What are Orthotics?
Orthotics, are correctly called orthoses although the general public are not familiar with this term but instead the term orthotics has caught on so we all tend to use the term orthotics. Orthotics are shoe insoles that come in many different designs, shapes and sizes. They are generally used to change to forces being applied to the foot, which in turn, changes the function of the foot. This leads to changes in the level of stress being applied to certain bodily stuctures. Orthotics can be designed to have a very specific purpose, such as reducing the level of stress on the plantar fascia. The choice of materials use to make orthotics, the shape, and design are all crucial components of what makes an orhotic successful or not, therefore not all orthotics are the same.
Types of Orthotics
Generally, there are two main types of orthotics, which include off the shelf orthotics (also known as prefabricated orthotics), and custom made orthotics. Off the shelf orthotics are generic and are made from a wide range of materials with varying densities and shapes. As they are generic, they do not necessarily match the shape of each individual persons feet, which can make them uncomfortable and ineffective as they may be providing too much support in the arch of the foot or too little. Off the shelf orthotics, therefore, provide inconsistent results. That being said, they can still be helpful at reducing pain. Custom made orthotics are typically made by taking a scan or cast of the patients foot in the desired position. As the orthotics are made based on the shape of the scan/cast the orthotics match the shape of the persons feet and will interact with the feet in a way that will maximise the chances of them working. In addition to this, a podiatrist can carefully select the various materials for the orthotics to be made from and this can be customised based on the inidivdual patients needs. For instance some patients may require a stiff carbon fibre device, whilst others may benefit more from a more flexible device.
Orthotics for Treating Plantar Fasciitis
The aim of orthotics is to reduce the biomechanical stress placed on the plantar fascia by supporting the arch of the foot. The main job role of the plantar fascia is to support the arch of the foot. Therefore as foot orthotics help the plantar fascia by supporting the arch of the foot, the level of stress placed on the plantar fascia is reduced. This helps address the issue of overloading the plantar fascia during normal daily activities such as standing and walking. It is thus, no surprise that orthotics are one of the most common treatment options for plantar fasciitis. over the years, there has been many clinical studies investigating the effectivenenss of orthotics. If you would like to know more about the research check out the article published in my blog here
In most cases, orthotics form part of the multi-faceted approach to treating plantar fasciitis successfully. I recommend custom made orthotics over off the shelf orthotics as in my experience this leads to more consistent and more effective results. Similar to stretching exercises, orthotics help address and reduce the mechanical stress that leads to pain and injury of the plantar fascia. There is currently a good level of evidence to prove their efficacy in the treatment of plantar fasciitis both in short and long term and are therefore considered an evidence-based treatment option.