So a friend came by tonight asking about orthotics. Two questions were brought up. Do orthotics put your feet in a “normal” position and do they correct abnormal feet. The answer to both questions is yes. They correct abnormal feet by putting them into a normal or neutral position.
First, no one on earth has “perfect” feet, and so all feet are either too flat or too high. Much like a dentist can fit crooked teeth with braces and an optometrist can put corrective lenses on imperfect eyes, podiatrists can place imperfect feet in corrective orthotics. This puts the foot in a better-more correct position.
Many believe that by correcting the feet’s position to the ground you are re-aligning your body’s structure from the ground up. I personally know of patients who have benefitted from foot orthotics to help with knee, hip, back and even shoulder and neck pain. I compare this to correcting the tires on your car. If your alignment is fine but your tire is flat, the car will still shake and pull to the flat side. By correcting from the ground up, possible benefits to other joints can exist.
Many people will purchase over the counter shoe inserts as a first step to custom orthotics. I again go back to Optometry. Over the counter orthotics are like the pre-made glasses on the shelf. They are a generic number of correction. They may help vision but are not custom made specifically for your eyes. OTC inserts are the same. You may benefit from the generic, pre-made version, but you will not get the benefits of a custom molded orthotics. I do believe in SOME OTC inserts (see Powersteps). These are often used as a pre-assessment to see if any relief is gained before making custom orthotics.
Orthotics can be a conservative option for treatment of many things including but not limited to: plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendoniitis, neuromas, bunions, hammertoes, or arthritis and they are commonly dispensed after surgeries to prevent recurrent deformities.
As always, consult with your physician before any self diagnosis and/or treatment.