Do I need orthotics? What kind?
Many people come to the clinic complaining of foot pain from conditions such as bunions, hammertoes, a pinched nerve (neuroma), or heel pain (plantar fasciitis). I perform a thorough evaluation and examination, and together we review the origin, mechanics, and treatment plan for the specific problem.The patient usually asks if they need and orthotic and, if so, which type would be best.
I recommend a foot orthotic if muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, or bones are not in an optimal functional position and are causing pain, discomfit, and fatigue. Foot orthotics can be made from different materials, and may be rigid, semirigid, semi flexible, or accommodative, depending o your diagnosis ad specific needs.
Different types of orthotics
There are few types of foot orthotics: over-the-counter/off-the-shelf (OTC) orthotics; “kiosk-generated” orthotics; and professional custom orthotics. OTC orthotics are widely available and can be chosen based on shoe size and problem. Kiosk orthotics are based on the scan of your feet. A particular style or size of orthotics is recommended for you based on a foot scan and the type of foot problem you are experiencing.
For custom prescription orthotics, a health professional performs a thorough health history, including an assessment of your height, weight, level of activity, and any medical conditions. A diagnosis and determination of the best materials and level of rigidity/flexibility of the orthotics is made, followed by casting mold of your feet. This mold is then used to create an orthotic specifically for you. The difference between OTC/ kiosk and custom made orthotics may be likened to the difference between over-the-counter and prescription reading glasses.
Which type of orthotic is right for you?
A person of average weight, height, and foot type and with a generic problem such as heel pain, usually does well with OTC or kiosk orthotic. They are less expensive, however you may have to replace them more often. Someone with a specific need, or a problem such as severely flat foot, may benefit from custom prescription orthotics. These also last longer.
Another important fact is that your foot specialist will be able to educate you about proper footwear. You may be surprised to learn that many people have not had their feet professionally measured in years. As we age our foot length and width changes, and sizing may not be consistent between brands.
In my experience, certain groups of people benefit from an examination performed by foot specialist, and prescription for custom orthotics. These may include people with diabetes who have lost a feeling in their feet, people with poor circulation, and people with severe foot deformities caused by different foot misalignments and medical conditions.