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What are orthotics and how can they help?

Author Details

Krista McIntyre blog author

Krista McIntyre

Reg. PT., M.Sc.PT., H.B.K. | National Director of Program Development, Specialty Services

Friday, Mar. 19, 2021
a photo of an orthotic being fitted on a foot

Have you ever wondered what orthotics are or how they can help? Paul Mäkinen, a Lifemark Certified Pedorthist, recently joined me and interested members of the community for a webinar about foot orthotics.

From the basics of foot orthotics, to how they can help address and treat various types of pain and foot conditions, the webinar provided an excellent opportunity for participants to get their questions answered.

The points below are a summary of my conversation with Paul. You can also watch the full recording of the webinar on YouTube.

What is a Pedorthist?

A Pedorthist is a foot orthotic and orthopedic specialist who is trained to assist in alleviating pain and abnormalities of the feet. They are also able to assess if orthotics or a footwear recommendation is right for you.

What is a foot orthotic?

A foot orthotic is a device insert for your footwear to correct alignment concerns with your feet as well as all the joints above your feet. Orthotics are similar to glasses, when you are wearing them they correct the alignment but as soon as you remove them, they stop working.

What kinds of conditions can be treated with foot orthotics?

Orthotics can be helpful and help treat a multitude of conditions, including:

  • Lower extremity pain (heel, arch, shin, knee, hip, back etc.)
  • Strain, tension and/or pressure in the foot
  • Arthritis and Diabetes
  • Bunions

We recommend that you are assessed by a Physiotherapist as well as a Pedorthist to determine the best solution for you.

Do orthotics help with back pain?

Yes. Back pain can be mechanical in nature or can be the result of another part of your body – if the foot or walking pattern (gait) are contributing factors to an individual’s pain/condition then orthotics can be of benefit. A thorough and individualized assessment is always valuable to determine what your best options are.

Do Can orthotics help those struggling with diabetes or arthritis related foot pain?

Yes. There are factors to consider if someone is dealing with foot pain resulting from diabetes or arthritis. Usually a treatment plan for pain associated with these conditions involves providing orthotic support that is as soft or shock absorbing as possible.

What is the difference between a custom or off the shelf orthotic?

Custom orthotics are built from scratch and designed with a specific body in mind. A 3D image and/or cast/impression of the foot is used by the lab to make a 3D model which the orthotic is then built from. This provides the specific support required.

In contrast, off the shelf orthotics are not designed for specific conditions or people. Those with good mechanics and alignment that are experiencing general discomfort, might be candidates for an off the shelf insole for additional support, but they might also just need a new pair of shoes.

How do I know which specialists are following best practices?

Before you schedule an appointment, check if they are a Canadian Certified Pedorthist and make sure they provide a thorough assessment including full range of motion, medical history, and a 3D cast of the foot (digital scan or cast).

How long do custom orthotics last?

There are a few factors to consider; how much time do you spend on them? What material is it made of? What are we addressing? Typically when your symptoms start to show again, it’s a good sign that it is time to get a replacement. But general rule of thumb is approximately every 2 years.

Pronation and Supination - what are they?

Pronation - the tipping inward of the foot when you walk. A degree of pronation is normal and needed.

Supination – the tipping outward of the foot often causing knee and lateral hip stress.

If you are having any difficulties with your lower extremities, consider getting fitted for an orthotic at Lifemark. Learn more about orthotic services or schedule an initial appointment to determine the best treatment plan for you.

Author Details

Krista McIntyre blog author

Krista McIntyre

Reg. PT., M.Sc.PT., H.B.K. | National Director of Program Development, Specialty Services

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