If you have been experiencing constant pain on any part of your lower limbs or lower back, you may want to consider getting yourself orthotics. This post will shed some light on what orthotics are, what they are used for, and the differences between the available types on the market.

What Are Orthotics?

Orthotics are shoe inserts that aid in controlling or correcting abnormalities in the feet that often cause pain or lead to further injury. Orthotics are available in different qualities and different materials. Apart from the standard shoe inserts, ankle braces can also be classified as orthotics. A patient wears these to facilitate stability before putting feet in their shoes.

What Conditions Do They Treat?

differences between Pre-Made and Custom OrthoticsOrthotics are used to treat or manage conditions such as:

  • Flat feet– Orthotics give support to the feet and regulate the foot and leg positioning. As a result, they aid in minimizing resultant conditions such as back and ankle pain.
  • Bunions– Using orthotics will help ease the pressure on the bunions, thus calming the pain and preventing further growth.
  • Arthritis– Orthotics aid in reducing the pressure on the joints, consequently reducing the pain that comes about as a result.
  • Plantar Fasciitis– This is a common pain in the heel that is reduced by orthotics because they support the heel and the foot, thus easing pressure.
  • High arches– When your arches are too high, they stress your foot muscles and may lead to problematic conditions such as knee pain and split shins. Orthotics regulate the rolling of your feet, thus preventing such issues.
  • Heel spurs– Orthotics give support to your foot and ease the inflammation that comes about when excess bone grows on the bottom of your heel.
  • Diabetes– In some cases of diabetes, a patient may lose feeling in their feet, and the pressure on the feet can cause foot ulcers. Orthotics are a good way of managing this pressure, thus preventing ulcers.

Other conditions include hammertoes, bursitis, overpronation, Achilles tendonitis, back pain, hip and knee pain. Ankle braces are suitable for people with foot drop, ankle arthritis, or ankle instability.

It is, however, noteworthy that in most cases, orthotics are not used as a treatment on their own. They are used alongside relevant exercise, medication, or footwear changes.

How Do They Work?

Orthotics can help either cushion or support the feet, depending on your needs. In terms of support, they facilitate the proper alignment and, as a result, proper movement of the feet. In line with cushioning, they alter the force working within the foot depending on the location of pain, thus reducing or eliminating pain. They also minimize excessive pressure from the ground that may lead to injury in addition to distributing your weight evenly.

Types Of Orthotics

There are two ways to classify orthotics- based on their functionality or the mode of manufacturing.

In terms of functionality, some provide support, while others are solely for cushioning. Orthotics made for cushioning can bend easily. They are made of soft materials such as foam, silicone, rubber, or polyethylene. On the other hand, those made for support are more rigid. They are made out of hard materials such as plastic or carbon fiber.

Concerning the mode of manufacturing, orthotics can either be custom or pre-made. Pre-made orthotics are referred to as inserts or in-soles in some instances. They are available in stores and do not require a prescription. Because they are pre-made, they come in a wide range of sizes, and you get to pick what is most comfortable for you. In some stores, some machines will scan your feet and help you pick out your best fit.

Conversely, custom orthotics are made according to your feet’s specific needs and wouldn’t be excellent for anyone else. Certified physicians usually prescribe them. It would be best to see a podiatrist or a chiropodist (foot condition specialists) to get a prescription. You will then explain how your feet feel, what hurts, and so on. The physician will then carry out a complete physical examination and observe how you walk and how your lower limbs move when you do. All this is to help them make a correct diagnosis of your problem and give a prescription that will work.

Once the physician establishes your problem, they will create a mold or cast of your feet. A specialist will then fabricate orthotics out of the mold. There are digital scans that can also help with this process.

Orthotic Devices

Orthotics can be made out of different devices depending on the purpose they are to serve. Soft devices are used either as cushions or pads, while semi-flexible devices can offer support, serve as cushions and correct some foot abnormalities. Rigid devices are mainly used for corrective purposes and are not suitable for constant use because they may cause more damage. Most pre-made orthotics are made of soft devices. Custom orthotics have more liberty to incorporate devices according to a patient’s needs.

Differences Between Pre-made And Custom Orthotics

  • Fitting– Pre-made orthotics come in various materials, sizes, and shapes based on regular feet. You pick the best option for your feet. On the other hand, custom orthotics are made to match your feet’s specific needs and measurements. You are therefore assured of a perfect fit.
  • Prescription– Because custom orthotics are made based on a person’s specific needs, they have to be prescribed by a podiatrist, unlike pre-made, which you can buy from stores without a prior examination by a certified physician.
  • Comfort– Owing to the fact that pre-made orthotics aren’t feet-specific, they may be less comfortable compared to custom orthotics.
  • Function– Custom orthotics can offer both support and cushioning, unlike pre-made, which are suitable for cushioning purposes but are not reliable if your feet need support. It is, therefore, essential to figure out what kind of aid your feet need before making a purchase.
  • Expense– In terms of expenditure, pre-made are more affordable than custom orthotics. This is probably because less work goes into the manufacturing process. Before you give up, though, you may want to check with your insurance provider. Some plans have a full or partial cover for orthotics, while some do not offer anything.
  • Durability-Pre-made orthotics may last for one to two years, compared to custom orthotics which can serve you for five to ten years. The durability depends on the wearer and the materials they are made of. You may therefore factor this aspect into consideration when looking at the expenses in the long run.

Is it An Effective Remedy?

Generally, the use of orthotics is a very effective mode of treatment. However, you should use the orthotics correctly and wear them inappropriate shoes. The right shoes need to have a heel with minimal height and are enclosed, a broad and firm midsole, offer enough width and depth for the feet, and preferably have a footbed that can be removed.

It is also noteworthy that pre-made orthotics may have more cons than pros, but that should not automatically disqualify their effectiveness. In less severe cases, pre-made orthotics work perfectly.

No matter what type of orthotics you use, you need to ensure that they’re comfortable to your feet. This will help you avoid further injury. Typically, your orthotics should take to your feet and feel comfortable after two weeks of use. If they are not, visit your foot specialist for further evaluation.

Bottom Line

If you are experiencing foot pain, orthotics may be a good idea. Note, however, that even though pre-made orthotics do not require a prescription, it is advisable to see a podiatrist for accurate assessment before making any purchase, especially if your pain keeps recurring. You will be able to know what your problem is and what exactly to use to fix it

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