I am constantly surprised by how much controversy there is about the usefulness of foot orthotics. Unfortunately, people often do not discriminate between readymade and custom-molded devices. Even custom-made devices can be vastly different from one another depending on who made them and what type of shoe they will be used in.
An orthotic for a dress shoe is nothing like one made for running shoes. Foot orthotics also require some commitment and discipline on the part of the wearer. The analogy I use most often is that they are much like eyeglasses, except you must walk on them. In this respect, they work when you wear them, and like glasses, they must be worn as much as possible to provide correction.
In our facility, these appliances are designed and molded from the client’s cast. They hold the wearer’s feet in the best mechanical position for the transmission of forces and provide optimum bone/joint alignment.
Soft tissue and repetitive stress conditions such as Plantar Fasciitis (heel pain) and Metatarsalgia (forefoot pain) respond well to orthotics but often take time to resolve. Recovery will sometimes be slow and require other methods such as Physiotherapy, exercise or advice on how to perform your normal activities in a less stressful manner.
Many people, especially runners and physically active people, feel that these devices are a crutch and weaken muscles or create dependence. Since running shoe manufacturers make footwear for all purposes, many feel that matching the shoe to the body, foot type, or running style should be the best method.
This is a fine approach, but mismatching the shoe and foot can lead to more serious problems. Keep in mind that muscle strength and muscle balance are different issues.
Asymmetry is the most common cause of muscle imbalance, acquired disability and mechanical pain. Conditioning can make you more resistant to injury, but if you experience episodic or chronic joint or muscle pain, you should talk to your Physician about it.
More questions than answers? You can get information on orthotics, footwear and Pedorthic services at (506) 632-9397.