Do I actually need orthotics?
So the question you want the answer to… Do you really need orthotics? This article will allow you to make an informed decision about the benefits of orthotics as well as whether your podiatrist has explored the proper conservative options available for you prior to considering orthotics.
My experience with orthotics is extensive. In short, I have in the past and still do create orthotics regularly. I have previously taught and tutored at La Trobe University on orthotic theory and manufacturing. Finally, and most importantly, I have also worn orthotics previously myself (which I ended up throwing out because they were too bulky).
Orthotics, for those who are unaware, is a device that is either pre made or custom made to create a change or accommodate the alignment of the foot. There are many pre made orthotics out there. You’ll find them at chemists, physio and chiro practices; most podiatrists will tend to have these options too. A couple of brand examples include: Vasyli, Formorthotics, and Superfeet. On a side note, a Scholl gel support is not an orthotic!
These pre made orthotics tend to be good for the consumer that just wants a bit of support in their arch, and something relatively cheap compared to a custom pair from their podiatrist. However, what if you’re in pain or discomfort? What do you do if your podiatrist recommends you a custom orthotic?
As a consumer you are to know 5 things:
- Orthotics are created differently by all podiatrists – so your friend’s experience, for instance, may be different to yours, unless you see the same podiatry professional.
- Costs for orthotics vary based on how much a podiatrist believes their custom designs are worth. Similarly to an architect designing a house, you will find premium designers, some that provide good value, some that are rip offs, and some that are run of the mill.
- Orthotic bulkiness is something in this day and age you can ask to have at a minimal. Not all orthotics have to be a big bulky brick under your feet.
- Your foot should be casted properly prior to the orthotic being made. Anyone that traces your foot, gets you to step in a foam box or walk across a plate is probably a bit too dated or doesn’t create custom orthotics regularly enough in my opinion. A proper sock mould or quality laser scanner is in my opinion are the premium methods for casting the foot.
- If orthotics are the only option a podiatrist or orthotist for that matter gives you on your first consult to address your complaint… Go somewhere else.
Now in reference from my last point. Please note, orthotics can be looked at similarly to braces from your dentist. Sometimes you just need them, and sugar coating it will otherwise waste time. They both can come off eventually and they’re both expensive. Orthotics being comparatively quite less expensive… but you get what I mean
However for the majority of the time I believe if your podiatrist performs the below methods, then they have taken reasonable enough care to warrant thinking an orthotic is necessary. These methods include:
- Assessing walking and running technique: It’s important your Podiatrist assesses the way you move and run day to day. There are cues which you can implement when moving to assist and retrain how your feet, knees and hips accept load and ground reaction forces.
- Footwear assessment – Now this doesn’t mean you have to go get the shoe with the most cushion or support. Each foot responds differently to different footwear, so it’s important your podiatrist advises you on this prior to looking at orthotics.
- Taping and Padding the foot – if the injury is acute in nature it may not be all biomechanically related. So some temporary support may be all you need to remove your pain.
- Recommendations to change your activity frequency, intensity or the way an activity is performed – For example taking a look at your squat technique, where often we may find poor technique reducing ankle mobility leading to pain and visa versa.
- The Podiatrist has attempted soft tissue work, stretching, exercise prescription or dry needling to address the muscles contributing to the pain that you’re currently experiencing..
Your podiatrist being able to perform the majority of these 5 things are paramount too not only show that the Podiatrist is genuinely competent at treating your concern, but also that they are not purely financially motivated to sell orthotics.
Remember each podiatrist is their own designer when it comes to this. So if you feel the design has been created as a result of valid testing, then I believe you’ll be in good hands.