If you’re suffering from foot, leg, or back problems, your doctor may prescribe orthotics for you. Orthotics are special inserts you place in your shoes to help correct problems with the mechanics of balance and walking due to deformity or disease. Orthotics can be purchased over-the-counter at drug stores, but you’re much better off if your doctor custom-makes them for you.
Here at Monroe Foot & Ankle Care in Jamesburg, New Jersey, Elliott M. Perel, DPM, FACFAS and our team offer both conservative and surgical treatments for a wide variety of foot and ankle problems. When it comes to orthotics, they’re not all the same, which is why we’ve provided the following guide to help you understand why.
Why would I need orthotics?
Your doctor will generally recommend an orthotic only if other treatments, such as physical therapy exercises, have not been effective. But orthotics are not simply a heel pad or shoe insert. While you can get some “generic” orthotics at any pharmacy, the best and most effective ones are custom-made especially for your foot and your problems. Dr. Perel’s orthotics are made after a computerized gait analysis to evaluate the patient’s pathology, ensuring a perfect fit.
Your doctor may recommend orthotics for various reasons, which include:
- Correcting foot deformities
- Helping the foot or ankle to function more efficiently
- Providing ankle support
- Reducing the risk of further injuries
How can orthotics help?
Orthotics can help a number of medical conditions. These include:
Poor foot positioning, including arches that roll inward or a lack of foot and ankle cushioning, can lead to back pain. Orthotics provide the foot support that lessens back pain.
Bunions are bony growths that develop at the base of the big toe, causing foot deformities and accompanying pain. Orthotics that have a wide toe box can help to reduce pressure on the big toe and lessen pain.
Bursitis is an inflammation of fluid-filled sacs located in the heels and the toes; the inflammation can lead to pain and discomfort. Orthotics that have both heel and arch support can help to reduce the discomfort.
People with diabetes can develop peripheral neuropathy, a loss of sensation in their feet. Orthotics can reduce excess stress and pressure on the feet that often lead to ulcers.
Flat feet, or feet with very low arches, can cause foot, ankle, and back pain. Orthotics help both to support the feet and promote proper foot positioning while walking.
Heel spurs occur when excess bone grows on the back or bottom of the heel, causing pain. Orthotics work by supporting the foot and reducing inflammation.
How are foot problems diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing foot pain, heel pain, or feel like you’re unbalanced walking, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist. They’ll first ask about your symptoms and what, if anything, makes them better or worse. Then they’ll do a physical exam to look for painful areas and any deformities.
The exam will also likely include some walking and specific exercises to determine how your feet and ankles are positioned. The doctor may even have high-tech imaging that shows how and where your feet touch the ground when you walk. The images can also help diagnose the exact location of any functional impairment, and X-rays and bone scans can help identify problem areas caused by arthritis, injury, or other damage.
Once all of this is complete, you’ll receive a treatment plan, which may include orthotics.
Why custom orthotics?
Foot orthotics can be made from different materials, ranging from rigid to semi-rigid to semi-flexible to accommodative, depending on what type of support you require.
Once your doctor has determined that you will benefit from orthotics, they’ll determine the best materials to use and the level of rigidity/flexibility required. Next, they’ll take an impression mold of your feet, which is used to create an orthotic specifically tailored to your individual needs. You can get over-the-counter orthotics, which don’t require a prescription and are less expensive, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll fit properly or do the job they’re meant to do.
Certain groups of people benefit particularly from custom-made orthotics — diabetics with peripheral neuropathy, those with poor circulation, and those with severe foot deformities. And while, unfortunately, most insurers don’t cover the cost of these devices, Medicare will cover 80% of the cost of diabetic shoes and custom orthotics, since studies have shown they’re effective at decreasing the chance of developing open sores that can lead to digit, foot, or leg amputations.
Are you having foot or ankle pain or discomfort that makes walking difficult? You could be a good candidate for custom-made orthotics. Call Monroe Foot & Ankle Care at 732-328-6798 or contact us online to find out more.