As glasses are to eyes, orthoses are to feet.
An orthosis (also called an orthotic) is a shoe or heel insert used to correct various foot conditions causing pain in the foot itself, ankles, legs and hips. Orthoses (plural) address biomechanical misalignment and problems associated with the function of the feet.
They are often recommended to:
- Provide support so that the foot and ankle are in proper alignment
- Support the ankle
- Correct a foot deformity
- To help prevent recurring injuries to the feet
How do orthoses help your feet?
Sometimes the feet may need a little extra support to help ease pain and discomfort through aligning the foot’s structure and through strengthening the muscles. Correctly fitting and supportive footwear can help to a degree, but biomechanically custom-made orthoses can minimise the damaging forces that can be caused throughout the feet from misalignment.
In supporting your feet, an orthosis will also support your legs, knees, hips and lower back when walking and standing, and therefore provide valuable changes to the entire musculoskeletal system. Orthoses can improve function, weight distribution and alignment or posture, and pain associated with misalignment.
Orthoses are not ideal for everyone as each set of feet has unique characteristics. Our job a Sanders Podiatry is to identify the best treatment for a condition. Biomechanical therapy involves any sort of treatment or therapy to alter the alignment and function of the feet and body to enable improved mechanical function. This may include orthoses, or we may recommend exercises to stretch and strengthen the foot and ankle muscles, gait retraining, additional paddings, strapping or bracing or anything else that causes a change in the mechanics of the foot and leg.
Related article: The 10 most common foot problems we treat in our podiatry clinics
What conditions can orthoses help?
If you have any of the following foot problems, an orthoses may help to alleviate pain or discomfort.
Plantar fasciitis – a common reason for heel pain which causes pain under the heel from the arch of the foot. An orthosis can help to support the arch and reduce pain.
Bunions – a painful bony bump that grows from the base of the big toe. Orthoses will help to reduce the pressure on the big toe, alleviating pain when you walk.
Flat feet – flat feet have poor alignment and cause an inward rolling motion which does not support the ankle. This causes pain in the feet but can also cause ankle and back pain. An orthotic will help to align the foot and ankle properly.
High arches – high arches create stress in the feet and can be the cause of rolling outward. This adds strain to the ankle and calves. An orthotic will help to alleviate this pressure.
Bursitis – the small fluid-filled sacs in the toes and heels of the foot can become inflamed causing discomfort and pain. Supporting the heel and arch of the foot with an orthosis can help to relieve the discomfort.
Neuroma – a neuroma is a benign cyst between the 3rd and 4th toes and causes pain when walking. An orthotic will help support the toes, taking pressure off the neuroma, allowing you to walk or stand with less discomfort.
Foot injuries – to prevent further injuries from sport or another activity, an orthotic can aid the healing process.
The assessment process to fit custom orthotics
There are a few steps developing custom orthoses for your feet which determine whether you actually need orthoses and how they will benefit your condition.
The process normally works as follows:
- Biomechanical assessment – our podiatrists will do a biomechanical assessment to evaluate the alignment and function of your feet and legs, the fluidity of movement in the joints and the flexibility and strength of the soft tissues.
- Selection of orthosis – we have a few options at Sanders Podiatry depending on your feet and the condition we are treating. We’ll recommend the best type of orthosis for your feet.
- Custom fitting – we’ll create a custom fitting orthosis to specifically support the unique structure your feet. We’ll recommend shoes to wear and provide practical advice on wearing your orthoses daily.
- Review – after a couple of weeks, we’ll review how your feet are responding to the orthoses, review footwear, and ensure they are supporting your feet to achieve proper alignment.
What sort of shoes can be worn with orthoses?
Our podiatrists will help you determine the correct shoes to wear with your orthoses. You can bring your shoes into the clinic so we can review which are appropriate and we’ll also advise on brands and types of correctly fitting shoes and where you can buy them.
In general, your shoes should have the following:
- A low heel height
- A removable inner sole
- An enclosed heel to hold the foot stable
- Enough width for your feet and toes to move
- Enough room for the orthosis and your to foot to fit comfortably
There are more options nowadays for shoes that are orthoses-friendly. We’ll advise on shoes stores and brands that carry a range of shoes you can wear easily with your orthoses.
Do orthoses really work?
At Sanders Podiatry, prescribing an orthosis is mostly done as part of an overall treatment plan for biomechanical therapy. This may include exercises to stretch and strengthen the foot and ankle muscles, retraining your gait to better support your feet and ankles, providing additional padding, strapping or bracing.
Plenty of research has been done about whether orthoses actually help the feet and the science shows that they help to both align and strengthen the foot. Orthoses can also relieve the pain points and discomfort in feet, allowing the feet some breathing space to self correct.
We only prescribe orthoses if needed and we’ll discuss the long term impact of orthoses, how they will benefit your condition and how long you may need to wear them, which is unique to each person.
Make an appointment at Sanders Podiatry – Adelaide, Stirling, Mt Barker
We have family friendly clinics in Adelaide, Stirling and Mt Barker and help people of all ages, from children’s feet to ageing feet as well as sports injuries and diabetic conditions. Phone us to make an appointment at one of our three clinics below: