Pain is the body’s way of warning you that something is wrong or misaligned in your body. If you ignore the pain the condition causing it could become worse. Your practitioner will advise you of what you need to do to eliminate the pain and may prescribe orthotics for you.
Orthotics are special bespoke insoles worn inside your shoes. They are manufactured from a cast of your feet and are used to treat or adjust various biomechanical disorders and injuries throughout the body. Orthotics are custom made from a prescription using a variety of materials depending on your particular needs.
Who should use an Orthotic?
Perfect feet are rare, almost anyone can benefit from Orthotics. They can prevent and alleviate many of the common foot complications that cause discomfort in otherwise healthy people. An analogy can be made between orthotics and prescription eyeglasses. Both adjust bodily imperfections that prevent people from functioning at their maximum physical potential.
How does an Orthotic work?
To explain how orthotics function it is important to understand the mechanics of walking. Each step, the vertical axis of the heel ideally should land almost perpendicular to the ground, with slight inclination of only a few degrees towards the lateral side (outside) of the heel. From there the weight is distributed progressively towards the outside of the foot. As the fifth (or little) toe starts to touch the ground, the arch of the foot should flatten slightly, shifting the body weight toward the medial (inside) of the foot. The heel should then start to lift from the ground, shifting the weight to the medial forefoot, principally the ball of the foot and the great (first) toe.
This coordinated motion occurs in much less time than it takes to describe. It is, nevertheless, a complex process in which many things can go wrong. If a structural problem is present, the foot can collapse under the body’s weight. Very active people in particular exert much greater forces on their feet than those generated by simple walking. This can lead to more severe injuries, such as shin splints, sprained ankles, knee pain and even back pain.
Over time, the stresses on the feet can deform them. One of the foots main functions is to absorb shock as the body’s weight shifts with each step. It does this through a complex process in which the arch flattens slightly. This absorbs and distributes the weight throughout the entire foot. There are two major problems that can occur in this mechanism.
The first occurs when the arch does not flatten at all. This typically occurs in a person with an high arch, called a cavus foot. Because the arch does not flatten, it absorbs shock poorly. Instead of spreading it throughout the entire foot, the weight of the body falls only on the heel and the base of the toes. This increases stress on the foot, especially the heel. Furthermore, because the weight is not absorbed well in the foot it radiates up the leg to other joints. Over time this can cause pain and arthritic changes to the knees, hip and lower back.
To address this problem, an orthotic is used to bring the ground into even contact with the rest of the foot. This allows the entire foot to support the weight of the body. Extra cushioning can be built into the orthotic to relieve forces on particular areas of the foot.
Another problem is when the arch flattens too much. This is known as an over-pronated planus or flat foot type. In such cases, the weight distribution on the foot is too far on the medial side. A flat foot is unstable and cannot maintain a proper arch. Over time, the weight of the body on an unstable foot will cause the bones of the foot to become misaligned. This can lead to the development of bunions, hammer toes and other foot deformities as well as hip, knee and lower back pain.
To address this problem, an Orthotic will be prescribed to redistribute weight and correct the alignment of joints.