Foot problems are often treated with shoe inserts called orthotics. In addition to people with foot and ankle conditions, people who stand or walk on the job a great deal, are active in sports or are overweight may benefit from orthotics.
Orthotics are prescribed to:
- Reduce pain
- Provide support
- Prevent foot deformity
- Position the foot
- Relieve pressure on areas of the foot or ankle
- Improve gait
- Address problems in other parts of the body such as the back, knee or hip
- Relieve foot fatigue and pain from arthritis
Most custom orthotics are made from a plaster mold of your foot. The mold is made in your doctor's office and sent to a lab. Technicians pour plaster into the mold, and when it hardens, it exactly reproduces the bottom of your foot. Based on the doctor's prescription, the technicians will custom-make the orthotic.
Types of orthotics
There are three general categories of orthotics: Those that change foot function, those that protect the foot and ankle, and those that combine function and protection.
- Rigid orthotics
Made from firm materials such as plastic or carbon fiber, rigid orthotics are designed to control foot function usually in the two major foot joints, which are directly below the ankle joint. Rigid orthotics are used to alleviate pain in the legs, thighs and lower back caused by abnormal foot movement.
- Soft orthotics
Flexible, soft orthotics are made with compressible materials that absorb shock, improve balance and take pressure off sore spots in the foot. They are used to alleviate pain and protect the foot for people with arthritis or diabetes and those who have lost the protective fatty tissues on the side of the foot
- Semi-rigid orthotics
These orthotics are made to help ensure the dynamic foot balance required by athletes as they run or participate in sports. Layers of soft materials reinforced by rigid materials assist proper foot function.