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Do I need Orthotics?

If you are suffering foot or lower limb pain, it is possible foot orthotics could help you. Most people think of orthotics as a device that holds or locks your feet into a specific alignment so that you will begin to walk in such a way that reduces pain or takes pressure off painful areas. This is not the case at all.

Orthotics work by altering proprioception to the bottom of the feet. Proprioception is defined as the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli detected by nerves within the body and the workings of the inner ear. By altering proprioception, the orthotics, in turn, alter muscle activity throughout the lower limb. This alteration in muscle activity dampens the amount of vibration that occurs in the soft tissues. By dampening the vibration in the soft tissues, there is a reduction in the injuries such as shin splints; ITB syndrome and plantar fasciitis.

With an orthotic in the footwear, in the last 50 milliseconds before the foot touches the ground, it will land in a manner that is more conducive to a non-injury type of impact. In other words, the orthotic acts as a stimulatory device rather than a device holding the foot in a particular alignment. Specific contours are built into the orthotic to match the patients needs so to cause a more biomechanically efficient firing sequence in the muscles of the lower limb. In a sense, the orthotic re-teaches the foot how to walk.

How are orthotics made to suit my feet?

Traditionally, a podiatrist will observe a patient walking up and down a corridor and attempt to formulate an impression of that patient’s gait pattern. Gait Scan Technology however, is a state of the art diagnostic tool and digital casting device that allows practitioners to analyze patient biomechanics and order custom orthotic products.

This state of the art technology eliminates any human error that is typical during traditional orthotic fittings. Rather than using dated plaster of Paris castings as the mould for orthotic design, Gait Scan Technology designs an orthotic using digital data gathered during a dynamic assessment of the patient’s foot biomechanics. This is an important distinction between Gait Scan Technology and other digital orthotic design technologies.

Gait scan orthotics

In this image you can see the difference in pressure experienced through my left and right foot indicated by the various colours (scale from red=high to blue= very low). The thick black line indicates the centre of pressure through the foot during my gait cycle. Superimposed is the green optimal gait line. You can see from this scan that I am like 97% of population and demonstrate a rolling in of the feet (or pronation) during gait.

pressure through the feet

This is a 3D mesh representation of my feet. Notice there are ‘valleys and peaks’ throughout my feet whereas they should demonstrate a more ‘rolling hills’ pattern.

Other technologies typically have the patient standing stationary on a footplate whilst a digital scan of their feet is taken. The orthotic is designed based on how one stands during static posture. By comparison, Gait Scan technology has the patient walk or run across a gait plate analysing the biomechanics of the feet whilst in motion. The design of the orthotic is thus better tailored to the movements of the feet most likely during a patients chosen activity.

The FAQs of orthotics

1. Why would I even consider using orthotics? Two reasons: you either have foot or lower limb pain; or you are an athlete with a desire to enhance your performance. Orthotics work to enhance you performance by teaching the joints and muscles of the lower limb to move and contract at the optimal moment for your body specifications.

2. How often should I wear them? Strictly speaking you should wear them every time you are on your feet but it does depend on the nature of your complaint. If you suffer constant foot or lower limb pain then you will need to wear them as often as you can. If you do not suffer regular foot or lower limb pain, however, and are just wanting them for use on the sporting field, then you need only wear them at these times.

3. How long do they last? The foot biomechanics will change roughly every five years and so you will need to be re-assessed at this time. For growing kids it is recommended they be re-assessed each year but this does not necessarily mean having to replace their orthotics each year. Orthotics should come with a lifetime warranty for the mould itself, where as the top comfort layer will usually come with a six month warranty.

4. What types of orthotic are there? Orthotics are designed for different shoe types and different sports. They come in lengths known as sulcus, three-quarter or full length. A sulcus length might be used for a smaller ballet flat type womens shoe, a three-quarter length would be for alternating between different work shoes and a full length might be used for running. You can also have the orthotics tailored for use in court sports such as basketball and tennis, or field sports such as soccer and rugby.

If you are experiencing foot and/or lower limb pain, a gait scan assessment can tell you in less than five minutes whether an orthotic would be beneficial to you or not. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that the use of orthotics can relieve symptoms of low back pain including slipped disc and sciatica. You can BOOK ONLINE for a Gait Scan assessment today.

*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this discussion are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.

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