Foot Orthotics... Your Questions Answered.

Foot orthotics have been used for decades in the treatment of various different foot problems. Since the mid 1980's orthoses have become increasingly important in the treatment of various sports related injuries where overuse of muscles, tendons and ligaments occur.

Conditions such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, knee pain, bunions, corns, calluses and a host of other foot problems, leg, knee and postural complaints have all improved with the use of orthotic appliances whenever abnormal biomechanical forces are at play.

So, why are foot orthotic appliances used for so many different conditions?

To answer this question, you must first understand that functional orthotics are primarily used to alter the forces exerted on the foot in an effort to alleviate pain or overuse injuries. This is very different to a simple arch support.

An arch support will simply support the arch. A functional orthotic appliance uses specific modifications to apply specific forces to different parts of the foot in an effort to alleviate pain and/or improve postural control.

When damaging forces on the foot and leg begin to cause pain, many overuse problems may start to occur. These symptoms of overuse can include pain or discomfort in the feet or legs. Sometimes symptoms will occur in the hip and the lower back or spine.

Foot orthoses can help to control these damaging forces and prevent many of these symptoms.

How long must you wear orthotics?

If orthotics have been prescribed for you, there is usually some underlying force/s which are likely to have been present for quite some time. Occassionally, people may reach the stage where orthotics are no longer required or only needed in special circumstances. However, most of the time (greater than 90% of the time), prescription orthoses will be needed indefinitely. This is because foot orthotics are similar to eye glasses or false teeth... they compensate for abnormal biomechanical forces caused by body structure and they only work while you are wearing them.

As you get older foot posture can improve with continual wear of your orthotics. Your orthotics should be checked for accuracy and excessive 'wear and tear' every six to twelve months.

What type of orthotic should I wear?

There are various different types of materials used to produce different types of orthoses. Softer materials include EVA (Ethylvinylacetate) while firmer more durable materials can include polypropylene among many others.

The choice of material will depend on your foot type, your initial problem, your footwear, your level of activity and the forces require to achieve the desired outcome with the orthotic appliance.

How long do orthotics last?

Orthotics can last anywhere from six months to many years. Once more there are many factors that will affect wear and tear which is why regular reviews for accuracy are so important. Orthoses, just like shoes, do wear out and do need replacing from time to time.

At what age should you commence using foot orthotics?

Foot orthotics may be used in children as young as three years of age, however, this is rarely necessary. Most children have relatively "flat feet" as a normal variant and should develop a normal arch by the age of seven. Children should be assessed as early as possible to ensure normal development occurs.

Orthotics are often used as treatment option when a child's foot posture is not within its normal range. This intervention frequently helps to eliminate common childhood foot and leg problems including growing pains, aching feet and legs and poor co-ordination.

What is the difference between foot orthotics, insoles and arch supports?

Terms such as foot supports, arch supports, insoles and foot beds are all loose terms used to describe various different types of supports used for the feet.

True foot orthotics are prescription devices which are prescribed to apply specific forces which ultimately aim to decrease any pathological or postural imbalances. Prescription orthoses are specific to your particular complaint, foot and body type.

WARNING : This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional podiatric advice. Treatment will vary between individuals depending upon your diagnosis and presenting complaint. An accurate diagnosis can only be made following personal consultation with a Podiatrist, your Doctor or your foot specialist.

Still have a question about your foot problem, leg pain or you just need some footwear advice?

Visit our Foot Problems page and ask us a question about your specific problem. We'll do our best to help.

To find a Podiatrist or Foot Doctor near you visit our Find a Podiatrist page and click on your country.

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For further information on foot orthotics and foot pain and their use in the treatment of foot pain complaints, visit our foot pain page.

Visit: Podiatry Care for prescription custom foot orthotics

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