Anyone who has experienced foot pain, knee pain or shin splints may have been tempted to ease their discomfort by purchasing a foot orthotic from their local pharmacy or sports store. Like store bought reading glasses, these affordable, convenient, mass produced devices may provide the necessary support or cushioning to provide relief, but if they are not easing your lower limb pain, or only provide limited relief, it may be time to get the opinion of a professional.
“Off the shelf orthotics can help to treat some foot and lower limb problems,” says Ryan Robinson, a Canadian Certified Pedorthist and president of the Pedorthic Association of Canada. “However, they are not the solution for everyone as they do not fit all foot types and will only support moderate biomechanical abnormalities.”
A qualified foot expert, such as a Canadian Certified Pedorthist, can advise whether a mass produced orthotic is appropriate or if a custom orthotic is required. Similar to prescription glasses, a custom-made one is constructed specifically for the patient's unique and specific needs, says Robinson. Whether an off-the-shelf orthotic is sufficient, or a custom orthotic is required, a pedorthist will also make sure it fits correctly and will recommend appropriate footwear since this type of support is only as good as the shoes they are worn in.
What is a foot orthotic?
A foot orthotic is a device made from a range of materials, including hard plastics and soft foams, that is discretely inserted into one's shoe. It supports, aligns, accommodates foot abnormalities and improves how the foot functions.
A custom-made foot orthotic requires a prescription from a doctor following an assessment of one's feet and legs by a foot expert such as a Canadian Certified Pedorthist. It is constructed from raw materials using a three-dimensional model of the patient's foot.
For anyone who is using an off-the-shelf orthotic or is interested in learning more about orthotics, Robinson highly recommends a visit to the association website, www.pedorthic.ca/orthotics. There you will find information on both off-the-shelf and custom orthotics.
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