When it comes to the human body our feet are probably the least of our concerns. However, feet are very important in regards of our body motion, muscles, bone, and gait (the way we walk). The feet are the foundation of our body similar to a house. Without a foundation, the house would not be stable and the same goes for our feet. Our feet support our weight, act as a shock absorber, propel us to move forward, and maintain balance by adjusting our body on uneven surfaces.
The way we walk is dependent on the shape of our feet and what shoes we wear can affect the entire body. For example, one of the common foot deformities is excessive pronation, also known as flat feet. Essentially, the arches of the foot have fallen caused by wearing unsupportive/flat shoes, injuries, obesity, pregnancy, or neuromuscular diseases. Overall, if the foot arches are not neutral the connecting ligaments and muscles will cause misalignment to the ankle. This can then lead to joint misalignment to our knees, hip, and spine. With the misalignments of those joints, pain will occur and the muscles will be strained causing foot pain, leg pain, and low back pain.
Along with excessive pronation, the other common deformities of the feet are excessive supination (high arches), Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, and arthritis. These deformities will also cause misalignments of our bones, strained muscles, and foot pain. The treatment to help correct the shape of the feet or ease the pain is the use of orthotics.
Orthotics are shoe inserts to help correct the shape of our feet without the need of surgery. There are different types of orthotics such as customized, heat moldable, and off-the-shelf. Customized orthotics are prescribed by podiatrist, a foot specialist, for people who have severe disorders. For example, someone with completely flat feet will need this type of orthotic. Essentially, a cast of the foot will be needed which is done by plaster. The plaster cast creates a negative mold of the foot, is sent to a laboratory for manufacturing orthotics, and a positive cast is made by pouring plaster into the negative mold. The positive cast represents a replica of the feetunderside which is then adjusted by an orthotic technician to fit the patient’s feet. The customized orthotic is effective for correcting feet, but however many have found them to be difficult to adjust and is the most expensive ranging from $70-$600.
The heat moldable orthotic is quite different than customized. They are a flexible, medium firm density that can be heated by a toaster or oven. When it’s cool enough, the insole should be placed in your shoes for you to put on and it will then begin to cast around your foot. Many patients find instant relief with this orthotic. Compare to customized orthotics, they are extremely less expensive varying from $25-$50 and can be found online and local stores such as Walmart.
The last type of orthotic is off-the-shelf. This type of insole is are also called “arch support” or “prefabricated orthotics”. The common brands heard of are Dr. Scholls Massaging Gel Insoles. Essentially, they are soft-medium density insoles that provide gentle support to the arch and help spread weight more evenly on the bottoms of the feet. They are available from drug stores and cost varies from $30-$50. These insoles will adjust to the shape of feet by the individual’s body weight and body heat. Although this type of orthotic has been found to not be as supportive as custom orthotics, but they do work well for many for less of the cost.
If interested in learning more about orthotics or believe they will help ease your discomfort, Aquacare Physical Therapy offers orthotics. Call to schedule a consultation with one of our therapists to determine if you may benefit from an orthotic.