The feet and ankles are designed to move the body with barely a thought, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a complex setup under the hood. A structure consisting of many bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments is involved in the operation, and custom orthotics can help ensure they stay in a comfortable balance.
Your foot structure and the way you move (aka biomechanics) continually influence each other, determining where and how weight is distributed across the foot as you walk or run. There are no problems when everything is working perfectly, but an imbalance, misalignment, or defect can mean trouble.
A wide variety of foot conditions, including heel pain, forefoot pain, neuromas, bunions, hammertoes, and ulcers can often be traced back—at least in part—to flaws in foot structure and biomechanics. Custom orthotics are a way to address those flaws and find relief from discomfort.
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Types of Custom Orthotics
Custom orthotics can come in a variety of shapes and constitutions. Broadly speaking, each can fit into one of two categories:
- Accommodative orthotics are designed to support an existing structural flaw to prevent it from causing any more pain. This is typically done by adding additional cushioning or support for arches and soles, absorbing shock and redistributing excess force away from trouble areas.
- Functional orthotics are designed to correct biomechanically abnormal motion, such as overpronation (the foot rolling too far inward while walking). They are usually made of tougher, more rigid materials than accommodative orthotics.
Why Custom Orthotics Matter
What makes a custom orthotic effective, especially when pharmacies have racks of insoles you can buy off the shelf?
Over-the-counter insoles might be able to provide mild relief for pain, but the truth is that they can’t hold a candle to a prescribed custom orthotic. The structure of the foot is complex, and even shifts of a few millimeters can make a big difference.
When we prescribe a custom orthotic, it is to specifically address the needs of a patient’s foot. You can think of it as like a prescription for eyeglasses—providing the right adjustments for you and you alone. The amounts of cushioning, support, and correction are exact to the needs of the foot.
Custom orthotics are also much more durable than standard store inserts. They can be adjusted and refurbished over time to extend their usefulness even farther, making up for a higher initial cost. Custom orthotics also tend to be at least partially covered by insurance, and often fully covered at the rate of one pair per year.
Making the Best Choices for Your Foot Health
If you have chronic pain or problems with your feet and biomechanics are playing a role, custom orthotics may be the best way to find relief without a need for surgery. It is not the only potential treatment that may be recommended based on your case, however.
The experts of Associates in Podiatry are highly trained to help you with any foot condition you may encounter, getting to the source of the problem and providing the best guidance on a treatment plan moving forward.