What Exactly Are Foot Orthotics? And How Can It Help Me?

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What Exactly Are Foot Orthotics? And How Can It Help Me? 


What Are Foot Orthotics?

Have you been experiencing pain in your foot?
Suffered prolonged discomfort in your heel?
Heard of orthotics but never been sure of how it can help? 

Chances are, you have landed on this blog looking for answers. So, we’ll get straight down to it. Foot orthotics remain one of the best ways to combat foot and heel pain.

Here’s the first thing we need to tell you. Contrary to what you find on the internet, orthotics do not involve surgery. Foot orthotics (paired with good supportive footwear) can be enough to fully manage your foot health, with only the most serious conditions requiring corrective joint surgery.

The second thing we need to tell you is that foot orthotics are non-invasive and non-injurious. While a certain level of malaise is often felt when first using foot orthotics and similar products, this discomfort soon passes.

This initial discomfort is nothing to fear, either. The slight tenderness simply comes from helping to realign your joints, muscles, and overall underpronation.

So, What Exactly Are Foot Orthotics?

What Exactly Are Foot Orthotics?

Foot orthotics aren’t just a common shoe insert or heel pad that you can buy from the likes of USASports. No, sir. “Foot Orthoses” are bespoke and highly-customized inserts made for each individual foot. After all, not all feet are the same. You can’t just generalize these things!

The term ‘Foot Orthoses’ (commonly referred to by physical therapists as orthotics) revolves around specially-designed inserts for your shoes, tailored to help support your feet and improve your posture. 

The insert assists and supports abnormal movement of your foot, and is recommended by MDs and physical therapists for people who suffer from chronic foot/leg problems that impact their day-to-day life. 

It is worth noting that not all orthotic inserts are the same. Various suppliers manufacture orthotic inserts of varying quality and from different materials.

Not all orthotics are equal, which can lead unpracticed individuals to end up with orthotic equipment which does not suit their needs.

Not only will the wrong orthotic inserts be unable to address your condition, but they will ultimately be a waste of your time – and money!

Why Some People Get Foot Orthotics Wrong 

Why Some People Get Foot Orthotics Wrong 

When experiencing chronic foot/ankle or heel pain – especially in the arch of your foot – most people believe that cushioning is required. However, that’s not always the case for a healthy recovery. 

While softer orthotics can feel more comfortable, these doughy inserts don’t actually address the problem. A bit like how prescription painkillers only mask the true root cause of your pain and don’t target the root source.

This is where people who look to purchase orthotics can make a mistake, and why you should seek professional advice to ensure that you are on the correct path to recovery. We can help with that advice. Why not visit our dedicated Custom Foot Orthotics page for more details?

It’s worth bearing in mind that manufacturers of orthotic inserts aim to do one of two things. The first is to provide comfort (and a cushioning effect), and these kinds of orthotics are somewhat lightweight and cut from memory foam.

These sound great, right? Just what you need.

Except, they aren’t.

While the packaging and reviews may scream of pain relief, memory foam is only a short-term fix. 

The second aspect that manufacturers aim for is support. After all, foot pain isn’t exactly normal. Our bodies don’t flag up foot pain as a form of routine. This pain means that something isn’t right, or that there’s an abnormality in the mechanisms of your foot.

Orthotics with built-in support help to address these abnormalities and encourage your foot back into proper alignment for ease of movement.

Orthotics with a priority on comfort simply cannot compete, as memory foam doesn’t shape and support in the long run – quite the opposite, in fact. 

Manufacturers of support-driven orthotics use a stronger material over memory foam, and this kind of insert is what you really need to keep your foot in place. An orthotic must be worn properly and be well-fitting. Remember that!

But How Can Foot Orthotics Help Me?

How Can Foot Orthotics Help Me?

Foot orthotics typically form part of an overall treatment plan for tackling concerns in the foot and ankle area. Orthotics tend to include special supportive shoes and inserts, alongside a physical therapy regime (and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should they deem appropriate). 

Let’s look at an example. We had a patient visit our Mechanicsburg Physical Therapy Clinic with overpronated feet – where the foot rolls downward. Another client who visited our Carlisle clinic suffered from very flat feet. Both people found walking to be difficult without pain.

Our patients were both administered with foot orthotics, which provided support for the arch of their foot and prevented any further damage to their feet. The inserts helped to assist with comfortable walking, making a huge improvement to our patient’s quality of life!

Not only that, but the orthotic treatments helped to avoid more invasive and risky options, such as surgery.

While orthotics can’t help “just anyone” with foot/ankle pain, speaking with a physical therapist who has been trained and procured experience in foot orthotics can steer you in the right direction.

We’d always recommend seeking advice from a healthcare professional in regards to orthotics, as there are various complicated attributes – such as medical history, the person’s shoe, and how often the shoe is worn –  that can play into the success of any treatment plan.

Different Types of Foot Orthotics

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Foot orthotics are customizable from a range of materials – plastic, carbon fiber, or memory foam, for example – and your issuing doctor or physical therapist will prescribe an appropriate orthotic material based on your individual circumstances and condition. 

Certain orthotics can be full-length shoe inserts that are similar in nature to the insoles of an athletic shoe or trainer, while another form of orthotic can be a smaller insert for the heel that fits neatly in the back cup of your shoe. 

A further option revolves around ankle-foot orthotics, where an upright section of the insert rises up to envelop the ankle and calf muscle, often issued alongside braces or kinesiology tape. 

What Conditions Can Foot Orthotics Help?

What Conditions Can Foot Orthotics Help?

There are loads of conditions that foot orthotics can ease. Perhaps the most common ailment that orthotics can help with is plantar fasciitis. Usually instigated by a lack of support to the arch of your foot (the plantar fascia), this condition can make walking incredibly painful.

Foot Orthotic inserts can therefore instigate a bandwidth for healing, as they can stabilize the heel and support the arch of the foot. This helps with movement, absorbing shock, and reducing the pressure felt on the heel. A further benefit includes a cushioning effect for inflamed ligaments.

Orthotics are also helpful for dealing with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis, both conditions of which cause severe discomfort in your feet and poor posture. This can also lead into back pain, which is a common aftershock of poor foot positioning.

Foot orthotics can help to alleviate the back pain that stems from inward rolling arches by mitigating the arch with firm support. The same story applies to flat feet, with orthotics helping to promote correct positioning.

Other conditions that benefit from orthotics include Bursitis (the inflammation of fluid-filled sacs in your heels and toes), Bunions (lumps that develop on your big toe and can lead into deformation), and Hammer Toes (a common side-effect of bunions that can affect the ball of your foot).

Excess bone can sometimes grow on the base of the heel and cause what’s known as a Heel Spur. High Arches can develop and place incredible stress on your core foot muscles and cause subsequent knee pain and also plantar fasciitis.

Orthotics can reduce the inflammation and prevent the person’s feet from rolling too far inward, or outward, in both situations. 

People who have diabetes can also benefit from orthotic support. Diabetics can often lose the feeling in the feet – known as diabetic neuropathy – which can develop into complications with walking.

Should this condition arise, foot orthotics can reduce the pressure when moving and help to prevent foot ulcers. 

Finally, persons recovering from an injury can take advantage of orthotics to allow the healing process to take place without abnormal consequences, where the foot doesn’t mend properly.

Doctors may also suggest custom foot orthotics for those who suffer with underdeveloped foot muscles, especially in children. 

How Cardin & Miller PT Can Help with Foot Orthotics 

Cardin & Miller Custom Foot Orthotics
At Cardin & Miller, we determine how custom foot orthotics can be best employed to help you.

Our physical therapists are well versed in orthotic treatments, and will always perform a thorough one-hour physical therapy evaluation to check your foot alignment when standing, walking, and running.

We may also check your range of motion and strength, alongside the mechanics of your posture when moving. All of these tests will determine whether you are in need of custom orthotics or not. 

Foot orthotics can be incredibly effective in reducing and relieving pain around the heel, arch of the foot, and ankle. However, there is one extra note to mention. You can’t just jump straight into an insert without prior evaluation

If we don’t address and reduce the soft tissue tightness, irritation, inflammation, and pain first, then you can place the best Orthotic in the world in your shoe and your pain will remain. That’s why you need to speak with us, instead of chancing it with an “off-the-shelf” option.

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