Orthotics

Orthotics are shoe inserts that can help correct an abnormal walking pattern. By changing the angle that your foot makes contact with the ground, orthotics can reduce pain, prevent foot conditions, and protect your feet. Orthotics can be custom made to fit your specific needs or purchased over the counter. They also have various levels of rigidity to assist with specific needs.

Learn more about the various types of orthotics:

Over-the-Counter Orthotics

Almost anyone can benefit from the use of orthotics. Shoe inserts are not just for seniors; orthotics can also help treat a variety of foot conditions in children and adults.

Need for orthotics

Basic over-the-counter foot orthotics are available at grocery stores and pharmacies. Typically, these mass produced orthotics are less expensive than custom orthotics and can help relieve discomfort associated with minor foot conditions.

Foot orthotics can help if you have:

  • Bunions.
  • Calluses.
  • Collapsed arches.
  • Foot complications related to arthritis or diabetes.
  • Forefoot pain.
  • Heel pain.
  • High arches.

What to look for

There are many things to consider when buying over-the-counter orthotics. The most important factor is the shape of your arch since orthotics are made specifically for high arches, flat feet, or normal feet.

Today some stores offer basic foot mapping to help you choose an orthotic. However, even if this is not available, an easy way to find out the shape of your arch is to dip your feet in water and then step on cement. The footprint you leave behind will demonstrate the shape of your arch:

  • High arches will leave a narrow impression of the outside of the foot.
  • Flat feet will leave a much wider footprint.

You should also make sure to factor in the type of activity you will need the orthotic for and the type of shoes you will be putting them in when you make your decision. There are orthotics designed for use in:

  • Athletic shoes.
  • High heels.
  • Walking shoes.

Make sure to choose the most appropriate category for your needs, and invest in more than one pair of orthotics if necessary.

Issues created by improper fit

When choosing over-the-counter orthotics, it is important to focus on fit. Over-the-counter orthotics will fit most people but not all. This type of orthotic can help with minor arch pain, but they cannot function in the same manner as custom orthotics because they are not made to fit your unique foot structure.

One of the issues with over-the-counter orthotics is that they are usually purchased without the assistance of a healthcare professional. When people choose orthotics that do not fit their feet or purchase the incorrect product for their foot type, the orthotics will fail to provide any relief and may even aggravate an existing foot condition.

Consulting a podiatrist is the best way to find out which type of orthotic is right for your feet.

Rigid Orthotics

Orthotics are shoe inserts prescribed by podiatrists to help correct an abnormal walking pattern. They make it easier to walk, run, and stand by altering the angles at which the foot hits the ground.

Orthotics come in different shapes and sizes and are made of varying materials. A rigid orthotic is composed of a hard material like plastic or carbon fiber. This type of orthotic is designed for placement in walking shoes or dress shoes.

Need for rigid orthotics

Orthotics serve three general purposes. They can be designed to:

  • Change foot function
  • Protect the feet
  • Control the feet

Rigid orthotics are a type of functional orthotic; they are designed to control foot function and support abnormal foot mechanics.

How rigid orthotics work

Rigid orthotics are created from a plastic mold of the feet. The finished orthotic is made of a hard plastic material and will extend from the heel to the ball of the foot or all the way to the toes. Rigid orthotics are designed to be worn in close-toed shoes with a heel no more than two inches high. This type of orthotic is long lasting, durable, and will not stretch or change shape.

Rigid orthotics help control motion in the two major joints of the feet that lie below the ankle joint. They can help to:

  • Absorb some of the shock from running and walking.
  • Compensate for a difference in leg length.
  • Correct abnormal function of the feet.
  • Reduce or eliminate aches and pains in the legs, thighs, and lower back.
  • Reduce overpronation.

To find out if you would benefit from rigid orthotics, speak with your doctor.

Semi-Rigid Orthotics

Orthotics can help alleviate foot pain and discomfort in otherwise healthy individuals. The most effective orthotics are custom-made inserts that are designed specifically to meet the needs of a particular person. Of the three types of orthotics available, semi-rigid orthotics are the most versatile.

Need for semi-rigid orthotics

Semi-rigid orthotics are crafted to provide the control of a rigid orthotic and the cushioning of a soft orthotic. They help balance the foot while walking or participating in sports. Semi-rigid orthotics promote optimum physical performance.

How semi-rigid orthotics work

The classic semi-rigid orthotic has multiple layers of soft material, reinforced with harder materials. Like soft and rigid orthotics, they are created based on measurements from a podiatrist's mold of the feet.

Use for athletes

Semi-rigid orthotics increase foot balance, helping to guide the foot through proper movement. This allows the muscles and tendons in the feet and legs to function more efficiently. Athletes often favor semi-rigid orthotics to help reduce pain while training and competing. Each sport has unique physical demands so every orthotic is constructed with both the athlete and the demands of the sport taken into consideration.

Use for children

Semi-rigid orthotics are also recommended for children with flat feet or in-toeing and out-toeing foot disorders. The orthotics help regulate movement and balance the dynamic movement of the feet.

To be fitted for semi-rigid orthotics for sports use or to have your child fitted to treat a foot disorder, schedule an appointment with your podiatrist.

Soft Orthotics

Orthotic shoe inserts are designed to make standing and walking easier. They are often prescribed as part of a conservative plan for the treatment of foot disorders, and they may be used as a method of foot protection following foot surgery.

Need for soft orthotics

Soft orthotics are constructed of pliable and compressible materials like gel, foam, and cloth. They are designed to relieve foot pain and address minor foot problems.

You may benefit from soft orthotic use if you have:

  • Bunions.
  • Chronic sores on your feet.
  • Corns.
  • Warts.

Soft orthotics are particularly effective if you have:

  • Arthritis.
  • Deformed feet.
  • Diabetes.

If you are an athlete or exercise regularly, soft orthotics can help reduce tension from running, jumping, and stopping.

How soft orthotics work

Soft orthotics help:

  • Absorb shock.
  • Increase balance.
  • Take pressure off uncomfortable spots on the feet.

They are made of soft, cushiony materials and are worn against the sole of the foot.

Certain types of soft orthotics are available over-the-counter; they can also be custom-made based on a plaster mold of the foot. They function by protecting the feet and reducing friction between the shoes and the feet (which is a particular concern for people with diabetes).

Advantage of soft orthotics

The advantage of soft orthotics is that they are pliable and can easily adjust to shifts in body weight. Because soft orthotics are made of cushiony material, they are particularly effective when used to protect deformed or arthritic feet, which may have lost the protective fatty layer that pads the underside of the foot.

Potential disadvantages of soft orthotics

The main downside to soft orthotics is that they do need to be replaced periodically. They are also bulkier than rigid orthotics and may require extra room in shoes or custom-made shoe wear. For more information on soft orthotics and how they can help you, speak with your doctor.

To get fitted for custom-made orthotics or to learn more about how these shoe inserts can help you, schedule an appointment with a skilled podiatrist.