What are Custom Orthotics?
Custom orthotics are specially-made footwear inserts that are prescribed by a certified physician, such as a podiatric doctor. They are used to treat foot disorders of varying types and severities and are custom-fitted from a mold of one or both of your feet.
Orthotics, or foot orthoses, are made from plaster casts or 3-d scans of your feet. These devices are molded to the exact shape of your feet, making them individual to you. Orthotics are prescribed by podiatrists to correct problems with gait or abnormal foot conditions such as hammertoes, bunions, and plantar fasciitis.
Orthotics are available in two main types:
- Functional orthotics—these are rigid orthotics made from carbon fiber or plastic and are used to treat foot aches, pains, and strains.
- Accommodative orthotics—also known as soft orthotics these are soft and used to provide support and cushioning. Patients with diabetes or those with foot ulcers, flat feet, and plantar fasciitis will normally be fitted for accommodative orthotics.
What Are the Uses of Custom Orthotics?
Custom-made orthotics can be used to treat a variety of foot conditions, including:
- pain due to muscle, ligament, or tendon sprains
- high arches
- flat feet
- foot deformities due to arthritis
- heel pain
- diabetes, including diabetic ulcers
Orthotics improve a patient's ability to walk and participate in high impact activities by providing more support and cushioning to the feet. In some patients, orthotics may be used to improve balance and relieve pressure and inflammation due to a foot condition.
What to Expect During Fitting for Custom Orthotics at the Podiatrist
A proper foot exam will precede any custom orthotic fitting. Your podiatrist will check for signs of swelling, inflammation, and injury in your feet, as well as to conduct a gait exam to determine your foot condition—flat-footed, high arches, plantar fasciitis—and how your hips, knees, and ankles move, as well as to help find an orthotic that's right for you.
From there, a cast of the foot either using a 3-d laser scan or a plaster mold will capture the exact contour and shape of your foot. The podiatrist will then send the mold off to the lab to modify the model to help correct or align the foot once it is fitted with the orthotic device. This will depend on the condition or foot disorder you are being treated for and will differ from one patient to the next.
When used correctly and early on, orthotics can help patients with conditions such as flat feet avoid surgery by molding the foot and training it to form and develop a normal arch.