Orthotics can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan to address various symptoms, usually presenting with pain and discomfort of the feet and legs. Some of the goals a Podiatrist 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 sport shops. They’re highly customised shoe or heel inserts made for your feet. Your Podiatristwill only recommend an orthotic if an off-the-shelf device or other treatments, such as exercises at home, are unsuitable or ineffective.
How a podiatrist diagnoses problems
Podiatrists, specialise in conditions of the feet, if you’re experiencing signi ficant foot and heel pain. They’ll first ask about your symptoms. Questions may include when you first noticed the symptoms, what makes them worse, and what makes them better.
Your podiatrist will then conduct a physical exam of your feet. They’ll look for deformities and areas that are especially painful.
The Podiatrist will likely ask you to walk and perform other activities to determine how the feet and ankles are positioned during certain exercises.
They may also recommend traditional imaging of your feet, such as X-ray, bone scan, or MRI. This can help them identify areas of arthritis, damage, or injury.
A Podiatrist will take all of these diagnostic methods into account when making treatment recommendations, including to potentially prescribe orthotics.
What conditions are orthotics used to treat?
Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can cause discomfort in the feet and poor positioning that orthotics may help to correct.
Sometimes poor positioning of the feet, such as arches that roll inward, or lack of cushioning can cause pain that orthotics can lessen.
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.
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.
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 can cause foot, ankle, and back pain. Orthotics can help to support the feet and promote proper foot positioning
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 are conditions where excess bone grows on the back or bottom of the heel. Orthotics can support the foot and reduce inflammation.
Very high arches can stress muscles in the feet and lead to a number of conditions, such as shin splints, knee pain, and plantar fasciitis. Orthotics can help prevent a person’s feet from rolling excessively inward or outward.
People who’ve experienced trauma to their feet and ankles may require extra support during the healing process with orthotics.
Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain. Podiatrists may sometimes recommend orthotics to support the heel and foot.
How can orthotics help?
Orthotics are often one part of a treatment regimen for many foot and ankle concerns. For example, a podiatrist may prescribe orthotics in conjunction with treatments such as more supportive shoes as well as physical therapy exercises.
Your podiatrist may also recommend taking non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, to reduce pain and inflammation.
Podiatrists often recommend orthotics in conjunction with these treatments because orthotics can correct feet that aren’t ideally positioned. For example, when feet overpronate, they roll slightly inward or downward. This is usually the case for those with very flat feet. Wearing orthotics can help provide additional arch support to try and prevent this.
Orthotics may also provide additional support and cushioning in key areas of the feet, such as the heel or ball of the foot. Because orthotics are custom-made, the person making them will consider the individual’s footwear needs.
Ideally, orthotics and other treatments can help a person avoid more invasive treatments, such as surgery.