If you’ve been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis or bunions, have pain in the lower limbs when walking or are recovering from an accident, you may have heard about the benefits of custom orthotics. These are devices created to align your foot and ankle in a position that is anatomically efficient so that you can move without pain.
What are custom orthotics?
Custom Orthotics are biomechanical medical appliances that look like insoles. Biomechanics is the study of the body, the forces exerted by our muscles and gravity’s effect on the skeletal structure as a whole (which is why orthotics are considered biomechanical). Custom orthotics are used to reduce the strain on the body that occurs when our feet are misaligned. Orthotics realign each foot by diverting and decreasing the motions that are involved during the gait cycle (the sequence of activities when one foot touches the ground followed by the other to create movement). Because these orthotics are customised, they are made to correct the particular issues with the feet of the individual they are being created for.
You can have three types of custom orthotics created:
Functional: This type of custom orthotic is created to place the feet into more desirable positions so that the body can bear its own weight in order to properly move in a way that is least harmful. Functional orthotics are made of rigid or semi-rigid materials.
Accommodative: An accommodative orthotic is designed to relieve stress from arthritic conditions that put pressure on the joints and render the foot somewhat immovable. This type of orthotic is made of flexible or semi-flexible materials.
Therapeutic: If you have irregularly shaped feet, this is the orthotic type for you because it is designed to assist with stability, arch and heel support, and forward movement.
Because customized orthotics are made of exact imprints of your feet, you shouldn’t have trouble putting them into your shoes. Moreover, you won’t feel them when you walk, but you will feel the benefits of putting less stress on your joints and a stable gait.
A multistep process is involved in creating custom orthotics.
Step 1: Assessment
Your physiotherapist will do a full assessment of the problem that is giving you pain or preventing you doing your normal activities. This will involved detailed questioning, a physical examination and an assessment of your walking pattern.
Step 2: Casting
The next step is to cast your foot. For this, your physiotherapist will thoroughly examine your feet. During the foot exam, detailed measurements of your feet will be recorded and your shoes will also be examined to check for abnormal wear. We cast into a foam box - no more messy plaster casts - in a functional weight bearing position. We are trying to get your foot into its optimal/neutral position. We may need to add some wedges to the cast to ensure we get the position correct for your feet.
Step 3: Manufacturing
We will send your cast along with a prescription detailing the materials, dimensions and accessories that need to be used in the creation of your orthotics to an orthotics lab. Once at the lab, orthotists will review your prescription and begin the manufacturing process. The orthotics will be shipped back to us within two weeks.
What materials are used in making custom orthotics?
Custom orthotic devices consist of rigid foundations and cushioning casing. To create the rigid foundations, materials like polypropylene (hard plastic) or EVA are used because they are also quite flexible. The reason the materials need to be rigid with some flexibility is so they can resist the irregular injury-producing motions that you make with your feet without hurting you as you walk. Wedges or other additions for specific foot issues made from EVA are added to the orthotic. Then, the cushioning materials and covers are added. These materials can be made up of neoprene, silicone or ethylene-vinyl acetate.
How do I get custom orthotics made for my feet?
Talk to one of our physios during a regular appointment, or book in a consultation to see if orthotics are something that could benefit you.
What are some of the conditions/injuries that Custom Orthotics can help?
Anterior knee pain
Ball of foot pain
Low back pain
Osgood Schlatter's and Sever's
Custom orthotics do cost more than over the counter orthotics you can buy in the chemist or sports store. However, they are an exact match to your foot, putting it in the position that it should be in and they will also last longer and cope with more intense activities.
Most importantly your Custom Orthotics will help you get back to the activities that you love doing!