What is an orthotic and does it help with foot pain?
After treating thousands of patients I can honestly say that one of the most difficult areas for pain is your feet. Let me share a real patient story as an example. Susan was a young mother of two toddlers who came to see us about having pain in both of her heels. We asked her many questions and found out that she was barefoot at home walking on ceramic tiles as she ran after her kids all day long. We also learned that the pain started on a recent holiday where she wore flip flops for most of the day. And she told us that her pain is really bad in the morning when she wakes up and starts walking around.
During our examination of her feet we tested her bones, ligaments and muscles. And finally we had her walk on our Gait Scan© plate and showed her a video replay of all the forces on her feet while she walked and stood still. We were able to show her how the pain in the inside of her heel was due to pressure on her plantar fascia. We immediately gave her a treatment plan including; stretching, proper shoe wear, ultrasound/electricity treatments and custom made orthotics. Three weeks later she told us she did not have pain when walking first thing in the morning, she was avoiding being barefoot, and she wears shoes indoors with her orthotics. What a success story!!
In this blog we will be talking specifically about orthotics and the role they play in managing foot pain. We will first explain what an orthotic is, how it may reduce foot pain and then we will give 3 very important exercises you can do to help reduce your own foot pain from the comfort of your own home.
What is an orthotic?
Orthotics are custom made inserts that fit into shoes to support the foot while standing and walking. They are prescribed for: chronic foot and knee/hip pain, to improve performance of athletes and to support spinal conditions like scoliosis.
Orthotics are basically a shoe insert but with modifications to make them unique for each individual. For example – if you are an athlete there are specialised orthotics for soccer players, skaters, runners etc. If you work in an office there are full length versions which can have added padding on the heel or arch. If you work in a factory or construction site there are versions to put inside steel toed shoes. Kids who require orthotics are growing and the general rule of thumb is if you change your shoe size then you should be cast for a new orthotic. And yes, there is even a version for ladies to wear in formal high heel shoes.
How do orthotics reduce foot pain?
Orthotics are designed to correct or accommodate biomechanical or foot deformities (bunions, hammertoes, flatfoot, or high arches) and a variety of joint and muscle conditions (arthritis) to improve walking patterns and manage pain. They redistribute the force and pressure placed on muscles and joints which decreases the strain and pain in our feet and the rest of our body.
Facts about Feet:
- 75% of Canadians will have foot problems during their lives
- 25% of the bones of your body are in your FEET
- The average person takes 8000 to 10,00 steps per day
- 60-70 % of people with diabetes have nerve damage (poor sensation of their feet) which can lead to amputation
- Many foot conditions are caused by poorly fitting shoes
- Orthotics do not last forever (1-2 years) and must be put into a supportive shoe
Our feet play such a critical role in our overall health and wellbeing. When we do not have pain we run around all day without even thinking about our feet. But once we have foot pain for any reason – we are acutely aware of each step we take. We can feel the ground pushing back on our heel with every heel strike and then we feel our big toe pushing off to prepare for swinging our leg into the next step.
But foot pain does not always stop at the foot itself. Unfortunately foot pain can lead to knee pain then hip pain and even low back pain. The smart thing to do is to take care of your foot pain BEFORE it leads to other areas of pain.
Prevent foot pain with this 3 exercies:
- Sit on a chair and place a towel on the ground.
- Curling your toes on one foot, try to pinch the towel to bring the towel towards you.
- Do this 5 x for each foot.
- Sit on a chair and place a small ball under your foot.
- Roll the ball forward and backward 10 x then side to side 10x
- Do this on the other foot.
Wall Calf Stretch:
- Stand facing a wall with feet shoulder width apart.
- Place two hands on the wall.
- Take one step forward towards the wall.
- Keep the back leg knee straight.
- Hold 30 seconds do 3 x then repeat with the other leg.
We hope we have been able to help you understand what orthotics are and the role they play in managing foot pain. There are many ways to treat foot pain and orthotics MAY be one of them. Try out our three favourite foot exercises and see if it helps you manage your foot pain. Do you still need help?
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You have your own personal goals. Maybe you want to return to sport, work, recover from surgery or get ready for a vacation. After 40 years in Richmond Hill our highly trained and experienced chiropractors and physiotherapists know what treatment/exercises you need to help you reach your goals.