What is a Foot Orthosis?

Updated on 26 April 2023

What is a Foot Orthosis?

A foot orthosis is a specialized insole designed to treat gait disorders. These therapeutic inserts can correct balance and posture, prevent and relieve pain, and improve overall comfort. Foot orthotics are available in two main types: over-the-counter or custom-made. Custom-made orthotics can be further divided into accommodative or functional orthotics. The shape, flexibility, and length of the orthotic can vary depending on the specific needs of the individual. If you’re wondering how foot orthotics work or what benefits they can offer, this article aims to answer some of the most common questions about them. Additionally, if you’re looking for appropriate foot orthotics near you, we can help you find a qualified provider in your area.

What are the benefits of custom foot orthotics?

Over-the-counter insoles, usually found in pharmacies, offer general comfort and thermal insulation, but their effects are limited due to their generic design. On the other hand, custom orthopedic insoles are molded to the shape of your foot to support the arch and relieve pressure points. They are ideal for solving alignment problems, pathologies, or deformities and provide targeted effects. They can relieve pain, facilitate healing, cushion impact, and prevent falls. Custom orthotics can be prescribed to anyone, including very young children, to correct musculoskeletal balance, reduce pressure points, and prevent foot damage from worsening, especially for older people with diabetes-related foot conditions.

Athletes can benefit from custom orthotics as well. Repeated shock to the bone of the feet can create stress fractures, while excessive stress on the tendons increases the risk of developing tendinitis and in severe cases, it can lead to tendon rupture.  Orthotics can prevent these injuries by improving foot support, limiting shock, and reducing stress on the tendons. So if you’re looking for a more targeted and effective way to address foot pain or improve athletic performance, custom orthotics may be your solution.

How are 3D foot orthotics made?

Orthotics have traditionally been created by taking a plaster cast of the foot, which can be a laborious and uncomfortable process for the patient. However, with the advent of new technology, it is now possible to scan the foot to create a precise digital model for 3D printing. This method is not only faster and easier, but it is also much more comfortable for the patient.

To create a 3D foot orthotic, a healthcare professional first assesses the patient’s gait, posture, and balance and checks the contact points of the foot on the ground. Then, a sensor takes a virtual impression of the foot and creates a precise digital model. Based on this model, the chiropodist or pedorthist determines the appropriate design for the patient’s condition and selects the best material to use. The scan is then sent to a lab for 3D printing. Once the insole is designed and printed, the patient tests it to ensure there is no discomfort and to allow for any necessary adjustments. This process is faster, easier, and more comfortable than traditional plaster casting methods.

What conditions can custom-made foot orthotics help treat?

Custom foot orthotics can treat various conditions, including deformities, misalignments, and imbalances of the lower limbs. These inserts can also alleviate knee, hip, and back pain often related to foot issues.

Bunions, a common foot condition caused by genetics, age, inflammation, or unsuitable footwear, can be managed with custom-made foot orthotics. These specialized inserts can reduce discomfort and relieve pressure on the affected toe, potentially reducing or stopping bunions’ progression and avoiding surgery. With timely treatment using orthotics, bunions can be effectively managed.

Flat foot is a condition that can cause pain and deformation. Orthotic insoles support the arch and help with weight distribution, effectively reducing pain and limiting the risk of further deformation or injuries.

Custom orthotics effectively treat several debilitating foot conditions caused by tissue or nerve inflammation, including tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, and metatarsalgia.  These conditions can lead to chronic pain and reduced mobility, making it difficult to perform daily activities. Custom foot orthotics can prevent friction, a common cause of irritation, and provide the necessary support and cushioning to promote healing. With custom orthotics, the tissues have the time they need to recover and reduce inflammation, helping to alleviate pain and discomfort.

As people age, conditions like arthritis, joint stiffness, and diabetes can cause foot pain and reduced mobility. Custom foot orthotics, including those designed for diabetics, can alleviate pressure, improve foot functionality, and enhance mobility for older individuals.

Exploring the different foot orthotics options

Functional, accommodative, sports, and pediatric orthotics are some of the options available, each with its unique way of eliminating pain. An assessment determines the most suitable device for the condition and whether it should be rigid or semi-rigid to support specific areas of the foot. Custom orthotics can provide full or partial coverage, with some models designed to slip onto the toes to target particular areas.

  • Functional orthotics work on improving foot mechanics by acting on the bones and muscles. 
  • Accommodative orthotics are softer and more flexible, offering increased comfort.
  • Athletes often use sports orthotics to provide proper foot support and keep feet dry.
  • Pediatric orthotics can help stabilize children’s feet and ensure proper alignment with their lower limbs.

How long does it take to adjust to wearing foot orthotics?

Most people adapt quickly to foot orthotics, but some may experience discomfort when first using the device due to the sensation of the foot being in a new position. However, this usually only lasts a few days. To get used to the orthosis, it is recommended to wear it for an hour first and gradually increase the wearing time daily.

The orthotics apply pressure to specific parts of the foot while releasing tension in others, which may cause some leg soreness due to posture changes in the first few days. However, mild discomfort is normal, and there should be no pain. Your chiropodist will follow up with you, but if you are concerned about any sensation, it is strongly advised to contact them. The benefits of the device should be noticeable within four to eight weeks. An annual appointment with your chiropodist will determine whether the device is still suitable, and adjustments can be made if necessary.

How to care for foot orthotics, ensuring their longevity

To ensure the longevity of your foot orthosis, it’s essential to take proper care of it. Bacteria can quickly proliferate on the device since it slips into your shoe. Regular cleaning with a damp cloth and mild soap can help prevent this. However, avoid immersing it in water, as this can cause damage. Instead, air-dry your orthosis after cleaning or wearing it. While some people may choose to rest it on a water heater, direct contact with heat can also lead to damage. It’s best to avoid this and let it air-dry naturally.

Are foot orthotics covered in Ontario?

Foot orthotics are covered by some insurance plans in Ontario. However, coverage varies depending on the insurance provider and the specific plan. It’s important to check with your insurance provider to understand the details of your coverage. Additionally, some government-funded programs, such as the Assistive Devices Program (ADP), offer coverage for foot orthotics for certain medical conditions.

Why is FootNetwork the trusted choice for foot orthotics near me?

FootNetwork is a team of experienced footcare professionals dedicated to providing effective treatment and unparalleled customer service. Our certified chiropodists offer comprehensive services to address various foot conditions, including pain, ingrown toenails, corns and calluses, and plantar warts. We specialize in custom foot orthotics and ensure the best possible treatment for our clients. Contact our Ottawa and Greater Toronto clinics today for any questions or to schedule an appointment.

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