It’s hard to overstate the importance of good biomechanics, not only for foot health but also for your whole body. When feet are out of alignment or aren’t shouldering the load of your body weight efficiently, the result is pain and alignment problems that can transfer to your knees, hips, even back. It can limit your athletic performance, prevent you from doing accomplishing daily tasks—even, over time, lead to painful deformities such as bunions or hammertoes.
That’s where custom orthotics come in. Unlike store-bought inserts, custom orthotics are individually crafted according to the precise specifications of your feet. They come in all shapes, sizes, and materials, and this flexibility allows them to provide targeted relief for an extensive range of painful conditions.
Prefabricated vs. Custom Inserts: Which Do You Need?
In general, we don’t recommend going to the drugstore and buying inserts off the rack. Cheap inserts may provide some temporary symptom relief in some cases, but they’re often not really what you need—and if you don’t know which pair to buy, you may end up making the problem worse.
That said, we do carry some prefabricated inserts at our office that we may recommend in certain cases. Although these lack the full benefits of custom orthotics, they may be appropriate in situations where pain or deformity is less severe, and are less expensive.
Custom orthotics are going to offer the best level of treatment, and are strongly recommended for more significant foot problems. They are more expensive, but they’re also more durable—a good pair can last several years with a little maintenance. They may also be covered at least partially by your insurance.
Types of Custom Orthotics
Very broadly speaking, orthotics tend to fall into one of two categories: accommodative or functional.
Accommodative orthotics are meant to support and cushion feet that aren’t handling the pressures of walking very well. They tend to be made of softer materials and, while they probably won’t change how you walk, they’ll help your feet do a better job of distributing your body weight evenly across your entire sole, preventing any one spot from being overworked.
By contrast, functional orthotics work to control irregular motion, such as feet that overpronate when you walk. They tend to be made of more semi-rigid materials (although they should still be comfortable!) and help your feet (and by extension knees and hips) in good alignment.
Even within these categories, there’s a lot of variation—from simple heel flares, wedge-shaped pieces, toe separators, or full-length, full-contact inserts.
How Orthotics Can Help
Because of their flexible design options and custom-molded, individualized support, orthotics are well suited to address a wide variety of potential problems. For example:
- Orthotics can relieve heel pain from conditions like plantar fasciitis by providing additional cushioning or better positioning for the heel.
- Orthotics can boost your athletic performance by correcting biomechanical alignment and allowing you to run, jump, and train longer without pain. They can also significantly lower the rate of foot and ankle injuries.
- Orthotics can prevent the formation, or halt the progression, of deformities such as bunions, hammertoes, or neuromas by protecting sensitive areas and diverting pressure away from them.
- Because feet are the foundation of the body, orthotics that correct foot alignment can also relieve pain in the knees, hips, and lower back, too.
Are custom orthotics the answer to your lower body pain? If you’re currently experiencing discomfort in your feet or ankles—especially if it’s preventing you from living the life you want to live—come visit Wilks Advanced Foot Care in Roseburg, OR for assistance. Our trained experts can help you determine whether prefabricated inserts, custom orthotics, or other treatment methods are the best choice for your unique situation. Give us a call at (541) 673-0742, or request an appointment online.