Orthotics are medical devices that are intended to correct an abnormal, or irregular, walking pattern. Orthotics are not truly or solely “arch supports,” although some people use those words to describe them, and they perhaps can best be understood with those words in mind. They perform functions that make standing, walking, and running more comfortable and efficient, by altering slightly the angles at which the foot strikes a walking or running surface.
Orthotics are used as a successful conservative treatments for many lower extremity conditions. they are used by many people and are concerned with improving foot function and minimizing stress forces that could ultimately cause foot deformity and pain.
Foot orthotics fall into three broad categories: those that primarily attempt to change foot function, those that are primarily protective in nature, and those that combine functional control and protection.
Types of Orthotics
Incorporate special wedges to adjust the heel or forefoot, correcting defects in the arch that cause poor shock absorption, such as excessive pronation (flattening of the arch) or supination (an arch that is too high).
Typically feature padding designed to relieve pain caused by excessive pressure on the metatarsal heads. Other accommodative orthotics are designed to treat pain and pressure on the sesamoid bones, collapsed tarsal bones, sores and chronically inflamed toes.
Are special devices designed to correct biomechanical walking problems identified in young children. They include splints, gait plates and night bars – devices used to hold a child’s feet and legs at a proper angle while sleeping, thus promoting corrective adjustment for excessive toe-in or toe-out walking.
Why use orthotics?
Because perfect feet are very rare, almost anyone can benefit from orthotics. They can prevent and alleviate many of the common foot complications that cause discomfort in otherwise healthy people. An analogy can be made between orthotics and eyeglasses. Both adjust bodily imperfections that inhibit people from functioning at their maximum physical potential. Almost anyone can achieve some benefit from an orthotic. There are several common symptoms that may indicate misalignment of the feet. You may be a candidate for orthotics if:
- One side of the sole of your shoe wears out faster than the other.
- You frequently sprain your ankle.
- You have chronic heel, knee or lower back pain.
- Your shins hurt.
- Your toes are not straight.
- Your feet point inward or excessively outward when you walk.
- Your feet hurt in general.