As a general rule of thumb, we can either change your foot or change the environment around the foot to address a problem you’re experiencing. Our preference is to avoid “changing the foot,” since this means using a surgical procedure to correct the issue. Instead, we hope to “change the environment” using conservative treatment options.
Being able to avoid surgery depends, naturally, on the nature of your injury, but we do have many different tools we can use to achieve this objective. One of these tools is custom orthotics.
What Are Orthotics?
Simply put, orthotics are shoe inserts intended to correct a structural or mechanical condition. Most of the inserts you buy over-the-counter are glorified foam fillers. There are a few that have a solid component that can provide additional cushioning and minor arch support, but are not the same as orthotics prescribed by an actual doctor.
Over-the-counter orthotics can be compared to buying a set of OTC glasses at the pharmacy (that will work with a minor vision correction) as opposed to glasses from an eye doctor that are designed with your special needs. We use orthotic devices to fix biomechanical issues that lead to larger problems. Even better, a proper pair of orthotics will allow you to go back to activities you enjoy doing!
One of the many ways Dr. Leibovitz stands out from other podiatrists is that he uses a proven testing procedure to ensure the effectiveness of, and your confidence in, this treatment option. As added bonuses, his test will help you save both time and money. If you see the desired results, and many patients do, you will be prescribed orthotics. As long as you continue to use them, you will find the pain relief you need.
Custom orthotics are created for each individual, which makes sense because everyone’s feet are unique. The device also can be constructed from various materials, depending on their intended objectives.
Typically, orthotics are used to protect feet from injury, correct biomechanical abnormalities, or combine protective function with motion control. The specific objective will dictate what kind of orthotic device may work best for you. Types of orthotics include:
- Functional orthotics – These orthotics are used to control or restrict abnormal biomechanical processes and motion. Functional orthotics are used in athletic, walking, and even dress shoes (when worn for work). They are solidly constructed with firm materials like plastic and carbon fiber to offer the structure necessary for regulating abnormal movement. Many patients with functional orthotics report improvement, including the alleviation of aches, pains, and strains in the lower limbs that may extend as far up as the lower back.
- Accommodative orthotics – These orthotics are intended to protect the lumps and bumps of bad anatomy. If you need pressure relieved from sore or uncomfortable areas on your foot, or perhaps additional shock absorption, you may be prescribed this type. Arthritic, deformed, and diabetic foot conditions may benefit from these orthotics. They are fabricated right here in our office and cost a fraction of what a functional orthotic costs.
It is important to note that when Dr. Leibovitz prescribes functional orthotics, some patients expect them to be soft. A VERY common misconception is that the foot needs a softer insole or shoe to feel better. When the foot pronates or rolls inward too much it is getting too much shock absorption. Othotics that correct biomechanics need to be rigid or semi-rigid to properly control motion. However, since they are molded to the shape of your feet, they do not feel hard. Softer materials would make the orthotics too bulky
When you are prescribed orthotics, the goal is to enable you to maintain physical activity. It cannot be overemphasized how important an active lifestyle is for your health and wellbeing. The more you move, though, the greater the risk for issues to develop.
You can think of it this way: your body is like a car. If you are just driving on I-465, you might not notice anything wrong. Take your car onto the IMS and fly around with the pedal buried and you will quickly become aware of every small problem.
Sticking with the car analogy, orthotics are the alignment and tune-up you need before getting on the track!
What Issues Can Custom Orthotics Help Treat?
Since they are customized to work with your unique feet, Dr. Leibovitz can use orthotics to treat an array of medical conditions, including:
- Flat feet. This structural abnormality typically doesn’t cause pain on its own, but it can lead to overpronation that creates overuse on the soft tissue structures of the foot. Pronation is a natural biomechanical process that is required with every step you take, but excessive rolling in can cause foot, ankle, knee, hip, and back pain. Custom orthotics regulate your feet’s motion to regulate your pronation.
- Plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis causes a sharp, stabbing heel pain that accompanies the first steps of your day (and any time you take steps following an extended period of rest). This condition is the result of tiny tears in your plantar fascia. Orthotics can provide the necessary arch support to prevent this from happening to you.
- Neuromas. Excess pressure on a nerve—especially in the front of the foot—form tissues around it that can lead to the development of a neuroma. This nerve issue causes burning sensations, numbness, and even pain. Custom orthotics may be used to help treat this condition by redistributing forces so they aren’t as focused on the front of the foot.
- High arches. Foot arches that are too high also can lead to problems because the do not give enough shock absorption, but orthoses can be designed to address this as well. If your feet supinate (do not roll enough), extra pressure is applied to the outer edges and can cause painful conditions. Fortunately, orthotics can be prescribed to correct this condition and resolve any related issues.
It’s important to keep in mind that orthotics are certainly one possible medical treatment option Dr. Leibovitz may prescribe, but there are others. If we’ve evaluated your injury and decided you will benefit from a different course of action, we are not going to try and talk you into buying orthotics.
Of course, you have to actually come and see us first before knowing if this is part of your treatment plan! Contact our Indianapolis, IN office online or, even better, give us a call at (317) 545-0505 and our staff will be glad to answer any questions or help you schedule your appointment.