What are Orthotics?

Orthotics are custom-made heal or shoe inserts that a doctor prescribes for your individual needs. To treat foot, leg, or back problems, a doctor might prescribe orthotics. Continue reading to learn about the problems that orthotics can help with and how successful they can be.

How to tell if you might need orthotics

Orthotics may be used as part of a broader care strategy to address a variety of symptoms, most commonly pain and discomfort in the legs and feet. The following are some of the goals that a doctor might establish for orthotic treatment:

  • Helping the ankle or for function better
  • Correcting any foot deformities
  • Giving needed support to your ankle
  • Attempt to reduce the risks of further injuries

If you plan on visiting a local sporting goods store to purchase your orthotics, you will be out of luck. Orthotics are much more than that of a simple show insert or heal pad. They’re foot-specific shoe or heel inserts. If an off-the-shelf system or other therapies, such as at-home workouts, haven’t proved to be successful, your doctor will likely prescribe an orthotic.

What a podiatrist looks for when diagnosing a condition

If you have severe heel and foot pain, you can see a podiatrist. This type of doctor works exclusively with foot and ankle conditions. They’ll begin by inquiring about the symptoms you might be dealing with. When you first felt the symptoms, what seems to make them worse, and what gives you relief, are all possible questions.

A physical examination of your foot can be performed by your podiatrist. They’ll be on the lookout for foot abnormality, deformities, and sore spots.

The doctor will also encourage you to walk and do various things so that he or she will see how your feet and ankles are aligned during such workouts. Some doctors can also provide you with special imaging or walking pads.

These photographs will indicate how and when your feet touch a hard surface, allowing you to pinpoint the precise position and form of issues with your feet’ structure and functionality.

Standard imaging of the foot, such as a bone scan, MRI, or X-ray, can also be recommended. This will aid in the detection of areas affected by arthritis, injury, or damage.

When making medical decisions, a psychiatrist will consider both of these screening approaches, including the possibility of prescribing orthotics.


What conditions are orthotics used to treat?

A variety of medical disorders may be treated with orthotics, which are prescribed by doctors. Of the many examples:

  • Arthritis. Osteoarthritis, as well as Rheumatoid arthritis, may induce foot pain and improper alignment, which orthotics can aid with.
  • Back pain. Bad foot alignment, such as the lack of cushioning, or upward rolling arches, can cause discomfort that orthotics will help alleviate.
  • Bunions. Bunions, typically are uncomfortable bumps near the base of your big toe that may cause deformities in the foot. The big toe can be relieved by wearing orthotics created with a wide box.
  • Bursitis. Bursitis is a painful condition caused by the inflammation of sacs filled with fluid in the toes and heels. Bursitis may be relieved by using orthotics with heel and arch support.
  • Diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy is a syndrome in which a person that has diabetes loses feeling in their feet. When this happens, orthotics will likely help decrease the amount of tension and strain on the feet, which can lead to diabetic foot ulcers.
  • Flat feet. Flat feet can inflict pain in the feet, ankles, and back. Orthotics can aid in the comfort and proper placement of the feet.
  • Hammertoes. Bunions on your big toe also trigger hammertoes as a side effect. They result in pain on the second toe and deformities are likely on your foot (on the ball). The use of orthotics will help to protect the foot and decrease the risk of hammertoes worsening.
  • Heel spurs. Excess bone forms on the bottom or back of the foot, causing heel spurs. The use of orthotics will help to protect the foot while still reducing inflammation.
  • High arches. Shin splints, knee pain, and plantar fasciitis may all be caused by very high arches, which stretch the muscles in the foot. Prescription orthotics may help keep a person’s feet from rolling outward or outward inward unnecessarily.
  • Injuries. Custom orthotics may be needed for people who have had injuries to their ankles and feet, and require more support within the recovery process.
  • Plantar fasciitis. Heel pain is often caused by plantar fasciitis. Orthotics, which protect the foot and heel, are often recommended by doctors.

For people who have positional issues with their legs or feet, doctors can prescribe custom orthotics. This includes people who have weak foot and leg muscles.

How can orthotics help you?

Orthotics are sometimes used as part of a recovery plan on a variety of ankle and foot issues. A specialist can, for example, recommend orthotics in addition to other therapies such as physical therapy exercises, and shoes that allow for more support. 

To relieve inflammation and pain, a doctor can suggest taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like naproxen sodium, or ibuprofen.

Since a quality orthotic will correct feet feel that isn’t positioned ideally, doctors often prescribe them in accordance with these therapies. When feet overpronate, for example, they roll downward or inward. This is most common with people who have flat feet. Wearing your orthotics can help prevent this by providing much-needed arch support.

Orthotics can also provide extra protection and cushioning in crucial areas of the foot, such as the ball, and heel. Since orthotics are designed to order, the maker would take into account the individual’s footwear requirements.

Orthotics and other therapies can, in theory, help a person stay away from more invasive procedures like surgery. Invasive treatments are usually the last resort.

What are the types of orthotics?

Orthotics come with a range of materials that can be customized. Based on a person’s diagnosis and symptoms, a doctor will write a prescription for special orthotic content.

Orthotics come in a variety of fabrics, ranging from solid (usually constructed of carbon fiber or plastic) to accommodative (very versatile and cushioning).

Full-shoe inserts, similar to the insoles used on many running shoes, are seen on some orthotics.

Others have a thinner (heel insert) that simply slips onto the shoe’s back cup.

Neufoot says, “Walking into your local pharmacy or another retail store you may find a variety of orthotic brands. Some stores use scanning machines. Others use testimonials of people who are crying about how good the inserts make their feet feel.  No matter the brand or marketing campaign, these orthotics are made to fit a majority of feet. They are often constructed to provide cushion with memory foam or an EVA-type material. They will cushion you for a few days. Yet, the cheap material will wear out in a matter of days,  leaving your feet cushionless and unsupported once again.”

Another alternative is ankle-foot orthotics, which have a shoe insert as well as an upright section that runs from the heel, and across the calf.

Orthotics may be prescribed in combination with rehabilitation braces as well as shoe inserts, or taping, which would be similar to kinesiology taping, by doctors.

Do accommodative orthotics really help?

Custom-made orthotics don’t necessarily mean it’s a universal fix for every person with conditions that hinder the ankle or foot. The efficacy of orthotics is complicated by a number of factors, including:

  • The experience and training of the person developing the orthotic devices.
  • Prescription by the orthopedic doctor.
  • The shoe types the individual is wearing.
  • The length of time the person wears this pair of shoes.

There have been findings that show that functional orthotics can help with ankle and foot issues. However, all of them emphasize the importance of having custom-made orthotics and wearing it them properly.

How Much Do Orthotics Cost?

According to TreadlabsCustom orthotics are expensive, costing anywhere from $200 to $800, which doesn’t take into account the associated office visits.” Read more about cost of custom orthotics.

The bottom line

Orthotics should be a part of a holistic recovery approach for those who have problems with their feet and ankles.

They aren’t for everybody, and they can be costly for people who lack any insurance coverage. If your doctor suggests a specialized orthotic, it’s a good idea to inquire about the effects you can expect through regular use.

Step Forward Custom Orthotics 

Step Forward USA manufactures state-of-the-art proprioceptive insoles which are distributed to many countries across the globe.

For foot problems, our orthotics offer relief as well as helping with problems related to misalignment of the feet, including posture (ankles, hips, knees, neck, and back).  Some common foot problems they can help with are Bunions, Plantar Fasciitis, Hammertoes, and many more.

Learn more about our foot correctors here.

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