Foot orthoses (also known as functional orthoses or orthotics) are devices that fit into shoes under your feet in order to improve your foot function. They are used to treat pain from various sources, improve your foot function, gait and posture, and may prevent the progression or development of a number of foot and lower extremity conditions. They work by realigning joints, and making you walk, run, function and stand better than you do without them.
What Foot Problems Can Orthoses Treat?
There are a lot of problems that can be successfully treated with foot orthoses. These include:
- Pain relief from many conditions, including plantar fasciitis, heel spur syndrome, achilles and other tendon problems, shin splints, flat feet, knee pain and back pain.
- Rehabilitation after fractures, sprains and other injuries.
- Preventing or halting deformities, such as bunions and hammer toes.
- Treatment of problems in children, including flat feet, in-toed gait, Sever’s disease, Osgood-Schlatter’s disease and others.
- Relief of everyday foot pain and foot fatigue in older people and those with arthritis.
- Prevention of sporting injuries.
What’s the Process?
Your podiatrist will start with a thorough history and assessment of your problem, and will decide whether orthoses will be a suitable treatment option for you. If you proceed with orthotic therapy, you will have an assessment of the way you walk, and various tests of your muscles, joints and other tests as required. We may use specialised computer equipment as part of this process, such as dynamic plantar pressure assessment, which measures the pressure under different parts of your feet many times a second.
Once your assessment is complete, your podiatrist will either take a 3D computer scan of your feet, or take a plaster cast of your feet. This is combined with a prescription from your podiatrist and is sent to an orthoses laboratory, where your orthoses will be made.
We then see you to fit your new orthoses and then you go through a follow up program, during which we monitor you as you get used to them. Sometime during this period, we will make adjustments to your orthotics, or give you stretches and exercises, if required.
Custom-Made Foot Orthoses Versus Off-the-Shelf Insoles
You may have seen off-the-shelf insoles at the local pharmacist or advertised elsewhere. These may be helpful in some cases, and our podiatrists may sometimes use them for temporary problems or to aid in diagnosis. Custom made orthoses are precisely and scientifically designed for your feet and your problems, and are quite different to off-the-shelf insoles. As a comparison, think of custom orthoses as being like prescription eyeglasses, rather than using a generic pair of glasses from the pharmacist.