Orthotics, also known as orthoses, refers to any device inserted into a shoe, ranging from felt pads to custom-made shoe inserts that correct an abnormal or irregular, walking pattern. Sometimes called arch supports, orthotics allow people to stand, walk, and run more efficiently and comfortably. While over-the-counter orthotic are available and may help people with mild symptoms, they normally cannot correct the wide range of symptoms that prescription foot orthoses can since they are not custom made to fit an individual's unique foot structure.
Orthotic devices come in many shapes, sizes, and materials and fall into three main categories: those designed to change foot function, those that are primarily protective in nature, and those that combine functional control and protection.
Have you ever wanted extra padding in your shoes to help cushion your heels or balls of your feet? Or maybe your arches have ached and you’ve wondered if those inserts you’ve seen at the store could help. But how do you know what your feet need? Many over-the-counter inserts are not actually able to relieve pressure and pain in the foot, and may make things worse. Custom orthotics from an expert podiatrist like Dr. Evan Merrill, however, are designed to do what those simple pads cannot: correct problems in the feet and ankles.
Defining Custom Orthotics
Custom orthotics are prescription inserts made specifically to fit your individual foot and can be either soft or semi-rigid, depending on your needs. They’re used to stabilize, support, and cushion, in order to accommodate or correct problems in your feet and ankles. By padding and securing your foot, they both prevent you from stepping incorrectly and relieve your discomfort from foot conditions. For active people who struggle with foot pain but don’t want to give up their sports, custom inserts offer real relief and protection.
These are different from the pre-made inserts you can find in any grocery or drug store. Those insoles and arch supports you pull off a rack at your local pharmacy, and even the fancy ones you can order online, are not truly custom orthotics. Since they are not made to fit your individual foot, they are not able to correct specific conditions that exist. Instead they offer mild support and cushioning. For some people, this is all they need to help relieve their discomfort. For many others, however, those inserts are not enough—and may even make their problems worse. Dr. Evan Merrill can evaluate your feet to determine if an over-the-counter insert is enough, or if you need prescription-strength support to correct and protect your feet.
Rigid orthotic devices are designed to control function and are used primarily for walking or dress shoes. They are often composed of a firm material, such as plastic or carbon fiber. Rigid orthotics are made from a mold after a podiatrist takes a plaster cast or other kind of image of the foot. Rigid orthotics control motion in the two major foot joints that lie directly below the ankle joint and may improve or eliminate strains, aches, and pains in the legs, thighs, and lower back.
Soft orthotics are generally used to absorb shock, increase balance, and take pressure off uncomfortable or sore spots. They are usually effective for diabetic, arthritic, and deformed feet. Soft orthotics are typically made up of soft, cushioned materials so that they can be worn against the sole of the foot, extending from the heel past the ball of the foot, including the toes. Like rigid orthotics, soft orthotics are also made from a mold after a podiatrist takes a plaster cast or other kind of image of the foot.
Semi-rigid orthotics provide foot balance for walking or participating in sports. The typical semi-rigid orthotic is made up of layers of soft material, reinforced with more rigid materials. Semi-rigid orthotics are often prescribed for children to treat flatfoot and in-toeing or out-toeing disorders. These orthotics are also used to help athletes mitigate pain while they train and compete.
How They Are Made
During an exam, your feet are thoroughly evaluated to determine where your foot needs the additional padding or stabilization. Once Dr. Evan Merrill has a clearer picture of your needs, he is able to measure your feet for the orthotics. A mold is taken as well to get your exact foot shape for the insert. Typically this is done in plaster, but digital scanners also exist to create a model for building the orthotic. Once all the necessary measurements are taken, a unique support piece is created to fit to your foot. You just slip it into your shoes and go on your way pain-free.
If you’re experiencing pain in your feet and ankles, don’t ignore it. Your feet weren’t meant to be uncomfortable and often the solution is as simple as a prescription orthotic. Rather than make guesses about what over-the-counter insert might help and risk it causing additional problems, contact the experts at Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle, L.L.C. for an appointment or more information. Your feet will be glad you did! Call (541) 776-3338 or visit our online contact page to reach us.