When you have problems with the way your feet work, it’s not just your soles that suffer. Foot problems can spread to the ankles, knees, hips, and even into the spine. There’s a complex construction to your feet, designed to absorb the heavy forces of daily living while keeping the rest of your body in balance.
Custom orthotics serve as a mechanical adjustment, correcting misalignments by supporting your foot within shoes. As a foot and ankle injury specialist, James J. Reid, MD, prescribes orthotics as part of the treatment plan for a wide range of conditions, underscoring how important the mechanics of your feet can be.
What is an orthotic?
When you’re dealing with tired, sore feet, or if you’re trying to extend the life of a pair of favorite shoes, you may already use shoe inserts, including cushioning pads, arch supports, or heel inserts. These are all replacements for the basic insole that comes with a new pair of shoes.
Those pads and supports are technically orthotics, since they’re made to help your feet and shoes function better. In many cases, these are great solutions to make your day more comfortable and take some of the strain off your feet.
Off-the-rack orthotics have, by design. compromises to produce results across a wide range of users. They aren’t customizable to your feet, apart from perhaps some minor trimming to fit your shoes. However, if your foot problems are minor, they may be all you need. To address more complex or major foot health issues, Dr. Reid turns to custom orthotics, individually cast to fit your feet.
Custom orthotics deal with biomechanical inefficiencies and problems by addressing your feet and their support as the foundation of your body when you’re upright. Your gait cycle, the motions related to walking, sets the alignment of feet, ankles, legs, knees, hips, pelvis, and spine. Even a small change with your feet can add up to major inefficiency as the rest of your body attempts to compensate.
For example, with low or flat arches, your knees bend slightly inward, toward a knock-knee posture. This, in turn, causes changes in hip rotation which could then alter pelvic tilt and the relationship with the lumbar spine. A good fix is to add an orthotic that pushes up on the arch of the foot, straightens your knees, and corrects the misalignments moving upward.
Every patient’s needs vary, so there are several types of orthotics that serve as the basis for customization. These types are:
- Accommodative: relieves stress from arthritis that limits your foot mobility, usually made of flexible materials
- Functional: corrects the orientation of the foot for greater efficiency, as in the flat arch example above; made from more rigid materials
- Therapeutic: balances irregularly shaped feet, providing support and stability
Since custom orthotics start with impressions of your feet, you should find them comfortable to wear as they direct your body into better alignment. You may need to limit your time at first, as restoring alignment may cause pain as your body adjusts. Dr. Reid and his team will let you know what you can expect.
Call or click to schedule a consultation with Dr. Reid at his Los Angeles office in Culver City. Support your foot health with an orthotics fitting to step lightly into summer this year.