Have you been experiencing foot pain that just doesn’t seem to go away? Perhaps your pain is worse with your first steps in the morning or your initial steps after rest. Or maybe your feet are sore after standing all day at work. If this sounds like you, your feet may be suffering from faulty gait patterns or structural deformities that may benefit from custom foot orthotics.
Continue reading to find out everything there is to know about orthotics as we address the internet’s most asked questions regarding this medical device.
What are orthotics?
A custom foot orthotic is a device derived from a three-dimensional representation of a person’s foot and also made of suitable materials with regard to the individual’s condition. It is made specifically to address structural or functional foot conditions that lead to faulty foot mechanics and abnormal gait patterns by providing support, stability, and balance. It is a removable device that can be transferred between shoes.
A licensed chiropodist or podiatrist is the health care practitioner to see for a pair of custom foot orthotics. The appointment will include a full biomechanical assessment and gait analysis to determine a diagnosis and therefore, the cause of your symptoms. The foot specialist will also take a 3-dimensional mould of your feet using plaster of paris or a laser scanner.
A custom-made insole works to realign the foot to eventually relieve your pain. This takes time and does not happen immediately. In fact, it can take several months for your pain to completely subside, but you should feel a gradual decrease within the first month or so.
How do I know I need them?
Your signs and symptoms are good clues. Pain at the heel, arch, ball of the foot, top of the foot, shin, ankle, knee, hip, low back, poor foot posture (ie flat feet), gait anomalies, and foot fatigue, are all valid reasons to have your feet checked by a professional. A foot orthotic is recommended when muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, or bones are not in an optimal functional position and are the cause of pain, discomfort, and fatigue.
If you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms listed above, it is best to consult with a foot care specialist. A chiropodist or podiatrist will be able to tell you whether or not he or she recommends custom foot orthotics for your particular care.
What is an orthotic shoe?
An orthopedic shoe is designed with certain characteristics that make them different from everyday footwear. For instance, the shoe may have a firm heel counter, deep toe box, shock absorbing sole, stable sole, increased torsional stability, built in arch support, and come in a variety of widths to accommodate a wider foot. Orthopedics shoes work to support the foot’s structure and mechanics by reducing abnormal foot function, accommodating foot deformities, and enhancing the effectiveness of orthotic insoles.
Just as in the case of custom foot orthotics, a prescription for orthopedic footwear requires an appointment with a licensed chiropodist or podiatrist. The prescription will be based on a review of medical history, a full biomechanical assessment and gait analysis, and consideration of occupational, lifestyle, and environmental factors.
In addition, only certain manufacturers make acceptable true orthopedic shoes. Some brands of orthopedic footwear include Aetrex, Apex, Anodyne, Portofino, Asics. Though they have a stigma of being unappealing, you can find fashionable orthopedic shoes from most of these brands.
How long do and how often do I have to wear orthotic insoles?
If your orthotics were prescribed to you because of some sort of pain, whether at your feet, knees, hip, or low back, you should be wearing them on a day to day basis until your pain subsides, that is if you experience pain daily. It is even recommended to wear them indoors. However, once the pain subsides, it is important to work on strengthening your feet as well as addressing any tightness in the lower limb and back to help manage your condition. Doing this will reduce the need for orthotics, although for the most part, they will still be needed to a certain degree.
Initially, when orthotics are prescribed and dispensed, they should be gradually incorporated into your daily regime as they are working to realign the foot to eventually relieve your pain. It is important to adhere to the break in schedule advised by your chiropodist to help your body slowly adjust to the new device. Most practitioners will recommend wearing the insoles for one hour the first day, two hours the next, three hours the third day and so on.
On average, it takes approximately a month to become fully accustomed to a new pair of custom orthotic insoles and feel comfortable wearing them all day long.
How do I know if my orthotics are working?
The easiest way to know if your orthotics are working is an alleviation of your symptoms.
What are the risks of using/wearing orthotics?
If made and prescribed correctly, orthotics will benefit you, not harm you. When worn for the first time, they may feel uncomfortable, like you are walking on a hard ball with most of the pressure felt at the arches, but this is normal. If you adhere to the break in schedule, your body will ease into the new foot posture in a relatively short period of time.
How expensive is it?
You will need to book a consultation with a foot specialist for a full biomechanical assessment and gait analysis before being prescribed and dispensed custom orthotics. At the end of this appointment, your foot specialist will determine if your particular condition and concerns can be managed and corrected by the devices. The price for custom foot orthotics differs between clinics, averaging approximately $500 per pair. The consultation fee is usually around $85-120.
If you have extended health benefits, you may have coverage for these kinds of devices as well as the consultation. Finally, you can always talk to your foot specialist about less expensive alternatives, such as over-the-counter insoles like Superfeet.
If you have foot concerns that you think may require custom foot orthotics, book an appointment with one of our licensed chiropodists at Feet First Clinic. We are located in Downtown Toronto at Jane and Bloor.