Custom foot orthotics are prescription medical devices, designed to adjust and control the functions of the foot and its alignment with the lower leg. They are used to treat/ prevent injury-causing motions including excessive pronation (collapsing in) and supination (rolling out) and make standing, walking and running more efficient.
All Orthotics Are Not Created Equal
Many different kinds of in-shoe devices are referred to as “Orthotics”. You’ll see “Orthotics” in TV infomercials, stands at consumer shows and in a growing number of retail shops. Arch supports and insoles sold in drug, sports and shoe stores are increasingly referred to as “Orthotics”. Then there are the orthotics that Chiropodist/ Podiatrist’s prescribe for their patients.
For most consumers, telling the difference between the various types of orthotics (and making an informed decision) is a challenge. Recognizing slick sales “spin” and separating it from the facts can be even more challenging. The following is some information that may help.
There Are Three Common Types Of Foot Orthotics:
Custom foot orthotics are prescription medical devices, designed to adjust and control the functions of the foot and its alignment with the lower leg. They are used to treat/prevent injury-causing motions including excessive pronation (collapsing in) and supination (rolling out) and make standing, walking and running more efficient. Some custom orthotics are designed to redistribute pressure on the bottoms of your feet to alleviate pain from corns, callouses or bony prominences.
Genuine, custom foot orthotics are made by starting with a thorough exam by a qualified Chiropodist/ Podiatrist, followed by the taking of impressions using plaster of paris, followed by the completion of a detailed prescription form. Your casts and prescription form are then sent to a professional laboratory where your orthotics are made by technicians with appropriate training and qualifications.
Customized devices are relatively new in the market and can be difficult to distinguish from genuine custom ones. They are commonly a product of computerized force platform information and are typically made by modifying and /or adding components to a pre-manufactured insole. Unfortunately, they are often marketed as “custom” and sold at similar prices. One way to tell the difference between custom and customized devices is if a plaster cast or 3D scan cast is not taken of your feet, you won’t be getting genuine custom orthotics. Walking or standing on a force platform with a colourful graphic display is an excellent way to evaluate some aspects of foot function and pressure distribution. In qualified hands, force platforms can be useful diagnostic tools but they are incapable of capturing true, three dimensional impressions of your feet. Beware of the slick sales “spin”- if there is no cast, it can’t be custom.
Off-the-Shelf devices are most commonly found in retail drug, sports and shoe stores as well as some specialty shops. Some foot health care professionals recommend them for minor foot problems. Popular brands sold in Canada include, Spenco®, Superfeet® and PowerStep®.
The First Step…
If you are having foot and/ or leg problems and want to know if orthotics are right for you (and if so, what kind) start by consulting your Chiropodist/ Podiatrist. For help choosing a Chiropodist/ Podiatrist (the qualified foot orthotic provider) in your area, consult your family doctor.
Getting orthotics that are right for you begins with a thorough exam by a qualified Chiropodist/ Podiatrist. You won’t find these people on infomercials, in the mall or at a consumer show. Minor foot problems can often be treated with an inexpensive off-the-shelf orthotic and/ or proper footwear selection and fitting advice. More pronounced/ persistent problems usually require a more precise, custom orthotic solution.
Successful foot orthotic therapy requires an experienced Chiropodist/ Podiatrist’s training and clinical experience combined with a qualified laboratory technical skills and material technology expertise.