Orthotic Therapy in Sutherland

Sutherland Podiatry Centre in Sutherland offer expert podiatry advice on orthotics.  The following information is provided to assist your understanding of the role of orthotics in maintaining good biomechanical function of your feet and lower limbs.

What is an Orthotic?

Foot orthotics (or orthoses) are devices that are placed into shoes to control the abnormal forces going through your feet and lower limbs and/or accommodate painful areas of the foot.

There is a huge amount of confusing information available about orthotics. For many people making an informed decision can be quite difficult.  Recognising a sales pitch and separating it from facts is the key to better foot health.  Hopefully the information here will help you make that decision.

How does an Orthotic Work?

Orthotics are not just arch supports, although some people use this term to describe them, but dynamic devices (ie they work best when walking on them, not just standing on them) that make standing, walking and running more comfortable and efficient by slightly altering the angles at which the foot strikes a surface, and progresses through the gait cycle.

One of the main functions of the foot is to absorb shock as the body’s weight shifts with each step.  It does this through a complex process in which the foot flattens.  This process is called pronation, and it helps with shock absorption when weight is placed on each foot.  However, there are two problems that can occur in this system.  If the foot flattens too much it will cause the arch to collapse resulting in flat feet.  On the other hand, if the foot does not flatten enough, as with people with high arches, too little pronation will occur.  This can send the shock when you hit the ground up throughout the leg, making joints and muscles absorb this shock, resulting in knee, hip and possible lower back pain.

Orthotics are prescribed to address a specific problem, such as too much pronation or too little pronation.  Therefore you would require a complete biomechanical assessment of the foot and lower leg by a Podiatrist to obtain a detailed clinical picture of your specific problem.

What Types of Conditions Would You Need An Orthotic?

Almost anyone can benefit from orthotics, from children to the elderly, and all those people in-between.  However, everyone’s feet are unique.

The main type of conditions that benefit from orthotic therapy:

  • Flat feet
  • High arches
  • Bunions
  • Chronic heel pain
  • Frequent ankle sprains
  • Shin splints
  • Chronic knee pain
  • Morton’s Neuroma
  • Arthritic feet
  • Diabetic feet

What Type of Orthotic Should You Get?

There are so many orthotics on the market, how do you choose? This is a good question.  There are soft orthotics, hard orthotics, custom made orthotics, off the shelf orthotics. For some people, it is like asking how long is a piece of string???? All jokes aside, the type of orthotic you need will depend on the condition you suffer from, and the biomechanical abnormality your feet have.  That is why it is very important to have a biomechanical assessment done by a Podiatrist before you make the decision.

An analogy can be made by comparing orthotics and eyeglasses – both devices require an examination to determine the proper degree of correction or support needed.  Some people only require an off the shelf soft device, some people require a custom rigid device.  It will require proper assessment before the prescription can be made.

How Long Should You Wear An Orthotic?

This question is posed to me all the time. Again, it is like how long is a piece of string??? Orthotics are prescribed to treat biomechanical dysfunction.  The problem is, the dysfunction is still there when you take the orthotics out of your shoes.  Using the eyeglasses analogy again, if you take your glasses off, you are still short (or long) sighted.  You can still see, but you may not be able to read clearly, or see long distances clearly.

As a rule of thumb, I recommend that you wear your orthotics for the bulk of your walking time (ie at school, sports, walking too and from work, etc). And for those special occasions like going out for dinner, a party, etc, wear the shoes that you like.

Orthotic Tips

  • Wear shoes that work well with your orthotics, your Podiatrist will recommend the best shoe for you
  • Bring your orthotics with you whenever you purchase a new pair of shoes
  • Wear socks or pantyhose similar to those that you plan on wearing when you shop for new shoes
  • Return to your Podiatrist for a follow up evaluation of your orthotics.  It is important that your feet and orthotics are functioning properly together
  • ALWAYS return to your Podiatrist if you are having problems with your orthotics.