Form follows function, and that’s no less true for your feet than for anything you’d find at IKEA.
We’d argue that your feet function much more intricately than most pieces of furniture as well, containing multiple bones, muscles, and joints. Simple walking means engaging some pretty complex organic machinery!
Unfortunately, having many moving parts means imbalances and abnormalities can cause problems much more easily. One form of treatment we consider in such situations is custom orthotics, a means of providing specific support and cushioning on a patient-by-patient basis.
What Are Custom Orthotics?
Custom orthotics are devices created to align the foot and ankle into a certain position. The determined position is often to restore a more normal or efficient function of the foot.
The “custom” part of custom orthotics is literal. Each pair of custom orthotics is designed specifically to meet the needs of an individual patient, meaning no two pairs are exactly alike. We prescribe orthotics much like an optometrist would prescribe lenses for a patient—and the results of someone else trying on those lenses is about the same as someone trying on another person’s orthotics!
We only prescribe custom orthotics after a thorough examination of each patient’s problems, and learning more about how their foot and ankle symptoms affect their daily lives.
If we feel custom orthotics can provide significant relief, we make a detailed computer model of your feet using a digital scanner. (All you have to do is stand still.) We then use this intricate model to prescribe specific amounts of cushioning and support as you need it. This prescription is then sent to a specialized lab to be completed exactly to specifications.
The inserts we most often prescribe run ¾ the length beneath the foot, but some can extend up to the base of the toes (sulcus length) or run the entire length beneath the foot.
The materials that orthotics are made of are dependent upon these needs. “Accommodative” orthotics are made from softer materials, and are aimed toward providing more cushioning support. “Functional” orthotics are made from more rigid materials and are designed more to control movement. It is possible for orthotics to have a mix of materials in different areas depending on the situation, though.