You're walking through the mall and see a kiosk advertising "custom fit orthotics" and think to yourself, "Hmm, my feet hurt sometimes when I run or walk a lot. Maybe I should get some of these things!" But do you really need them, and if you actually do, is this sketchy little shack with a pushy salesperson the best place to get them? Today's blog will discuss how to know when it's time to get a good pair of orthotics and what to buy when it is time. While it can be a complicated process figuring out if an orthotic is right for you, we'll try to simplify it to a few simple steps!
Step 1: Look at and feel your feet!
Take off your shoes and socks and just look at your feet while sitting down. What do you see? Do your arches look extremely high or are there no arches at all and your feet look flat? Are there any other deformities in the foot like bunions or hammertoes? Move your toes, foot, ankle in every direction. Do any of those movements hurt or feel more difficult than others? Feel the sole of your foot. Any spots that feel extremely rough or tender to the touch compared to the rest of the foot? Get an idea of how your feet look, feel, and move! Compare the left foot to the right foot and try to notice if there are any differences side to side!
Now stand up! Find a mirror, stand in front of it barefoot with shorts on or roll up your pant legs, and look at your feet and ankles. Do any notice any differences in your feet from when you're sitting to when you're standing? Do the arches of your feet suddenly flatten out completely so your whole foot is on the ground or do they stay extremely high, or do any of the deformities you noticed while sitting suddenly get worse? Do your ankles suddenly feel unstable and your feet feel like they are rocking side to side, or do your ankles and feet seem to "lock-up" and feel stiffer? Do you have new or increased pain while weight-bearing?
These are a few of the major signs that there MAY be a problem with your feet that are either causing pain or could lead to painful problems later on. The pain could be in the feet, but could also be up the chain further at the ankle, knee, hip, or even low back.
Step 2: Take notes about your pain!
When you feel your pain, what shoes are you wearing? What activity are you doing? What time of day is it? Does the pain get better or worse with more activity and movement? If you change your shoes or activity, does the pain change as well? The main goal is to figure out if dysfunction in the feet is the root cause of all the problems. The more information you can gather on your own, the easier it'll be to answer that question.
Step 3: Consult a professional!
Take all your notes and observation and consult with an expert who is trained to evaluate the structure and function of feet and the entire musculoskeletal system, like the wonderful, talented doctors at Cumberland Chiropractic and Sports Medicine maybe?! The doctor will run you through specific orthopedic and functional testing to assess the mobility and structure of the foot and try to connect the pain to the feet or ankles. That thorough examination will reveal whether the feet are the whole cause or at least a contributing factor to the problem. If the feet are involved, and conservative treatment to fix the dysfunction fails, then orthotics may be a great option to fix the problem! If conservative treatment succeeds, but your doctor feels the problem may return due to your hobbies or lifestyle (running, shoe preference, work habits, etc.), they may discuss and recommend orthotics as a preventative measure against the problem returning. Ultimately, the doctor should be trying conservative care FIRST or in conjunction with orthotics to help the foot adapt to the support better and faster, unless there is a structural defect in the foot like a genetic defect causing the structure of the foot to be different from normal.
Step 4: Get CUSTOM orthotics to fit YOUR foot for YOUR particular problem, done by a licensed and trained professional!
Generic off-the-shelf inserts are designed to either cushion or support a certain part of the foot for the ENTIRE population, not your foot specifically. If you have a particular problem in a specific part of your foot, that generic insert may not provide any relief at all, may provide a little relief, or may even make your problem worse! It's unpredictable because that insert was not designed for you and your unique foot.
A "custom fit" kiosk usually is run by a salesperson trained in that product, but not in full medical evaluation of the foot and musculoskeletal system. While it is more specific than the off-the-shelf stuff, that person usually is not trained to look for underlying injuries, perform orthopedic exams, or functionally evaluate the body as a whole... they are there to sell orthotics. The mechanical kiosks that "3-D" scan the feet are essentially taking a picture of the foot with light and giving you a recommendation for an orthotic based on an algorithm. They are not "hands-on" with your feet and getting an idea of how each individual joint and tissue in the foot feels!
A certified and trained doctor will provide a true custom fit orthotic that is molded to your specific foot, that accounts for structural deformities in the foot, that is compliant enough to allow the foot to work on its own but supportive enough to help the foot out where the functional deficits are, that is designed specifically for the activity that YOU are having more trouble with, whether that be running, walking at work, or just performing normal daily activities, and that is aimed at solving your problem long term, not just a short term bandaid!
At Cumberland Chiropractic and Sports Medicine, we chose Sole Supports as our orthotics manufacturer for these reasons! After a thorough examination, our doctors are trained to cast and design your custom orthotics for your specific needs. Sole Supports creates a flexible, yet rigid orthotic that provides proper support and allows proper mobility at the same time. As an added bonus, Sole Supports provided by Cumberland are reasonably priced! Many custom orthotics providers will charge anywhere from $300-500 for a pair of orthotics, while we charge $245! We're not concerned with making a ton of money from selling orthotics; we're concerned about getting you BETTER, FASTER!