Orthotics

Definition: specialized device to prevent or assist movement of weak or injured joints or muscles
Medical terminology: custom-made orthotic, custom-made insole

What are custom-made orthotics?

Custom-made orthotics are medical devices that can be prescribed by your foot specialist: a Chiropodist or Podiatrist. Orthotics provide support for the foot by redistributing pressure or realigning foot joints while the foot is standing, walking or running. There are two main types of custom-made orthotics:

  • Functional orthotic
    • Goal is to prevent and control unwanted motion in the joints of the foot and prevent pain while standing, walking or running
  • Accommodative orthotic
    • Goal is to distribute weight away from a painful or problematic area
    • Does not try to control unwanted motion in the joints of the foot but support and cushion the foot

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Do I need orthotics?

Many foot conditions, as well as certain disease and disorders, could benefit from custom-made orthotic therapy, including:

  • Pain on the ball of the foot
  • Heel pain
  • Heel spurs
  • In-toeing/out-toeing in children
  • Walking instability
  • Arthritic joint pain
  • Preventive care for diabetic feet
  • Knee and/or back pain (related to foot function)

How are orthotics made?

  • Taking a mold of the foot(creating a negative cast) using
    • Plaster of Paris
    • 3D Foot Scanner
    • STS sock (fiberglass material)
    • Foam box (for accommodative orthotics)
  • Manufacturing lab creating your custom-made orthotic
    • Creating a three-dimensional model of the foot from the negative cast to mold the prescribed shell material of the orthotic
    • Trimming the shell of the orthotic to proper dimensions and placing the prescribed top cover and any padding modifications to the orthotic shell

It is important that proper advice is given to you when you pick up your orthotics to ensure that the transition into wearing your custom-made orthotics is as smooth and pain-free as possible.

What’s the difference between custom-made orthotics vs. over-the-counter insoles?

Over-the-counter (OTC) orthotics can be a good, cheap, quick way to alleviate some foot pain. They can also be used to see how a patient may tolerate custom-made orthotics. It is necessary that the appropriate OTC orthotic is chosen to match the foot as closely as possible.

Over-the-counter orthotics

Pros Cons
  • Quick and convenient
  • Affordable
  • Can bring satisfactory results in treating common foot conditions
  • Does not fit all foot types
  • Does not support moderate to more severe biomechanical abnormalities
  • Shorter life span than a custom-made orthotic
  • Does not fit all foot types
  • Does not support moderate to more severe biomechanical abnormalities
  • Shorter life span than a custom-made orthotic

Custom-made orthotics

Pros Cons
  • Gait analysis and biomechanical examination included when receiving custom orthotics
  • Ability to modify dimensions unique to the foot creating a perfect fit
  • Variety of materials, pads and cushioning can be used to provide specific support
  • Longer lifespan than OTC insoles
  • Costs significantly more than an OTC insole
  • Patient may not have extended healthcare insurance to cover costs
  • Costs significantly more than an OTC insole
  • Patient may not have extended healthcare insurance to cover costs