When your body is in pain, you search for a solution to live a more comfortable life. If that pain is based in your feet and legs, it can affect your mobility. Untreated, you may not be as active as you once were; worst-case scenario, you may have you sit out of sports and other physical activities. The good news is, you don’t have to feel left out.
At Horizon Foot & Ankle Institute, we’re in the business of helping you obtain a solid foundation with foot, ankle, and lower leg treatment. Our team of professionals are experts in foot orthotics, making us your go-to choice for personalized care.
What Are Orthotics?
Even if you’ve never heard the term, you may be familiar with the concept: A foot orthotic is a personalized device that rests in the shoe, giving your foot comfort, pain relief, and stability. Unlike the typical shoe insert you can purchase at a convenience store, the best orthotics are custom-made for each patient and offered through prescription by our doctors. Certain biomechanical issues are relieved, helping patients run, walk, and stand with greater ease.
What Do They Treat?
Orthotics work to correct a variety of issues. While flat feet is a common issue orthotics relieve, someone with the following may also seek orthotics for help.
- Heel Pain
- Knee Pain
- Lower Back Pain
- Plantar Fasciitis
Orthotics will realign the foot and leg structure, so mal-alignment of the bone isn’t an issue. Stress on the ligaments, tendons, and muscles is also relieved, making a big difference for these conditions.
How can orthotics treat so many problems? Wearing them helps correct your gait when running, standing, or walking.
Why Should Someone Get Orthotics?
Some may think signs of a need for foot orthotics would be quite obvious, but there are some you may not be aware of. If you already know your feet are flat, it’s time to visit Horizon Foot & Ankle Institute for a consultation. Some other signs include:
- Prolonged Pain – Far too often, people learn to deal with pain in the feet by adjusting how they walk or suffering through it. If your feet, heels, knees, or hips are in pain regularly, it could mean you need orthotics to correct a real health issue.
- Worn Shoes – Everyone’s shoes wear out, but your right and left shoe should wear pretty evenly. If one shoe is more worn on the sole than the other shoe, you don’t give even pressure to them as you walk. This often means you have a health condition that could be corrected with orthotics.
- Swelling – Your feet should not swell while you participate in everyday activities such as standing or walking. If they do, you could be experiencing a wide variety of conditions that call for extra support from a prescribed device.
Why choose orthotics over an over-the-counter insert? While generic inserts can provide support and cushioning that makes walking more comfortable, they’re only designed to alleviate the symptoms, not solve the underlying problem.
How Do Doctors Determine Need?
Foot pain doesn’t have to be an accepted part of life — in fact, it shouldn’t be. If you’re experiencing recurring or constant pain, it’s likely a sign of something more serious. Ignoring this warning can lead to more significant issues down the line. Getting treatment now isn’t just about alleviating your current pain — it’s about ensuring your future health.
If you suspect you’re dealing with an issue that may require orthotics, you should speak with our patient care coordinator to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. There are some specific things our doctors may do to determine whether orthotics are needed. This includes:
- Ask questions — To understand your concerns, the podiatrist will first ask questions about your symptoms. Your answers will let the doctor know where to look for issues.
- A physical examination – A doctor will visually and manually examine your feet to look for abnormalities and check your pain level.
- Imaging – Through different imaging techniques, we are given a better idea of what is going on inside your feet.
- Movement – Our doctors and surgeons are better able to see where the issue lies when they watch you move your feet, ankles, hips, and legs.
What Types Are There?
Our team of professionals will decide what type of orthotics will be best suited to treat your issues. After making a mold, one of the following types of orthotics can be made.
- Functional – A functional orthotic, or rigid orthotic, is made from carbon fiber, plastic, or another similar material. They are designed to relieve strain and pain of the feet, thighs, lower back, and legs.
- Accommodative – An accommodative orthotic, or soft orthotic, is made from soft compression materials. They are designed to relieve pressure from conditions such as diabetic foot ulcers and similar issues. Accommodative orthotics can be large enough that you’ll need special shoes to wear with them.
Both types of orthotics should fit comfortably in your shoes. You simply slip them in before you insert your feet and wear your shoes as usual.
What Is the Process of Getting Foot Orthotics?
To get the best orthotics, you need to go through the fitting process. The first step is for the podiatrist to position your foot, thereby ensuring proper alignment. Then a cast is made to serve as a mold.
Before the insert is created, the podiatrist will make minor adjustments to the cast for ideal support. Once your physician is satisfied, the next step can begin: choosing the materials.
Several materials can be used in the fabrication of orthotics:
- Carbon fiber
- Carbon graphite composites
Some of these materials are firmer than others, and which we use depends on the conditions the orthotics are intended to correct.
The insert is then molded to the cast via vacuuming. Once it’s properly shaped, it’s removed and trimmed to fit inside a shoe. The last step is fitting, where your podiatrist will ensure the orthotics are comfortable and effective.
Why Are Foot Orthotics Paired With Other Forms of Treatment?
Sometimes an orthotics insert isn’t enough to fix the underlying problem, though it can alleviate immediate symptoms. To improve your health, the podiatrist may recommend other forms of treatment in addition to wearing the insert:
- Taking NSAIDs to reduce swelling
- Getting physical therapy
- Wearing supportive shoes
What Should Patients Do To Ensure Proper Healing?
The best thing you can do is to listen to your podiatrist. Additionally, you should communicate openly; for example, if you develop new symptoms or your symptoms get worse, you should tell your physician immediately. The longer you allow an issue to persist, the more likely it is to become serious.
So, what can you do in the day-to-day to facilitate healing? The most obvious answer is to wear your inserts regularly. You may be tempted to skip them if you’re just going for a quick errand run, but the truth is, without the insert, your pain may return, and you may lose progress in the adjustments to your feet. While it can be a pain, you should always wear your inserts, no matter the shoe or how short the trip is.
Why Should You Contact the Horizon Foot & Ankle Institute?
The team at the Horizon Foot & Ankle Institute knows how critical mobility is to everyday life. We also understand that each patient has unique needs. That’s why we offer both types of orthotics in addition to other forms of treatment. With the proper care, you can get back to living pain-free.
Getting on Track to Pain Relief
At Horizon Foot & Ankle Institute, we are committed to helping you get on the right track to pain relief. Contact us today on Clayton Road, or give us a call at (314) 381-1800 and let’s schedule a consultation.
Image Credit: Shutterstock/ Skaslotjuon