Orthotics – What are they?
By Simon Kay
What are orthotics?
Orthotics, or foot orthoses, are medical devices used within your footwear that are commonly used to reduce pain, increase function and improve quality of life. Most people think orthotics work by simply reducing misalignment of the lower limbs and feet – but this is not necessarily true.
How do they work?
Orthotics reduce pain by altering the forces and load within soft issues therefore reducing the stress within the injured structures; but orthotics can also alter the alignment of the lower limb and feet, but this isn’t essentially to reduce pain. Orthotics can also be employed to improve walking and running efficiency, regardless of whether an individual is in pain or not.
Do I need orthotics?
So, how does one know if orthotics would be of benefit? For most people, this is hard to work out but many decide to commence using orthotics because of their foot structure, the presence of pain or because a friend or colleague recommended them. However, if used inappropriately orthotics can end up being a waste of time and money and even induce pain or injury.
People who use orthotics purchased from the pharmacy, supermarket or shoe shops typically apply support to the mid-foot region and can provide some support but they are usually too compressive, don’t contour well enough or are too bulky for footwear to have a positive influence on your mechanics. In some situations, they can also be over-supportive and cause irritation or pain for individuals who have a low-arch.
If I have orthotics, how often should they be checked?
While there isn’t a universal guide to the frequency of orthotic review, most people should have their orthotics or insoles checked annually. For some individuals this might be even more frequent depending on the type of orthotic and the level of activity completed using them. If your orthotics are pre-fabricated foam, you may want a more regular review to ensure that they have not compressed to a degree where they no longer support your mechanics in an effective way.
If you have any questions regarding orthotics or would like a review of a pair you are currently using, please book in for a consultation with our Podiatrist Simon in the Wellness Centre