When it comes to long-term treatment and prevention of painful foot and ankle conditions, few tools are as versatile and effective as custom orthotics.
Sure, we can (and do) use laser treatment to rapidly accelerate the healing process after a specific injury or surgery, or to help you finally overcome nagging, chronic pain.
But when we look at what caused that pain or injury in the first place, often times we find that faulty foot structure and poor biomechanics are at least partly to blame. And those are problems that orthotics are uniquely capable of addressing.
What Are Orthotics?
Orthotics are specially designed insoles or supports that you place inside your shoes. These insoles are matched to the shape, size, and needs of your feet in order to reduce foot pain or correct biomechanical flaws.
To use an analogy: just like a pair of prescription eyeglasses can do the extra light focusing that your eyes can’t do on their own, the right pair of orthotics will give your feet the extra support, cushioning, and stability they need to operate without pain.
What Conditions Can Be Treated with Orthotics?
As we said, orthotics (especially custom orthotics) are extremely versatile.
A substantial percentage of foot and ankle conditions can be caused (or at least aggravated) by poor foot structure and biomechanics. And orthotics can be made in a wide variety of materials and styles in order to meet the needs of the individual.
Some conditions that we commonly use orthotics to treat or manage include:
- Heel pain, including plantar fasciitis
- Sports injuries, including stress fractures, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, and others
- Adult foot deformities, including bunions, flat feet, and high arches
- Pediatric foot deformities and gait abnormalities, including flat feet, intoeing and out-toeing
- Diabetic foot concerns, particularly for patients who have a history of, or are at high risk for, diabetic foot ulcers.
- Other painful foot conditions including arthritis, neuromas, arch pain, etc.
Types of Orthotics
So how are orthotics able to treat all these different kinds of conditions? Well, the important thing to remember is that not all orthotics are the same, or are created equal.
Simply grabbing some squishy insoles off the pharmacy rack almost certainly isn’t going to cut it. You need the right orthotics for your feet and your condition.
Although both prefabricated and custom orthotics (more on those later) come in a huge variety of styles, there are two broad categories.
Accommodative orthotics deal with pain and discomfort by accommodating your feet with extra cushioning and shock absorption. They tend to be made from soft materials (silicone, cork, etc.), and are a good choice when you just need to reduce shock and shear forces on the foot, or to distribute pressure more evenly across the foot. Diabetic ulcers, arthritis, and bunions are good examples of conditions commonly treated with accommodative orthotics.
Functional orthotics, by contrast, are designed to correct or control faulty foot mechanics and motion—for example, by limiting the degree to which the foot can pronate during the gait cycle. They are usually made from more rigid materials, and a good choice for many sports injuries.
Do I Need Custom Orthotics? Are They Really the Best?
Orthotics can also be classified in terms of whether they were prefabricated, or custom made for a specific individual.
For the most part, we do recommend custom orthotics to our patients who are suffering from moderate-to-severe foot pain. They really do provide superior performance for those with diagnosed conditions in most cases.
Because custom orthotics are made just for you, they are virtually guaranteed to fit your feet correctly and comfortably, and to address your foot condition as well as possible.
Custom orthotics are also built to last, as they are made from durable materials and can almost always be adjusted or repaired as needed, rather than replaced. This often makes them a better value for our patients than prefabs, which are cheaper up front but also need to be replaced much more frequently, and also don’t do as good of a job.
We will take a foam impression of your feet when they are in the proper position, then send those results to the lab—along with our diagnosis and requirements for the orthotic. Within a few weeks, your custom orthotics will be back and ready for pickup.
That said, we do carry a selection of prefab orthotics in our office as well, and may recommend them when your pain is more mild, or for temporarily relief when cost is more of an issue.
The right set of orthotics for the right set of feet can make a profound difference in the quality of your life—not just in the here and now, but for as long as you continue to wear them. To schedule an appointment with the Community Foot Clinic of McPherson and get started on your journey to healthier, pain free feet, please give us a call today at (620) 241-3313.