How Podiatrist-Prescribed Orthotics Can Improve Your Foot Health

Orthotics are used to treat a variety of foot conditions. They work by alleviating pressure in painful areas of the foot and helping to correct biomechanical problems with the way a person moves.

Unlike the mass-produced shoe inserts you might find at a drugstore, podiatrist-prescribed orthotics are crafted for each individual patient. They match the contours of your feet precisely and are designed for how you move.

1. Relieves Pain

Whether your foot pain comes from poor posture, repetitive activities like running or standing at work, or medical conditions such as arthritis or diabetes, you don’t have to live with it. Often, orthotics can provide significant relief.

Unlike over-the-counter shoe inserts, podiatrist-prescribed orthotics are made from a mold of your feet. They’re also designed to fit into your shoes and correct biomechanical problems with your feet and ankles, such as misalignment or uneven pressure distribution.

Studies haven’t yet figured out exactly how orthotics work, but they appear to do more than just relieve pain by pushing bones in the foot or leg into better positions. The most likely explanation is that orthotics reduce strain on muscles by taking some of their workload, Nigg says.

Several types of foot conditions can benefit from orthotics, including bunions, shin splints, hammertoe, and rheumatoid arthritis (which often first presents as discomfort in the feet). Additionally, orthotics help athletes by distributing the weight and force of their steps more evenly across the feet and toes to prevent injury. Often, doctors will prescribe orthotics in combination with other treatments, such as better supportive shoes and physical therapy.

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2. Reduces Stress on the Foot

If you have a medical condition like arthritis that affects the foot or ankle, podiatrist-prescribed orthotics can help alleviate symptoms. They can reduce stress on the joints by supporting and realigning the foot. They may also slow down the progression of arthritic degeneration by preventing the formation of bone spurs.

A common type of arthritis that affects the feet is rheumatoid arthritis. This form of arthritis often presents in the big toe joint as a bunion (Hallux abductovalgus). Orthotics can alleviate the pain caused by the condition by providing support for the big toe and correcting the way it moves.

The best orthotics are custom-made for your feet using a mould or digital picture taken during a podiatrist appointment. A podiatrist will take a plaster cast or computerised 3D images of your foot, observe the way you move and may recommend x-rays.

Premade orthotics are mass-produced to fit a ‘standard foot’ and can cause other issues in the body including worsening arthritis, increasing the risk of injury or causing problems elsewhere. The benefit of having your own customised orthotics is that they are specifically designed for you and can reduce the pressure on your feet, reduce balance issues and ease back, hip or knee pain.

3. Increases Flexibility

If your pain is caused by muscles that are too tired or tight, orthotics can help make sure the right ones get the chance to work properly. By cushioning the feet and distributing pressure, orthotics give your muscles a vacation from doing all the heavy lifting so they can relax.

Your podiatrist will create custom foot orthotics for you using a plaster cast or a digital image of your feet to ensure that they provide the best possible fit and that they are tailored to your particular needs. This is in contrast to the mass-produced shoe insoles available from stores that are not customized for your individual foot and can cause damage when they don’t fit properly.

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There are two types of orthotics; functional and accommodative. Functional orthotics are designed to control abnormal motion and tend to be rigid in nature whereas accommodative orthotics are softer and provide support and cushion. When you have a condition such as plantar fasciitis or severe heel pain, podiatrist-prescribed accommodative orthotics will reduce your pain while helping the proper muscles get the rest they need to heal.

4. Reduces Heel Pain

Heel pain is a common foot issue that can occur for a variety of reasons. It can be due to a biomechanical issue or from an injury like a plantar fasciitis flare-up. Heel pain can be debilitating and it is important to address the underlying cause. Many people that suffer from heel pain use shoe inserts or orthotics to help with the pain. However, these store-bought inserts are often soft and don’t provide enough support or control. Instead, consider getting a pair of PowerStep orthotic insoles from your podiatrist.

These inserts are custom made to fit your feet after a podiatrist conducts a thorough evaluation of the feet, ankles and legs. They are designed to control abnormal motion, alleviate pain and promote healthy foot mechanics to reduce the need for muscles to compensate elsewhere.

Unlike the premade orthotics sold at shoe stores, ski and skate shops, pharmacies or sporting goods stores, the podiatrist-prescribed orthotics are made from plaster molds of the patient’s feet and based on their doctor’s prescription. They will also recommend other treatments like footwear changes, exercises and in some cases medications.

5. Increases Balance

Foot pain, musculoskeletal injuries and other problems that affect the feet can have a negative impact on balance and lead to a host of complications throughout the body. This is especially true for those who have to walk or stand at work for long periods of time. Podiatrist-prescribed orthotics can improve your balance, decreasing the risk of preventable falls and making movement more comfortable.

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Custom shoe inserts can also help with a variety of minor foot problems. For example, those with bunions can benefit from a raised arch that will alleviate pressure and decrease inflammation in the big toe joint. This will reduce the likelihood that the bunion will worsen and help to avoid the development of a hammertoe.

Over-the-counter inserts might seem similar to orthotics, but they are not the same. Only your podiatrist can recommend shoe inserts that are molded to your specific feet and designed for how you move. These will provide more effective support and progressively correct the alignment and structural problems that can cause your foot pain. They may also help to prevent the need for more invasive treatment, such as surgery.

If you’re seeking relief from foot pain or looking to improve your foot health, consider visiting Doubleview Podiatry at doubleviewpodiatry.com.au where customized orthotics can be tailored specifically to your needs.