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What are orthotics?

Orthotics keep your feet healthy

Orthotics are not simply a term for “shoe inserts.”  True orthotics combine the technology and science of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, engineering, and pathophysiology to make a device specific to a patient’s needs.  Orthotics are external instruments used to change the distribution of pressure across the bones and tissues of the foot and ankle.  These devices can change the way in which your foot impacts the ground.  This allows the foot to be controlled, immobilized, or guided to treat certain conditions.  Orthotics have also been developed to assist movement and aid rehabilitation after damage has been done to the foot or ankle.  They are also used to optimize performance in sports.

Orthotics are made by creating a mold of the patient’s affected foot, and forming it to those specifications.  In the past decade, CAD/CAM, CNC machines and 3D printers have begun to play a more active role in manufacturing custom orthotics.  There are a variety of materials that are used to make orthotics.  Thermoplastics, carbon fiber, metals, elastics, and fabrics are the most common building blocks of orthotics.  They are classified by an acronym related to the area in which they are aiding.  Ankle foot orthotics (AFO) for example, affect the ankle and foot.  AFOs generally provide stability, reduce pain in weight transference, correct deformities of the foot, and prevent future foot problems.  If you have any questions related to orthotics or foot pain you can contact our office.

Why do I need orthotics?


Orthotics are used to treat or prevent foot problems that occur with repetitive motion and pressure.  Many people are born with deformities and abnormalities in the bones, ligaments, and tendons of the feet and ankles.  Such abnormalities may seem to be minor annoyances at first, but can often lead to more serious issues like bunions and hammertoe if not properly treated.  You should contact your podiatrist if you have any concerns about your foot structure

Prevention is always an easier route than treatment.  Orthotic inserts and shoes are often used by those with flat feet or high arches, or weaknesses in the feet, to compensate for pressure differentials.  Orthotics can also be used to increase blood flow and reduce the risk of certain complications like foot ulcers in diabetic patients. These devices offer a plethora of medical solutions to foot and ankle problems that plague patients.  You should also plan to replace your current custom orthotics when they become too worn out to help your feet. Dr. Irvine and his staff will gladly answer any questions you may have concerning whether orthotics may be helpful for you.  

What is a custom orthotic?

A custom orthotic cannot simply be purchased at a store.  Such “orthotics” are very generic, and often do not meet the specific requirements of the foot they’re used upon.  These generic inserts and orthotics can be helpful for determining if a custom orthotic may be the way to go.  It is often recommended that those unsure of orthotics try these cheaper alternatives first.  This will allow you to understand what works best for you. 

The problem with these generic devices is that not all people react to an orthotic the same way.  While one person may use an orthotic and have their foot structure corrected right away, the next person may react to the orthotic by overcorrecting.  It is almost always a better choice to acquire an orthotic casted for your unique foot. This will give both you and your podiatrist the best idea of what kind of orthotic is best for you.  Contact our office or set up an appointment today, and we’ll fit you with a custom orthotic that meets your personal needs.

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