Did you know that slipping a well-designed piece of hard plastic under your foot (inside your shoes) can change your life?
As you know, I have great respect and empathy for the foot. I often remind my patients that in any given day, their feet will strike the ground 5,000 times, and if they weigh 150 pounds, the foot will absorb about 750,000 pounds of shock per day per foot. That’s a lot of hard work! And for runners, the amount of weight per foot per strike doubles. So “yes” a small piece of hard plastic, an orthotic, can help relieve the load and truly change your life.
While walking and running are second nature, they are in fact biomechanically complex. From heel strike to toe off, your foot moves through a specific and complex sequence of movements to propel you forward. And not all feet are perfectly designed to accomplish that task. When there are foot misalignments, the simple task of walking becomes inefficient at best and painful at worst. With a custom-designed orthotic, we can manipulate and precisely support how the foot strikes the ground.
Some people use one of the multiple over-the-counter (OTC) inserts to help with their discomfort or pain. And they can at times be very useful. For patients with atrophy of the fat pad in the heel or the ball of the foot, OTC gel pads can be very helpful, and they are also beneficial for patients with a very high-arched, rigid foot that inherently has little shock absorption. Even people with plantar fascitis sometimes get relief of pain for a few months from OTC gel products, but in the long term orthotics are far more beneficial.
Acquiring custom orthotics is like getting prescription glasses rather than drug store readers. Our eyes are unique, and so are our feet. Every patient has a foot of a shape and structure like no other, and so no matter how well made a mass-produced shoe, it was not designed specifically for any one set of feet.
By contrast, an orthotic is a custom-made insert that goes inside the shoe. Correctly designed, an orthotic helps properly control foot movement and facilitate propulsion. Slipping them inside your shoes makes an ordinary shoe a custom-made fit that meet your needs.
The first step in designing an orthotic is a complete biomechanical exam, which we do here in the office. That includes an evaluation of walking, of gait, and very precise measurements of motion and the joints of the foot. We then create a cast mold of the foot, while it is in a neutral position, and develop the prescription for the laboratory that makes the orthotic.
Orthotics are also beneficial in treating other foot problems, such as tendonitis, neuromas, bunions, and excessive calluses. These are conditions that often result from structural misalignments of the foot.
There’s also a relationship between orthotics and chronic knee, hip, and back pain. Shock that feet do not properly absorb must be compensated for higher up in the body. These compensations, over time, can contribute to chronic pain. By correcting how the foot strikes the ground, the body can achieve better shock absorption and balance, minimizing the cause of the pain.
I say this every time I write, when you come in to see any of our doctors at Central Carolina Foot and Ankle, we’re going to listen to you first, then closely examine your feet, probably watch you walk, obtain x-rays or other diagnostic tests, and then explain to you what we think the problem is and how we think we can resolve it. We want you to understand why you have foot pain and we want the treatment plan to make sense to you. Because educated, informed patients usually do what it takes to get well. We figure we are in this together. It you are experiencing pain while walking or other problems with your feet please call our office (919)477-9333 and let us help you start working on the solution!