What is an Orthotic?

An ORTHOTIC is a foot-supporting device also known as a custom insole. Foot Orthotics support, correct and accommodate the 26 bones, 2 sesamoid bones, tendons, ligaments, and plantar fascia band in each foot. 

Foot Orthotics allow the muscles, tendons and bones of the feet  through open and closed chain joint migration, up through the legs, hip and lower back, to function at their optimal potential for our body weight, structure, walking pattern and life styles. 

When appropriately prescribed and more importantly, appropriately manufactured, Foot Orthotics can decrease pain and discomfort in the foot, ankles, knees, hips and back. Foot Orthotics increase our stability, prevent further progression of bony deformities, soft tissue pain, burning and numbness and help to improve our overall quality of life in our activities of daily living (ADLs).

Remember, foot pain is not normal and should not be ignored. The pain in our feet often is associated with other pains in our lower limbs all due to the poor inherent biomechanics of our foot.

With a foot orthotic supporting the three main arches of the foot the muscles and tendons are able to work within their intended range of motions (ROMs) and we do not run the risk of causing injury or furthering one.
 

Benefits of Orthotics

Custom Foot Orthotics help in providing relief for painful foot problems or an injury, especially for those who must walk, or stand excessively on the job or in every day activities.

The mechanical properties  of the Custom Foot Orthotic help to maintain the normal positioning of the bones in the foot, the joints in the ankle and knees leading up to the hips and lower back. The muscles and ligaments holding these bones in their intended anatomical positions are prevented from over stretching and becoming lax over time.

With enough functional correction from a Custom Foot Orthotic, the foot structure can be aligned to give more propulsion, making walking, running and even cycling more efficient biomechanically.

Along with aligning the foot structure, the Custom Foot Orthotic reduces muscular fatigue and helps to promote more efficient muscle performance thus enhancing performance during the gait cycle.

Below is an example of a foot without the corrective support of an orthotic and then another example of the same foot with a Custom Made Foot Orthotic from POL correcting and supporting the foot. Notice the difference a well made Custom Foot Orthotic makes!

 

The Structure and Function of an Orthotic

Foot Orthotics are constructed from various materials consisting of plastics, foam, rubbers, and cork composites that are utilized for their mechanical properties.

The main similarity of all Foot Orthotics is the principle of their structure. The core is comprised of a plastic material more commonly referred to as the shell. External support structures on the underside of the shell material are utilized for balance and support inside the footwear; these are commonly referred to as extrinsic posts. Soft padding is placed on the underside and the topside to absorb compression forces when walking and running, this includes the top covers, underlay materials and arch fills.
All of these materials have the goal of improving foot function and minimizing the stress forces that cause foot deformity and pain.

Dependent on the reason for the prescription of Foot Orthotics, all of the above mentioned materials can be utilized in many combinations to achieve three broad categories of Foot Orthotics:

  1. Those that primarily attempt to change foot function, known as functional Foot Orthotics
  2. Those that are mainly protective or accommodative in nature, and
  3. Those that combine functional control with accommodation for comfort.
 
 

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Tarsal coalition is a bone condition that causes decreased motion or absence of motion in one or more of the joints in the foot. The bones found at the top of the arch, the heel, and the ankle are referred to as the tarsal bones. A tarsal coalition is an abnormal connection between two of the tarsal bones in the back of the foot or the arch. This abnormal connection between two bones is most commonly an inherited trait.

The lack of motion or absence of motion experienced in a tarsal coalition is caused by abnormal bone, cartilage, or fibrous tissue growth across a joint. When excess bone has grown across a joint, it may result in restricted or a complete lack of motion in that joint. Cartilage or fibrous tissue growth can restrict motion of the affected joint to varying degrees, causing pain in the affected joint and/or in surrounding joints.

Symptoms usually include an aching sensation deep in the foot near the ankle or arch, accompanied by muscle spasms on the outside of the affected leg. Nonsurgical treatments, such as corrective shoes or custom orthotics, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medication, are the first courses of action. Note: Please consult your physician before taking any medications. Surgery is sometimes performed in severe cases to allow for more normal motion between the bones or to fuse the affected joint or surrounding joints.


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