orthotics(ôr-thŏt'ĭks)n. Custom-built devices, such as molded insoles, which fit in a shoe to make foot motion more efficient, to reduce the risk of foot injury, or to correct certain anatomical imbalances that may lead to pain in the back, hips, knees, and feet.
Foot pain is not normal and should not be ignored. The presence of foot problems can affect proper functioning of other parts of the body. Custom- made orthotics are devices which are inserted into the shoe to support, align, prevent, or correct deformities or to improve the biomechanical function of the foot and lower extremity.
Custom-made orthotics can provide relief for many different foot conditions including heel pain and plantar fasciitis; arch pain; high- or low-arched feet; Morton’s neuroma; pain caused by bunion or injury; pain caused by running, walking and sports; and pain related to diabetes. Orthotics are effective in relieving foot fatigue and discomfort experienced by older adults, who may have developed arthritis in their feet and also for children who have a foot deformity and/or dysfunction.
In addition to providing relief for painful foot problems or an injury, people who must walk or stand excessively on the job may benefit from orthotics. For overweight individuals, orthotics can help to counteract the extra stress on the feet, as minor problems are often magnified due to the increased weight.
In athletic individuals, sports activities result in a great deal of movement and pressure on the foot. Slight imbalances in the foot that are not harmful or even detectable under usual circumstances may make one vulnerable to injury with the extra stress of sports activity. By eliminating the need for one’s muscles to compensate for imperceptible balances, orthotics can reduce fatigue and promote efficient muscle function to enhance performance.
Custom-made orthotics should not be confused with prefabricated models found in shoe stores, pharmacies, ski and skate shops, sporting good stores and online. There is a significant difference in quality and effectiveness. Prefabricated models are mass-produced to fit an “average” foot. They may cost less, but usually do not properly correct the specific problems found in an individual’s foot and may end up doing more harm than good.
Orthotics take various forms and are constructed out of a variety of materials. All have the goal of improving foot function and minimizing stress forces that could ultimately cause foot deformity and pain. Orthotics allow the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones of the feet and lower extremities to function at their highest potential. When appropriately prescribed, they can decrease pain, not only in the foot, but also in the knees, hips and back. They can also increase stability in an unstable joint, assist in shock absorption, prevent a deformed foot from progressing or developing additional problems, and improve quality of life.
At A Step Ahead Physiotherapy, we view feet as the foundation of the body. One would never construct a house on an unstable foundation, so it only makes sense to provide our bodies with a sturdy foundation as well. Foot dysfunction can be regarded as an unstable foundation. Custom-made foot orthotics are a means of correcting this unstable foundation.
Activities of daily life necessitates that the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones of the lower extremity to work together to allow for proper foot mechanics. When any of these structures fail to do their job properly, the others must compensate which may predispose an individual to an overuse syndrome. Research shows that the muscles play a relatively insignificant role in providing support and limiting excessive foot motion; therefore, proper foot mechanics rely on a well-designed skeletal system. If an individual lacks this well designed skeletal system, custom foot orthotics may be used to assist foot function.
A study conducted on long distance runners found that 77% of 213 knee injuries were due to faulty foot mechanics. Another study conducted on 100 individuals with iliotibial band (ITB) friction syndrome concluded that faulty foot mechanics predispose individuals to this condition.
Although there have been advances in the means of obtaining foot molds, ASAP prefers to do things the old fashioned way. Plaster foot casting may be messier and more time consuming, but we believe it is the most reliable way to get an accurate mold of a person’s foot in its neutral position. Often, force plate and foam box methods of foot impressions take the impression with the foot in its dysfunctional state.
Once the casts of your foot have been made, data and measurements of your feet and lower extremities are collected to ensure your orthotics are ideal for your lifestyle and their intended purpose.
The casts are then sent overnight to Biomechanical Services in Southern California for fabrication. Christine has been using this company and the same technician for over 4 years with phenomenal results. She has gotten devices for long distance runners, business professionals, construction workers, overweight individuals with foot pain, patients post surgery, children, Ironman competitors, weekend warriors and many others for a variety of reasons.
Please visit the Biomechanical Services website to find out more about their products and services. www.biomechanical.com