What Custom Orthotics Can (And Can’t) Do

If you have persistent problems with foot or ankle pain and discomfort, then custom orthotics may be a term brought up when discussing potential treatments.

These specifically made inserts are a frequent source of help for many patients, and their uses can go beyond matters such as daily aches and pains. Even so, you may wonder if they are as effective as other forms of treatment, or even what types orthotics you can buy in a store.

It’s always best to stay grounded on a subject, so let’s go over what custom orthotics can and can’t do for your feet. And if you have any further questions about this form of treatment, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with them. We’ll be happy to help!

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Custom Orthotics CAN Be Made Exactly to the Structural Needs of Your Foot

Our feet and ankles are specifically designed for effective movement and weight bearing. They contain a great deal of moving parts (including more than a quarter of the total bones in our body!), so even small imbalances may have cascading effects on our comfort and mobility.

For example, having flat feet can create a lack of proper support in the arch of the foot, which can lead to a strained plantar fascia, which can lead to annoyingly sharp pain every time you put your feet on the floor each morning.

Custom orthotics address these kinds of problems by providing corrective support in necessary places. For the best effects, the orthotics should restore as much of the standard distribution of weight as possible, which is why the “custom” part becomes so important.

When we recommend a pair of custom orthotics, we take the shape of the patient’s foot and prescribe exact measurements and specifications for the orthotics that are to go to it. It is much like how lenses are prescribed for glasses and contacts.

And, much like reading glasses you can find at the store, pre-fabricated orthotics can sometimes provide enough relief for people in certain situations—but it is very likely not going to be a complete match to your needs, if at all.

Custom Orthotics CAN Help Some Patients with Bunions, Ulcers, and Other Conditions

Structural problems do not only contribute to aches and pains. Sometimes, they can be a factor in other situations as well.

For foot deformities such as bunions and hammertoes, an improper distribution of weight across the foot can lead to extra pressure against unstable joints, helping them shift more out of alignment over time.

Excess pressure against certain areas of the foot can also increase the chance of calluses, corns, sores, and ulcers developing. This is especially bad news for patients who have diabetes, as this also increases their risk of dangerous infection.

In some cases, custom orthotics can shift excess weight away from these trouble areas. They may also provide some added cushioning and protection in themselves. Please note, however, that not all cases of these conditions may be influenced by factors that can be addressed with orthotics. We will always take time to determine the root causes and provide our best recommendations for treatment.

Custom Orthotics CAN’T Permanently Cure a Condition

Although custom orthotics provide corrective support, they do not change the actual structure of the foot.

If you are prescribed orthotics, it is very likely that you will continue using them well into the future. If you remove them from the picture, the same structural issues that were originally there remain, and will eventually lead to pain, discomfort, and other symptoms again.

In many cases, however, full and permanent correction may only be possible through reconstructive surgery, making custom orthotics a viable alternative.

Custom Orthotics CAN Be Adjusted

While custom orthotics are made to a set prescription, that does not mean the prescription is permanent. In fact, there may be reasons to adjust it over time.

Sometimes, custom orthotics must be adjusted slightly for an optimal fit once they are received. And if, over the initial weeks or months, additional adjustments need to be made, we can make them.

But even after that, things can change. We gain or lose weight (including through pregnancy). We place new demands on our bodies due to work, hobbies, or physical activity. These can influence the overall distribution of weight over the structures of our feet, and might require changes in orthotics to maintain the best results.

We recommend a regularly scheduled checkup of your custom orthotics for maintenance and adjustment—usually annually, although certain cases may demand more or less time.

We can check your orthotics for continued fit, as well as for integrity. Although they are made of much stronger and more durable materials than pre-fabricated orthotics, they will still eventually wear down with use over time. Worn down orthotics may begin to provide less support and will need to be refurbished or replaced to maintain their quality.

Are Custom Orthotics Right for You?

Custom orthotics certainly have their uses, and they have helped many patients restore comfort and motion. Still, much like every other form of treatment, they will not be the ideal method for everyone.

In some cases, we may recommend custom orthotics in addition to other methods, such as stretching or MLS laser treatment. There are other situations where custom orthotics might not be as effective or are completely uncalled for.

At Associates in Podiatry, we will help you determine the best path for moving beyond your foot and ankle troubles—but you must make the first steps yourself.

Schedule an appointment with us by calling either of our offices:

  • Roselle Park – (908) 687-5757
  • Princeton – (609) 924-8333

You can also reach us online by filling out our contact form, and a member of our staff will respond during office hours.

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