pain, see your podiatrist for an evaluation – you may need orthotics. The podiatrist can determine the type of orthotics or insoles that will work best for your foot type and foot condition. If you have flat feet and orthotics are not effective in relieving the pain in your feet, you may need to be evaluated for surgical correction.
• For more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.apma.org. To see a podiatrist, telephone 325-2996 for an appointment, visit Bahamas Foot Centre on Rosetta Street, or call 394-5824 for an appointment; or visit Bahamas Surgical Associates Centre on Hilltop Medical Centre off 4th Terrace Collins Avenue. In Grand Bahama, call Lucayan Medical Centre at 373-7400 for an appointment.