Custom Orthotic Devices
You know you can get prescriptions for eyeglasses, high cholesterol, and
allergies, but you may not be aware that you can get prescriptions for shoe
inserts as well. These specially crafted devices, commonly known as
orthotics or orthoses, are designed specifically for your foot, and are
created to correct for problems in the way you walk, the way your foot is
shaped, or provide additional support for weak areas of your feet. They may
also be used to accommodate areas of your foot that are unusually
Basically, orthotics affect the way your foot interacts with the ground
when you walk (or stand or do jumping jacks), making being on your feet
much more comfortable. When you have foot problems, your podiatrist may use
orthotics as a more conservative alternative to surgery. In many cases
(although by no means all), they can help eliminate pain and discomfort
while you walk, making it possible for you to forgo surgical treatment
entirely. Orthotics generally work best when paired with other treatments,
such as physical therapy and medication.
When you go in to see your podiatrist about a foot problem, and he or she
suggests orthotics as a possible treatment method, you’ll probably have to
have a model made of your foot in order for the orthotics to be suited to
your specific needs. If time travel were possible, some famous sculptor
like Michelangelo might be hired to create an exact replica of your foot.
Unfortunately, scientists have not yet made time travel possible, (It’s
time to get on that, scientists!), so your podiatrist will likely make a
model of your foot using other methods. One such method (and possibly the
coolest) is scanning your foot using an optical or mechanical scanner. The
information is input into a computer, which constructs a 3D model of your
foot digitally. Alternatively, your podiatrist may opt for the slightly
less techy but still effective foam method: basically, you step into a box
full of foam, which then takes on the shape of your foot. Your foot may
also be modeled using the application of plaster (kind of like those art
projects you did in elementary school, but in, let’s face it, a rather more
Accommodative or Soft Orthotics
Orthotics generally come in two different varieties: accommodative (aka
“soft orthotics”) and functional (aka “rigid orthotics”). Accommodative
orthotics are generally constructed of more flexible material, such as
foam, leather, cork, or rubber (marshmallows, although soft, are generally
not durable enough to work well in orthotics). As the name suggests,
accommodative orthotics are there to accommodate your feet: they help
relieve pressure on painful or prominent spots, absorb some of the force of
the steps you take, and in general make things nice, soft and cushiony.
They’re used a lot for diabetic (or other) patients who have developed
painful ulcers on their feet, calluses, or those who are arthritic or who
have serious foot deformities.
Soft orthotics tend to be fairly easy to break in, since the materials from
which they’re made form themselves readily to your foot shape.
Unfortunately, that same flexibility also makes them wear out rather
quickly, so they may need more frequent replacement than rigid orthotics.
They also tend to be a bit more bulky than rigid orthotics, so you may not
be able to wear them with all shoe types.
Functional or Rigid Orthotics
Functional orthotics tend to be made of less flexible materials, such as
rigid or semi-rigid plastics, or even graphite. (Surprise! It’s not just
for pencils and golf clubs!) They’re designed to help improve the operation
of the foot by correcting for irregular foot function, and may also be used
to treat problems with other parts of your personal walking mechanism, such
as your ankles, legs, knees and hips. Functional orthotics may also be used
in the same way as accommodative orthotics: providing accommodation for
painful parts of the foot.
Rigid orthotics tend to be, no surprise, rigid in nature, so getting used
to wearing them may be a bit more difficult than with the soft variety.
However, once you’re used to them, they tend to be a lot more durable,
requiring fewer replacements or adjustments than their cushier cousins.
They also tend to be on the thin side, so slipping them into a wide variety
of shoes shouldn’t be too difficult.
Orthotics for Children and Athletes
Using specializes shoe inserts can be of particular benefit to children,
whose feet may need to be corrected early on, and athletes, who may have
special needs for those spectacular athletic moves.
Children with foot deformities may need to use orthotics in order to get as
much foot function as possible as they grow. Generally, when a foot
deformity is recognized (often flat feet or toes that abnormally point
inward or outward), orthotics should be introduced pretty soon after the
child begins toddling around (and getting into pots and pans and in general
making a great deal of mischief). The child should be fitted for new
orthotics when he or she has grown two shoe sizes (which may seem to occur
about once a week during growth spurts).
In general, athletes tend to work best with semi-rigid orthotics. These
provide both cushioning and structural support for the athletic foot,
allowing it to move without pain according to the demands of the athlete’s
Call 719-543-2476 today to schedule your appointment!