Why Custom Orthotics Are So Versatile
Quick question: What do heel pain, shin splints, flat feet, lower back pain, and diabetic ulcers all have in common?
We’ll give you a minute.
Okay, have a guess?
There’s more than one correct answer here, but this is the one we’d like to focus on:
All are conditions that can be at least partially treated, and often even prevented, through the use of custom orthotics. (Depending on the underlying causes and circumstances, of course.)
Custom orthotics are, quite simply, one of the most versatile and effective treatment tools we have at our disposal. And better yet, they’re comfortable, affordable, and completely nonsurgical.
Why are they so versatile? Read on to find out more.
The Sources of Pain
Although there are quite literally dozens of differing diagnoses that affect the feet, ankles, legs, and even lower back, there are some common threads binding them together.
In particular, many painful conditions have one of the following two underlying causes at play.
Too much pressure at certain spots on the feet
Unfortunately, not all feet are created equal when it comes to balancing and distributing weight and pressure across the entire plantar surface.
Too much force concentrated in the balls of the feet, for example, could lead to a painful neuroma, bunion, or hammertoe. In other places, you could develop corns, blisters, or even a foot ulcer—just to name a few examples.
Feet and joints that are misaligned
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again—you have to think of your feet as your foundation. Everything that rests above, from your ankles all the way to the top of your head, depends on your feet to be sturdy and in the right place.
When feet are structurally misaligned, or moving in biomechanically inefficient gait patterns, it affects the entire rest of the body. Joints, muscles, and tendons are pulled out of position or must bear excessive force loads in order to compensate.
Tons of sports injuries, including shin splints, Achilles tendinitis, and ankle sprains, are far more likely to develop if your feet and ankles are out of position, overpronating, or otherwise functioning incorrectly. And knees, hips, and back are quicker to fatigue and develop chronic pain, simply because they have to work harder than they should to make up for your unstable foundation.
The Answer: Custom Orthotics
The good news is that, in the vast majority of cases, you will not need a surgical restructuring of your foot to eliminate the source of your pain.
That’s because custom orthotics are uniquely qualified to deal with weight distribution, foot posture, and even joint motion issues in your feet and ankles—non-surgically and non-invasively. Address the root cause of your pain, and the pain goes away.
In this sense you can think of them like the “foot version” of wearing glasses or contacts for the eyes.
The right prescription eyeglasses, after all, don’t do anything to “fix” your eyes per se, but they do alter the inbound light so that your eyes can focus it clearly—whether you’re nearsighted, farsighted, or astigmatic.
The same is broadly true for orthotics. The right pair (and it does have to the be the right pair, picked out or custom made just for you) will cushion, support, and reposition your feet in exactly the way they require so that you can stand, walk, and play without pain.
How Do They Do It?
If your idea of “orthotics” is simply “those squishy insoles you can buy at the grocery store,” you’re probably wondering how custom orthotics can possibly do all the things—and treat all the conditions—we’ve talked about here.
But custom orthotics are in a whole different world from cheap gel insoles. They come in a ton of different styles, boast a wide variety of shapes and features, and can be made from many different kinds of materials.
To key in on a couple of basic differences:
- Some orthotics are accommodative or soft. These are more like the pharmacy insoles, but better—made of higher quality materials, more durable, and better fit for your feet. They’re designed for when you need better shock absorption for your feet so the pressure doesn’t keep building up on irritated joints. They’re great for conditions like arthritis, bunions, and foot ulcers.
- Other orthotics are functional and rigid. They’re designed to more aggressively counteract structural, alignment, or gait problems with your feet and ankles. They might be made from hard plastic or other tough materials with a soft covering.
- You can also get functional orthotics that are more semi-rigid, such as those made from graphite. This provides a more balanced mix of firm biomechanical correction and softer flexibility. Semi-rigid orthotics are often the best choice for active individuals and athletes who need to consider both comfort and performance on the field or at work.
You also should consider that custom orthotics aren’t just chosen off the rack, from a limited selection for a narrow range of foot types, using a vague manufacturer’s guide. They are custom designed and custom fit just for you.
When you come to our office for an appointment—and we determine that custom orthotics would be an ideal treatment option for your condition—we’ll take an impression of your feet using foam. That impression is used to make your brand-new custom orthotics from the ground up, so that they fit your feet perfectly.
Better fit not only means more comfort, but also that your orthotics will provide the most precise and effective support and relief possible for your painful condition.
Custom orthotics really are the best you can get, but it’s also worth noting that we do carry a selection of medical grade prefabricated arch supports on hand, too, for those with less severe foot problems. Since they are brands we trust, and picked out for you based on our expert evaluation, they’ll do a much better job than what you could find on your own at the pharmacy.
So, are you ready to finally get lasting relief for your painful foot or ankle condition—or maybe even that chronic hip or back pain?
There’s a great chance that orthotics can be a big part of the answer. And we’re looking forward to helping you! To schedule an appointment with the Community Foot Clinic of McPherson, give us a call today at (620) 241-3313.