A house on a shaky foundation cannot stand—or at least it won’t stand for more than a few years without major problems starting to develop!
Well, here’s the reality: the same is true for your feet.
An unstable foundation, misaligned foot structure, or wobbly gait pattern is often a contributing factor to all kinds of painful foot problems:
- Heel and arch pain
- Overuse injuries like tendinitis, shin splints, or stress fractures
- Foot deformities like flat feet, bunions, and hammertoes
In fact, faulty foot structure or biomechanics can even lead to misalignment and pain in the knees, hips, and back—just like a bad foundation can cause cracking in walls and ceilings in your home!
Fortunately, there is a versatile treatment option that can address these kinds of issues: orthotics.
What Are Orthotics?
In the broadest sense, orthotics are inserts that you slide into your shoes, taking the place of your ordinary insoles. The correct set of orthotic devices can reduce pressure and force loads on your feet, as well as reposition your feet and promote proper alignment.
It’s important to remember that orthotics are precision tools, just like glasses for your eyes. Simply buying a cushioned insole off the grocery store rack is probably not going to do you a lot of good. You need a foot and ankle expert who can match your feet to the set of orthotics they really need.
Orthotics come in a wide variety of shapes and styles and can be made from all kinds of different materials. That said, we can broadly categorize them in terms of their role as either accommodative or functional:
- Accommodative orthotics do not significantly alter your foot position or biomechanics; they’re strictly there to add some extra cushioning and support to reduce impact forces and pressure in trouble spots. They’re typically made from very soft materials and are a great choice for problems like arthritis, or people with a high risk of diabetic wounds.
- Functional orthotics provide direct correction to a biomechanical alignment issue with your feet and ankles and help you to walk in a more efficient way. They tend to be made from more rigid (yet still flexible) materials in order to provide that functional correction but should still be comfortable to wear after a brief break-in period.
How Are Orthotics Made and Fitted?
There are actually three different “levels” of insoles you can get, categorized by how they’re made and customized.
- Store-bought prefabs. The lowest of the low. These are the generic arch supports you can see lining the shelves at your local pharmacy or grocery store. Since they’re mass produced, not chosen for you by an expert, not customized, and frequently made from low quality materials, we generally recommend you avoid these.
- Prefabricated orthotics from your podiatrist. At Carmel Foot Specialists, we make a variety of high-quality prefabs available at our office. Although they’re not truly “customized,” you know you’re getting a quality product that is selected for you by a genuine podiatric expert after making a complete evaluation of your feet and ankles. They’re cheaper than custom orthotics and, when carefully chosen, can make a huge different for people with mild-to-moderate foot pain.
- Custom orthotics. We fashion fully custom orthotics for patients who have more severe biomechanical problems, or who haven’t gotten the relief they need from a prefab. These orthotics are custom-ordered from a laboratory using molds of your feet and our diagnosis, so they fit your feet perfectly and do exactly what they need to do.
Who Can Benefit from Orthotics?
We prescribe orthotics for patients of all ages and activity levels—from children to senior citizens. We generally recommend only prefabricated orthotics for kids (since they outgrow them quickly), while the right choice for an adult is more of a case-by-case determination.
The bottom line, though, is this: if your pain or injury is caused or aggravated by a biomechanical imbalance in your feet, then we need to be able to correct that imbalance if you want to see long-term relief. And in most cases, orthotics will do this job really well—which helps you avoid a more invasive option like reconstructive surgery.
Are you ready to begin your journey toward long-term pain relief? Give us a call to schedule an evaluation and get effective treatment options. Just dial the office closest to you:
- Myers Park: (704) 334-8682
- South Charlotte: (704) 542-8253