Ongoing pain in the feet or ankles calls for a visit with a certified chiropodist/podiatrist. Oftentimes, chronic types of pain in the lower extremities are caused by poor biomechanics of the feet, and a chiropodist/podiatrist can perform physical examinations, imaging tests and other diagnostics to zero in on the culprit.
After doing so, custom orthotics can be designed specifically for your feet to address whatever is causing the issue.
In turn, faulty biomechanics, like high arches and flat feet, are corrected, which can help to relieve everything from low back pain to hip problems. Additionally, the right custom insoles, as they are also known, can manage and treat pain that is caused by issues like bunions, hammertoes, bursitis, heel spurs and plantar fasciitis.
What Are Custom Orthotics?
Custom orthotics are specially designed shoe or heel inserts that are prescribed by chiropodist/podiatrists as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
Most commonly, they are prescribed to address pain in the feet and legs, but they may also be prescribed to address biomechanical issues that are causing problems like low back pain and hip discomfort.
What Do They Do?
These custom-designed shoe and insoles can address a variety of problems, and they are designed based on the shape of your feet; the way in which your foot strikes as you walk or run; and the nature of the problems that you are experiencing. These highly customized devices are commonly used for the following:
- to improve the functionality of the feet and ankles
- to correct deformities of the foot like hammertoes and high arches
- to reduce the risk of additional injuries – something that is especially important for athletes
- to provide better support to the ankles
How Are Orthotics Prescribed?
When you visit a foot specialist for concerns regarding your feet, ankles or other joints that may be affected by them, they will usually start with a thorough physical examination of your feet and ankles.
Special pads or imaging devices may then be used to detect how and where your feet strike the ground as you walk or run, which allows the podiatrist to determine the precise location and type of problem with the functioning or structure of your feet. Traditional imaging like X-rays, MRIs or bone scans may also be recommended to detect issues like injury, damage or arthritis in those areas.
How Are They Designed?
Unlike the shoe inserts that are sold at drugstores, custom orthotics are designed to suit the unique nature of your issue. As a result, no two sets are exactly alike. They may be made out of rigid materials like carbon fiber, graphite or plastic, or they may be made out of flexible materials that provide cushioning in strategic places. Some are full-shoe inserts while others are smaller heel inserts that slip into the back cup of the shoes.
There are also ankle-foot orthotics that are made up of a shoe insert and an upright part that extends up from the heel and around the calf. These may be used along with kinesiology taping, braces or other types of inserts to address various problems.
These devices fall into two categories as follows:
- Functional – Functional orthotics are designed to control unusual or abnormal motion that is causing foot pain. They may also be used to address injuries like tendinitis and shin splints. These types of inserts are made out of rigid or semi-rigid materials, providing extra support in strategic places to correct things like flat feet and extremely high arches or to protect calluses, bone spurs or hammertoes.
- Accommodative – These types of orthotics are made out of softer, more flexible materials. They are designed to provide support and cushioning, and they are often prescribed for things like diabetic foot ulcers and calluses on the bottom of the feet.
Orthotics for Conditions of the Feet and Ankles
Some examples of the types of conditions that can cause pain and discomfort in the feet and ankles and that may be addressed by orthotics include:
- High arches – Extremely high arches can put undue stress on the muscles of the feet, causing problems like shin splints, plantar fasciitis and knee pain. Orthotics can prevent the feet from rolling inward and outward, correcting the issue and bringing relief.
- Arthritis – Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can cause chronic discomfort in the feet. Poor foot positioning may be corrected by custom orthotics.
- Bunions – Bunions, painful lumps at the base of the big toe, can generate painful foot deformities. These custom devices can be designed with wide toe bases that reduces pressure on the big toes and makes things more comfortable.
- Hammertoes – A common side effect of bunions, hammertoes can cause pain in the second toe and deformities in the ball of the foot. Orthotics provide extra support that can keep these conditions from worsening over time.
- Diabetes – Diabetes often causes diabetic neuropathy, a loss of sensation in the feet. Ulcers are a common side effect, but orthotics can reduce excessive the stress and pressure that causes them.
- Bursitis – Bursitis involves inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs of the heels and toes. Orthotics with arch and heel support can help to reduce pain in such instances.
- Plantar fasciitis – Pain in the heel, or plantar fasciitis, may be reduced or resolved through orthotics that provide support to the heels and feet.
- Heel spurs – Excess bone may develop on the backs or bottoms of the heels, causing severe pain. Custom orthotics provide support that also reduces inflammation caused by such conditions.
- Injuries – When trauma occurs to the feet or ankles, your podiatrist may prescribe orthotics to give you extra support and protection during the healing process.
Pain elsewhere in the body can be reduced with Orthotics
Issues with foot mechanics like flat feet and high arches can cause problems with arthrokinematics – the way in which the joints of the body move. Therefore, they can cause issues in many parts of the body, including the low back, the knees, the hips and the spine.
The biomechanics of the feet and the way in which they strike when you walk or run can therefore cause issues with joints around the body. The tendons, muscles, fascia and ligaments that tie joints together can pull the joint out of the correct position, and this can have painful consequences for everything from the knees to the spine.
For instance, let’s suppose that your feet naturally tend to roll inward or outward. This places excessive weight on the outer edges of the feet, causing the knees to turn inward and creating a knock-kneed gait.
In turn, the femur bone goes into the hip joint at an unusual angle, causing disruptions to the pelvic region. Your hips will then have an unsteady posture, and this misalignment can affect the health of the spine. People who experience this issue commonly develop lower back pain, but custom orthotics can help.
Get Help Today
If you suspect that the pain that you’re experiencing in the feet or in joints elsewhere in the body is being caused by faulty foot mechanics, Care-Med provides custom orthotics in Toronto, Ontario.
There’s only one way to find out, schedule an appointment with our qualified podiatrist to learn more.