What to Know About Orthotics

Formally, orthotics is the branch of mechanical and medical science that deals with the design and fitting of devices that support and brace weak or ineffective joints or muscles.
By Patrick Meyer, DPM

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If you are experiencing foot pain, it could be attributed to one of a variety of sources. If you work in manufacturing, healthcare, or education, your foot pain (or knee, hip, or back pain) may be caused by standing on your feet all day. Foot pain, no matter the source, is not normal. We are trained to help alleviate foot pain – and it may be a simple fix.

What Are Orthotics?

Formally, orthotics is the branch of mechanical and medical science that deals with the design and fitting of devices that support and brace weak or ineffective joints or muscles. The word orthotics can also be used to refer to the devices themselves, as we do at The Foot and Ankle Specialists of West Michigan.

How Are Custom Orthotics Different From Store-Bought Inserts?

You’re probably familiar with off-the-shelf shoe inserts. You may have even tried them. Prepackaged shoe inserts often don’t alleviate pain or help correct foot concerns because we all have different feet. They’re generic – and your feet, like you, are unique!

Most over-the-counter inserts are made for specific shoe size or a wide range of shoe sizes (e.g., women’s size 6–10) and can be cut to fit. However, shoe size isn’t everything. Store-bought inserts don’t take into account your biomechanics, physiology, and unique needs.

If you have heard of custom orthotics, you may be picturing one of the following:

  • An orthopedic device that helps prevent or correct a foot deformity.
  • An appliance that helps reduce a senior’s risk of falling.
  • A shoe insert that realigns the leg and relieves knee pain from osteoarthritis.

Custom-fitted orthotics do come in these forms and help with these issues – but they’re more versatile than you might think.

Who Can Benefit from Custom Orthotics?

Custom orthotics are incredibly versatile. They can be used to address a variety of foot pain, on patients of all ages, and to correct all sorts of issues.

Here are just some of the types of people who can benefit from custom orthotics based on their lifestyle:

  • Those that are on their feet all day. Everyone who works most of their day in a standing position – from manufacturing supervisors to healthcare workers to teachers – may benefit from custom orthotics.
  • Athletes. You don’t have to be a pro to have a sports-related injury or to feel foot pain. Those who run, dance, play basketball or tennis – pretty much any sport except swimming – and who enjoy any type of workout could benefit from custom-made orthotics.
  • Those that wear high heels often. Kristen Bell and Scarlet Johansson are just two of the many celebrities who wear orthotics to compensate for the discomfort of super-high heeled shoes.
  • Those living with diabetes. Pressure areas around the feet that create ulcers or wounds are a major complication in the health and well-being of people living with diabetes. Custom orthotics and proper shoe gear are essential in helping to eliminate or manage these conditions.

What Issues Do Custom Orthotics Correct?

In addition to those with general lifestyle needs for orthotics listed above, custom-fitted orthotics can help many different foot issues, including the following:

  • Heel pain
  • Bunions
  • Corns and calluses
  • Flat feet
  • High arches
  • In- and out-toeing
  • Hammertoe and claw toe
  • Forefoot pain
  • Neuropathic ulcerations

Many foot problems arise from biomechanical issues caused by muscle weakness, joint problems, or poor shoe choices. These issues put extra strain on the feet as well as higher up in the body because your feet are the base of your entire skeleton. Because of this, custom orthotics may also help alleviate issues with other parts of your body, including your shins, knees, hips, and lower back.

What’s the Process for Getting Custom Orthotics?

Have you been thinking about your own feet while reading this article? It’s true that custom orthotics may be the simple fix you need to alleviate foot pain – and our team of knowledgeable doctors are experts in prescription orthotic devices. In fact, we create more than 1,000 of them each year. We seek to treat patients conservatively first and frequently provide individualized treatment plans using the versatility of custom orthotics prescription.

Getting fitted for custom orthotics is straightforward. We will listen to your needs and concerns, analyze your gait, lower body anatomy and biomechanics, and will measure your feet to determine what size and shape orthotic device will work best for you. This in-office process only takes about 15 minutes.

Then, once we have a custom mold, the orthotics order is sent out to the lab to be created. Custom orthotics can be ready in as little as 4-6 week. And no matter where you are in West Michigan, our offices aren’t far.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment.