Orthotics are insoles that are placed into your shoe underneath your foot. They provide support to the arch of the foot and can also help correct any abnormal tilting of the heel bone. Orthotics support all three of the arches in the foot - the medial longitudinal arch, the lateral longitudinal arch and the transverse arch.
There are two main types of orthotics
1. Over-the-counter orthotics
2. Custom made orthotics.
Within these two main categories there are numerous subcategories (especially in the over the counter category). For simplicity we will generalize these subcategories. We will talk about over-the-counter orthotics in general.
We will discuss custom made orthotics in two categories
i. Partial Support
ii. Full Support.
Over-the-counter orthotics are made to match an average foot posture. Within these orthotics many components can be changed, such as:
· Arch height
· Medial and lateral heel wedging
· Component material
· Presence of injury specific components.
The benefits of these orthotics are lower cost and easier to access. The drawback is a lack of specificity to each person. This is necessary to reduce excess strain on the damaged tissues and therefore reduce pain. Most over-the-counter orthotics also have a shorter lifespan than custom made orthotics. Studies have found that for the treatment of some injuries such as medial shin splints, mild planter fasciitis and patellofemoral pain syndrome these orthotics are highly effective.
Custom made orthotics are orthotics that are made to suit the individual. In these orthotics the arch shape, wedging in the heel, and the inclusion of specific mid and fore-foot components can be included as needed to specifically correct the deformities in the foot. The advantage of custom made orthotics is that a higher degree of accuracy in crafting them can be attained. Therefore, a wider range and more efficient treatment of injuries is possible. Custom made orthotics also tend to be made from more durable material and last longer. The drawback to custom made orthotics is an increased price due to the labour involved and a slightly longer wait time to fit the orthotics.
With custom orthotics there's a lot more choice in each component that can be selected. For simplicity’s sake we're going to divide these into two types of orthotics, full and partially supportive orthotics.
Partial support orthotics may be made from material such as carbon fiber. The aim of these orthotics is to help cradle the arch but not fully offload the pressure through it. This allows the muscles in the feet to support the arch without taking its full weight. Over a period the muscles of the feet may become stronger and not need the orthotic support anymore. Partial support orthotics are beneficial in mild, and mild to moderate dysfunctions in the lower limb. A combination of these orthotics and strength training can vastly reduce the injury symptoms, and lead to better outcomes.
Full support orthotics are custom made orthotics where the arch closely matches the non-weight bearing arch of the person's foot. Full support orthotics are beneficial in a variety of circumstances. They can help those who suffer from a high arch and need maximum shock attenuation, as well as a person whose foot shows a large amount of pronation or collapsed arch and need full contact and support.