It’s fair to say that very rare is the individual who has perfect feet that are aligned perfectly. Almost all of us have a foot imperfection that affects the way we stand, walk, or run. The question that bears asking is, “does our imperfection cause us problems, especially with pain?” and “How do I know if I need orthotics?”
At our orthotics downtown Toronto location, we deal with children and adults every day who are dealing with some kind of a problem related to their feet and the way they stand/walk/run. The one thing all of our clients have in common is they are seeking some kind of relief from pain or body function issues. Wearing custom orthotics (insoles, footbeds, or inserts), we can give our client’s the relief they need.
To help you understand the value of orthotics, the following information is going to focus on the concept of orthotics. It will then lead to telling you how to know if you or your child are a candidate to use orthotics.
What Are Orthotics?
If you are experiencing pain related to standing, walking, or running, the problem might have something to do with the way your feet are developed or aligned. When foot alignment is too far off from normal, it can lead to all kinds of chronic health problems such as poor posture. That’s when orthotics can make a real improvement.
Orthotics are devices or padding that can be inserted in a shoe. The actual device or padding serves to compensate for a foot deficiency. Orthotics can be made from a wide range of materials. Depending on your diagnosis, the selected materials would seek to offer rigid, semirigid, semiflexible, or accommodative support.
The really wonderful thing about orthotics is they provide a non-invasive way to deal with significant physical problems. They stand as a great alternative to foot, leg, or back surgery.
What Causes Improper Foot Development or Alignment?
There are a lot of reasons why people have problems with their feet. For some people, it’s simply a matter of genetics. There is something in their genetic code that predisposes their feet to develop improperly. Other than genetics, here are a few other causes of improperly developed or aligned feet:
- Nutritional issues
- Other physical deformities that put uneven pressure on the feet
- Injuries to the feet or other parts of the body that disturb a person’s walking/running gait (Shin Splints, Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles Tendonitis, stress fractures, etc.)
- Abnormal Lower Limb Biomechanics (Compartment Syndrome, Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, Osgood Schlatters Disease, etc.)
How do I know if I need orthotics as an Adult?
The first indication something is not right with your feet is foot, leg, or back pain. If you were to consult with a physician or orthopedic surgeon regarding such pain, they would likely go through a progression of possibilities. That would include looking at your feet and the way you stand, walk, or run. Aside from using pain as an indicator, there are at least four other signs you should consider that might point to benefiting from orthotics.
1. You regularly Stand for Long Periods
If you stand for long periods due to your work, there is a good chance you are putting undue stress on your plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a ligament that runs from heel to toe. Should you strain or rupture that ligament (called plantar fasciitis), an orthotic device or pad could serve to relieve the pressure on your plantar fascia, making it easier to stand properly.
2. Uneven Wear on Your Shoes
Improperly developed or aligned feet would cause you to walk or run in a very distinct way. As a byproduct of an unusual gait, you would experience uneven wear along the soles or sides of your shoes. This is a typical sign of your feet rolling inward (pronating) or turning outward (supinating.) Orthotics can easily fix these kinds of footwear issues.
3. Arch Issues
If your feet don’t develop properly, you might end up with high arches or no arches on your feet. This would put undue pressure on the surface, heels, or toes of your feet. Orthotics can compensate for arch problems by giving you the proper arch support you need for a proper gait.
4. Lower Trunk Injuries
After healing from an injury to your lower back, hips, pelvis, legs, or feet, you should immediately consult with an orthopedic physician. Their job would be to assess whether or not the injury had affected your feet alignment or gait. If there is an issue, an orthotic device or pad can compensate for the deficiency and perhaps correct it in short order.
Before moving on, it’s important for us to point out that the use of orthotics could be temporary or permanent. It will depend on the extent of the problem and the likelihood the problem can be corrected over time.
How to Tell if a Child needs Orthotics
Children are particularly vulnerable to foot problems that can lead to improper development and alignment of their feet. Until the age of about 20, bones are continuing to develop. Until bones in the feet are fully developed, they are prone to problems.
In case you are wondering, there are some solid indicators that your child is having problems walking or running. The indicators include:
- Inability to consistently keep up with kids the same age
- Their feet turn inwards
- Their feet turn outwards
- Foot arches are not developing properly
- Constant complaints of pain and discomfort when standing/walking/running
- Unusual walking/running gait
- Child is constantly asking someone to carry them
If you notice any of these signs, it’s imperative that you take your child to see a podiatrist. The earlier you get a diagnosis, the more likely it is that orthotics can actually correct the problem while providing immediate relief.