Custom orthotics are tools that have been specifically designed to support and provide comfort to your feet. Made for you and no one else, it's designed to follow the exact contours of your feet and the way you move. They are designed to support, compensate, prevent and/or accommodate foot deformities and improve foot function.
Custom orthotics can help alleviate a variety of foot problems. Some conditions that custom orthotics can help with include arthritis, tendonitis, flat feet, high arches, plantar fasciitis, and tibial splints. They can also help reduce pain from foot and ankle conditions by correcting foot alignment and distributing weight more evenly.
A Brief History of Orthotics
Custom orthotics have been helping many people in this modern era. They have helped numerous people with foot problems as well as runners who want to perform at their peak. However, to further understand their benefits, it’s necessary to learn how orthotics began and how the medical science behind it can help people all over the world.
Orthotics have been around in one form or another for centuries. The first known case of foot correction devices dates back nearly 2000 years. One correction device incorporated layers of wool inserted into sandals to relieve foot strain and fatigue. This gave the wearer a bit of extra cushioning and relieved the pain that comes with long-distance walking.
The actual study of orthotics began with the ancient art of splint and brace making. The professionals who we now call orthopedic surgeons and orthotists evolved from bonesetters and brace makers. Many of today’s modern prescription orthotics were developed based on the early prosthetics that were needed for soldiers during battle.
The first recorded use of arch support was in 1865. In that year, a man named Everett H. Dunbar from Bridgewater, Massachusetts, relieved the pain in the arch of his feet by inserting pieces of leather between the insoles of his shoes, which he found gave him extra boost in arch support.
Modern footwear has come a long way from where it first began in the 20th century. The 1920s and the 30s saw a wave of corrective shoe production. Prosthetic shoes guaranteed to prevent, fix or relieve an array of foot and mobility issues.
Custom Orthotics For Athletes
Orthotics can be a powerful tool for athletes, helping to improve performance and prevent injury. They can be used to correct biomechanical issues, reduce strain on the feet and legs, and provide support for high-impact activities.
Custom orthotics can be particularly beneficial for athletes who participate in high-impact sports, such as running, basketball, or soccer. These sports place a lot of strain on the feet and legs, and orthotics can help to reduce this strain by providing support and cushioning. They can also help to correct biomechanical issues that can lead to injury, such as overpronation or flat feet.
In general, rigid orthotics are used to control excessive pronation (pes planus or flat-footedness), reduce forefoot loading and decrease forefoot and rearfoot pain. Rigid orthotics may also reduce the risk of subsequent deformities such as hallux valgus.
If you’re an athlete, it’s important to consult with a podiatrist or other medical professional to determine if orthotics are right for you. They can evaluate your unique foot structure and pathology to determine if orthotics could help improve your performance and prevent injury.
The Future of Custom Orthotics
The future of custom orthotics is an exciting one, with many technological advances on the horizon. One of the most innovative of these is additive manufacturing, otherwise known as 3D printing. This technology has been waiting to disrupt the orthotics market for years, and only time will tell if the pandemic’s pause afforded clinicians the opportunity to understand the benefits this technology can bring to their practice and their patients.
There are a number of factors that have begun to crystallize in a way that may finally contribute to significant disruption and change in the orthotics industry. These include falling equipment costs, further innovation in materials, an increasing consensus about what may be the most efficient and cost-effective production model, and most important, growing appreciation of certain advantages 3D printing offers that no other technology can match.
The process of making an orthosis involves several steps: An assessment of the patient’s medical condition and needs, including diagnosis, pressure mapping, and gait analysis where indicated; The creation of a positive cast or digital image of the foot, using plaster casts, foam boxes, or 3D scanning; Either vacuum forming thermoplastic over the cast or translating the scanned data into CAD/CAM processes, leading to subtractive milling; Finishing, which may include customizations such as posting, padding, a top cover, and so forth.
The existing method has limitations, such as plaster casting and foam boxes offering notoriously variable foot models. However, the increasing acceptance and accuracy of direct 3D scanning of the foot will likely replace those methods within a few years. The future of orthotics is bright with many exciting technological advances on the horizon. 3D printing is one such technology that has the potential to revolutionize the industry.
How Do I Get Custom Orthotics?
For custom orthotics, you can start by visiting a podiatrist for a thorough evaluation of your feet, ankles, and legs. Your podiatrist will evaluate the unique structure and pathology of your feet to determine if custom orthotics are right for you. After the assessment, your footprint will be taken and used to create an orthosis especially for you.
In some cases, you can also order custom orthotics online from websites that provide an impression box for you to take a mold of your feet at home. After taking your impressions and sending them back, you will receive your custom orthotics in a couple of weeks.
The lifespan of a custom orthosis depends on several factors, including the person's activity level, the type of foot that needs support, and the type of orthosis. On average, custom orthoses can last two to three years. However, if you are active or use braces daily, you may need to replace them more often.
If you are experiencing pain, discomfort, or an injury around your feet, it’s always best to consult health professionals before dealing with it yourself. Knowing how to properly address the issue can mean the difference between a full recovery. In some cases, therapy on top of custom orthotics is the ideal solution. We always recommend finding a healthcare professional that can give you the best advice.