Are Orthotics For You?

Orthotics footwear modificationVariations in foot structure, such as flat- or high-arched feet, have long been recognized to cause stress on muscles, ligaments, and bones that can result in injury. Although there are many variations of flat- or high-arched feet that may or may not be functionally abnormal, studies have demonstrated that flat- or high-arched feet increase the risk of lower limb injury. The good news is that many lower limb injuries associated with abnormal foot posture can be treated with physical therapy and the proper foot orthoses and/or footwear modification.

The most typical abnormal foot posture seen is “flat feet.” Flat feet are caused by what is known as “over-pronation”. Over-pronating causes the foot to “unlock” resulting in a decrease in the normal arch of the foot and the foot flattening. Consequently, abnormal forces and stresses are put on the foot when the foot is in this over-pronated or flattened state. Common conditions due to over-pronating and flat feet are bunions, callus formation on the big toe, Morton’s neuroma, arthritis, plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, Achilles tendon tears/tendonitis, and even foot/ankle fractures.

Abnormal foot posture can affect not only the foot, but can lead to injuries and dysfunction of other body parts including the knee, hip, and low back. Flat-feet and over-pronation can result in patellafemoral pain syndrome, ACL, MCL, and meniscus tears, infrapatellar tendonitis, ITB-friction syndrome, hip arthritis, herniated discs, sciatica, and low back pain. The body functions as a chain where problems in one area can lead to dysfunction in other areas. Therefore, it makes sense that correcting structural abnormalities at the foot could and should lead to corrections in other areas of the body. Abnormal foot posture can be addressed through several treatment techniques, including hands-on manual and soft-tissue techniques, strengthening and stretching exercises, and the use of foot orthotics. All of these methods are utilized with the main goal of correcting the foot’s posture by changing either soft-tissue (muscles, ligaments) length or the anatomical position of the bones of the foot in relation to each other and/or the ground.

Proper foot orthotics, when tailored specifically to the individual idiosyncrasies of a patient’s foot, is one of the most effective treatment methods. Custom-molded orthotics do not treat the symptoms of pain and dysfunction, but rather treat the source of these issues. As a result, the use of orthotics can lead to long-standing improvement and correction of the patient’s dysfunction, rather than just provide short-term relief. At Advanced Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, all of our physical therapists are trained and certified in casting for custom orthotics that fit the specific requirements of the patient’s foot.

Through these techniques, proper and efficient biomechanics at the foot and ankle as well as the knee and hip joints can be restored. This will ultimately lead to an increase in pain free mobility and a decrease in injury re-occurrence.

Posted in: Ankle/ Foot, Fitness, Health & Wellness, Physical Therapy

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