Can Orthotics Really Help My Heel Pain?
There’s a lot of skepticism out there about orthotics. Unfortunately, we can’t say we’re surprised.
Maybe you dropped by a pharmacy or a specialty shoe store, bought a cushioned insole, tried it for a few days and found that it didn’t help you one bit.
Or maybe you’ve heard a similar story from a friend or neighbor.
Or maybe you just looked at the package, saw some buzzwords like “flexi-sole” or “triple layer cushioning,” and just assumed it was all meaningless marketing flimflam.
Well, there might be a little bit of truth to that impression. Not all shoe inserts are equally good at what they do, regardless of what the marketing copy says. And if you pick one off the shelf at random, there’s a good chance it isn’t going to be what you need.
But guess what?
The right orthotic in the right situation can have an amazing effect on reducing your pain.
Better yet, orthotics (as a category) are one of the most versatile treatment tools at a foot doctor’s disposal. In addition to heel pain, they can assist in treating a stunning variety of conditions. High arches. Intoeing. Out-toeing. Flat feet. Diabetic wounds. Blisters.
Orthotics can be made from different materials and with different features. Some help children develop healthy feet and gait. Others help seniors walk without pain and regain stability and balance. Athletic orthotics can even boost your performance on the field.
But they have to be the right orthotics for you. Otherwise they won’t do much good.
Why Are Orthotics Necessary?
The first thing you have to understand is that every single pair of feet on this planet is totally unique. No one else has exactly the same feet you do. Length, width, arch height, degree of pronation—there are subtle differences in the way each foot is constructed, and the way each person walks. So if you pull an orthotic off the shelf, know that it’s never quite going to fit you perfectly.
The second thing you have to understand is that not all feet do their jobs equally well. For example, if you happen to have a flatter-then-normal arch, you’ll also probably develop a gait where the foot rolls too far inward with each step (overpronation), leading to increased pressure not only on the heels, but also throughout the body. That’s because the structural imbalance at the base of your feet—your foundation—creates imbalances and misalignments all the way up your legs and spine.
The third thing to understand is that your shoes alone can’t always make up the difference. While a good pair of shoes can significantly reduce your pain and discomfort with built-in arch support and cushioning, they aren’t custom-built to your unique foot shape. So if you have more significant structural problems, you’re probably going to need extra help.
Orthotics step in to give your feet what they’ve been missing.
What Orthotics Can Do
For some people, the only thing they really need from their orthotics is a way to replace a little lost cushioning and shock absorption for their heels.
But orthotics are capable of so much more.
When made from rigid or semi-rigid materials, orthotics can not only add a bit of cushioning and support, but can completely realign the position of your feet and ankles when you stand, walk, run, and jump. They can even control abnormal and irregular motion and keep feet and ankles from rolling too far.
By fixing the alignment issues in the feet, you can fix the alignment issues all the way up the legs, back, and spine. This provides effective, long-term relief for not only heel pain, arch pain, and ankle pain, but also pain in shins, knees, hips, and back.
Finding the Right Match for Your Feet
So let’s cycle back a bit and repeat what we said earlier: The right orthotic in the right situation can have an amazing effect on reducing your pain.
So, that leads to the obvious question: how do you find the right match for your feet?
Our recommendation is that you skip the self-fitting kiosks at the pharmacy, and stop in and see us instead.
First off, even if you only need a pair of off-the-shelf orthotics—the prefabricated, mass-produced kind you can buy without a prescription—we can make sure you get a good pair. We carry a handful of brands that we trust and can give you a good match.
But truthfully, if you’re suffering from serious pain, what you really want is a custom orthotic.
These inserts are uniquely built from the ground up, specified to the exacting shape and measurements of your own two feet. During your visit, we’ll make a foam impression of your foot that is then used to custom-craft the perfect pair of orthotics for you.
Because they’re so precisely personalized and made to order, custom orthotics can simply do more for you:
- They’re guaranteed to fit. After all, they’re made from an impression of your own feet!
- Because they fit perfectly, they’ll typically be much more consistently comfortable than a prefab that only “sorta” fits.
- This perfect fit also means that custom orthotics are more effective at eliminating heel and foot pain for a wider range of more severe conditions. In other words, they can treat more different problems, and do it better.
- Because they’re made of higher quality materials, they are much more durable. Most last years, or even a lifetime, with occasional adjustment or refurbishment as necessary.
Even if you’ve had a bad experience before with an off-the-shelf orthotic—or even a custom made by another doctor—we’d love the opportunity to help you find a pair of orthotics that will really work for you.
Yes, they really can help your heel pain. And lots of other foot problems, too!
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Trent Timson in McPherson, KS, please give us a call today at (620) 241-3313.