What are orthotics?
Orthotics are a special shoe or heel inserts a doctor prescribes that are custom-made specifically for you. A doctor may prescribe orthotics to treat foot, leg, or back problems.
Orthotics can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan to address various symptoms, usually having to do with pain and discomfort of the feet and legs. Some of the goals a doctor may have for orthotic treatment include:
- correcting foot deformities
- helping the foot or ankle function better
- providing support to the ankle
- reducing the risks for further injuries
Orthotics are more than just a heel pad or shoe insert you can buy at most athletic stores. They’re highly customized shoe or heel inserts made for your feet. Your doctor will only recommend an orthotic if an off-the-shelf device or other treatments, such as exercises at home, haven’t proven effective.
Here at Cutting Edge Foot and Ankle, your podiatrist will conduct a physical exam of your feet. They’ll look for deformities and areas that are especially painful.
The doctor will likely ask you to walk and perform other activities to determine how the feet and ankles are positioned during certain exercises. We have special 3 D imaging where you walk. These images will show how and where your feet strike the ground and can help determine the exact location and type of problems in the structure and function of your feet.
What conditions are orthotics used to treat?
Doctors may prescribe orthotics to treat several medical conditions. Examples include:
- Arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can cause discomfort in the feet and poor positioning that orthotics may help to correct.
- Back pain. Sometimes poor positioning of the feet, such as arches that roll inward, or lack of cushioning can cause pain that orthotics can lessen.
- Bunions. Bunions are painful bumps that can develop at the base of the big toe and cause foot deformities. Orthotics with a wide toe box can help to reduce pressure on the big toe.
- Bursitis. Inflammation of fluid-filled sacs in the heels and toes can cause bursitis pain and discomfort. Orthotics with heel and arch support can help to reduce bursitis discomfort.
- Diabetes. Sometimes, a person with diabetes can lose sensation in their feet, a condition known as diabetic neuropathy. When this occurs, orthotics can help to reduce excess stress and pressure that can lead to foot ulcers.
- Flat feet. Flat feet can cause foot, ankle, and back pain. Orthotics can help to support the feet and promote proper foot positioning.
- Hammer toes. Hammer toes often occur as a side effect of bunions on the big toe. They cause second-toe pain and deformities on the ball of the foot. Orthotics can provide additional support to the feet and reduce the likelihood that hammer toes will worsen.
- Heel spurs. Heel spurs are conditions where excess bone grows on the back or bottom of the heel. Orthotics can support the foot and reduce inflammation.
- High arches. Very high arches can stress muscles in the feet and lead to several conditions, such as shin splints, knee pain, and plantar fasciitis. Orthotics can help prevent a person’s feet from rolling excessively inward or outward.
- Injuries. People who’ve experienced trauma to their feet and ankles may require extra support during the healing process with orthotics.
- Plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain. Doctors may sometimes recommend orthotics to support the heel and foot.