Orthotics are, without a doubt, one of the most effective and versatile treatments that we can offer to our patients. Although they aren’t a solution to every problem, there are still a wide variety of common foot and ankle problems that can benefit from the right set of inserts.
That’s because a large percentage of foot problems can ultimately be caused by either abnormal walking patterns (gait) or by foot structures that aren’t dispersing weight and pressure efficiently. By adding arch support, cushioning, and even motion control and stability to your feet, the right pair of orthotics can not only relieve your pain but correct the foundational causes of pain in the first place.
But that doesn’t mean you can roll up to any local pharmacy, grab a set of “cushioned insoles” off the rack and call it a day. To work properly, your orthotics need to be right for you.
Fortunately, we can help with that. Dr. Jennifer Yull is an expert in foot and ankle biomechanics, and takes great pride in finding (or custom making) the exact right set of inserts for each patient.
What Kinds of Conditions Can Be Treated by Orthotics?
If poor foot structure or mechanics is at least one of the underlying causes of your foot condition, a set of orthotics will likely be one of the most effective treatment strategies. Examples of conditions that can benefit include:
- Heel pain. Most people who suffer from heel pain need some kind of insert to achieve maximum pain relief.
- Other forms of chronic foot pain. If you have a condition such as arch pain, pain in the ball of your foot, or arthritis, orthotics can be a great way to offload pressure from painful areas.
- Diabetic wounds. Soft accommodative orthotics are a must for those with a history of developing ulcers on their feet.
- Sports injuries. Faulty foot and ankle biomechanics are strongly correlated with injuries such as shin splints, stress fractures, and ankle sprains.
- Foot deformities. Orthotics can help relieve pain from, and in some cases slow the progression of, foot deformities such as bunions and hammertoes.
- Knee, hip, or back pain. Because feet are the foundation of your body, poor foot and ankle biomechanics can result in poor biomechanics further up the musculoskeletal chain. Addressing the root of the problem can alleviate pain throughout the body.
- Pediatric conditions. Orthotics are highly recommended for children with foot deformities to help stabilize their feet and should be started as early as possible; soon after they begin walking, in some cases. Starting early may delay or entirely prevent the need for a later surgery.
Types of Orthotics
How can orthotics treat so many different types of conditions so effectively? The answer is that orthotics come in many shapes, styles, and materials that can be selected or customized to fit your specific needs.
Broadly speaking, orthotics tend to fall into one of two major categories: functional or accommodative.
- Functional orthotics are designed mainly for controlling abnormal motion or function in the feet or ankles. They will help realign your feet, improve joint motion, and increase stability as needed. They are usually made from rigid or semi-rigid materials, such as plastic, carbon fiber, or graphite, and tend to be extremely durable.
- Accommodative orthotics are designed mainly for cushioning, support, and comfort. They may not correct abnormal motion, but they can alleviate pressure and impact forces acting on the feet. They tend to be made from soft, compressible materials and may be a great choice for conditions such as arthritis, diabetic wounds, or foot deformities that are already severe.
Do I Need Custom Orthotics?
Another way of categorizing orthotics is whether they are prefabricated (mass produced), or whether they are custom made to fit an individual pair of feet.
In general, prefabricated orthotics are usually (but not always) sufficient for most of our patients with heel pain, foot pain, and other problems. That’s normally what we recommend, at least at first.
That said, remember that we do not recommend you go out and buy any old inserts from the store. The wrong pair of orthotics won’t do you any good! At Cheyenne Foot and Ankle, we carry a selection of high-quality prefabricated orthotics and can ensure you get a great set based on our examination of your foot shape, gait, and foot condition.
If you are not getting the relief you deserve from your prefabricated orthotics, or we determine that your condition is severe enough to warrant them, we will recommend a pair of custom orthotics instead. These are manufactured at a lab using a plaster mold of your feet and our detailed instructions.
If it helps, consider the following analogy: prefabricated orthotics are like off-the-shelf reading glasses, while custom orthotics are like prescription eyewear. Many people with otherwise fairly normal eyesight will do fine with readers, but more severe vision problems will require a custom-tailored solution. The same is true for foot problems and orthotics.
Put Your Feet Back in Position!
We take great care and great pride in the quality of the orthotics we carry, as well as our process for fitting custom orthotics. Biomechanics is foundational for healthy feet and ankles, and it’s something we take very seriously at Cheyenne Foot & Ankle.
Are your feet in pain? Are your current or previous orthotics not working or in need of replacement? If so, give us a call. We can determine whether a set of orthotics, custom or otherwise, is right for you—as well as if other forms of treatment are necessary.