Having treated thousands of runners and athletes of all types and personal experience the following brief information should help you select the best orthotic and person to make them for you.
Did you know there are 3 arches in the foot?
Medial and lateral longitudinal and transverse. All are important. The foot needs to be evaluated as a whole not just an arch! Is your foot rigid? Or is it hyper mobile?
Are the supporting muscles and ligaments intact and working? What is happening with the rear of your feet? Does the Achilles tendon line straight up to the heel (calcaneus) or twisted to the inside?Is your longitudinal arch low or high? How much do you weigh? What type of athletic activities do you participate in? These are important questions to ask!
Types of Orthotic Material:
Rigid-graphite, Semi-Rigid subortholene, Semi-flexible Polypropylene.
Leather laminate, Crepe, Plastizote.
Foot Molding Techniques:
This is a very controversial subject. My personal experience after 30 years is expressed here.
Is the typical podiatrist technique for molding your feet in order to create a proper orthotic in a non weight bearing method. I still use this method and recommend you have yours made this way. There are those in the chiropractic world that think weight bearing is the proper methodology. I have tried this technique for years and found that all it did was to accommodate a deformed foot not correct the weight bearing faults. However, if all you need is a metatarsal arch support then you can use any method including just tracing your foot outline! Functional stability is what we are after. Having all of the muscles, tendons and ligaments functional is crucial.
Foam mold casting:
This can be done in non weight-bearing or weight-bearing positioning. Great for weight-bearing usage not so great for non weight bearing usage. Here’s the skinny in my opinion. Foam molds are easier, cleaner and take less time. That translates into more production capacity but they DO NOT have the detail that may be critical in your feet. I found that I had to correct 40% more orthotics when I used the foam techniques.
Computerized pressure analysis:
If all you have is a simple, uncomplicated foot issue then you can use generic inserts that only address the longitudinal arch. I often have my patients start with one of these for simple cases. We typically recommend “Superfeet” because of their durability and economy.
We always recommend strengthening as well as utilizing supports. Some of the newer methods for foot and ankle strengthening include: The Pilates foot corrector or Elgin arch exerciser. Using the new toe socks and balance training for lateral foot support often overlooked in orthotic utilization. See our video section for foot and ankle exercises.
Are your feet sensitive?
This may sound like an irrelevant question but one that may ensure your happiness with your new orthotics. For example. If you are very sensitive and you get hard orthotics you must be willing to tough out the break in period which may last weeks. You might be the person who would be best served with soft orthotics despite the other factors of your anatomy. The single most frequent complaint I get from patients who got hard orthotics is that they hurt and hated them so they never wore them. On the other hand if you are not sensitive and your anatomy is better served by hard orthotics you will get a longer lasting orthotic! Hard orthotics hold there shape for a very long time while soft orthotics lose their shape and may not be able to hold up if you are a heavier person. If you need hard orthotics you can buffer the hardness by covering them with a soft material! Orthotics when done right make a huge difference to your entire frame.
But my feet don’t hurt!
I just have knee, hip ,lower back, neck and shoulder pains. After 30 years I still cannot explain why some peoples feet have very painful feet with little deformity and others have major deformities with no pain. Either way, the feet are the electrical receptors to our brain for our walking mechanism (gait mechanism) to function correctly.