If you’ve had foot or ankle pain, you’ve probably asked the question, “should I get orthotics?” While most avid runners and athletes may be familiar with foot orthotics, most of the population is unsure about what orthotics can do for them.
Surprisingly to some, orthotics are useful for all sorts of orthopedic diagnoses and can be beneficial for many different types of people. If you have foot, ankle, knee, hip or even back problems, orthotics may be a great adjunct to your physical therapy treatment! Recent research has demonstrated favorable evidence for the use of foot orthotics in daily life and for sports performance. Past studies have revealed that the use of orthotics can increase hip muscle activity during less dynamic exercises1 and help control ankle and knee motion during running.2,3 Orthotics have also been used as treatment for the diabetic foot for many years, with research indicating significant reduction in risk for ulcers with proper use of custom orthotics.4
Ok, so say you want to try orthotics - how do you know what type to get and which ones would be best for your specific foot? The first step would be to have your physical therapist analyze your gait and foot structure. Many podiatrist (DPM) offices can also do this for you. A podiatrist may also want to analyze your foot structure more closely with the use of diagnostic imaging or other measurements if he or she thinks foot structure might be causing some or most of your pain. Depending on the results of this analysis, your podiatrist and/or physical therapist may recommend an orthotic. Custom-made orthotics are typically made with a plaster that is molded to your foot and are often covered by insurance plans. They can be tailor made for your specific foot structure and support needs.
In conclusion, if you are having pain with walking or running and have tried physical therapy and other treatments, orthotics might be your next step! Don’t hesitate to ask your physical therapist for more information and seek out an evaluation from a podiatrist.
Malkin K1, Dawson J, Harris R, Parfett G, Horwood P, Morris C, Lavis G. Foot (Edinb). A year of foot and ankle orthotic provision for adults: prospective consultations data, with patient satisfaction survey. 2008 Jun;18(2):75-83. doi: 10.1016/j.foot.2008.01.001