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ORTHOTICS FOR FOOT AND ANKLE PAIN

In order to better understand how foot orthotics can help foot and ankle pain it is important to understand the anatomy and function of the foot and ankle. Please review the sections on foot anatomy and ankle anatomy prior to reviewing this section.

Foot orthotics is a general term used to describe any device, arch-support or insole that changes the function and biomechanics of the foot and ankle (for simplicity, the term "orthotics" will be used in this section in place of the term "foot orthotics"). Orthotics can improve foot and ankle pain in a number of ways:

  • They can change the distribution of force through the foot and ankle.
  • They can act as cushions to reduce the force through the foot and ankle.
  • They can change the alignment of the foot and ankle.

Orthotics can be made of many different materials. The choice of material depends on what the orthotics are trying to do. Soft orthotics are beneficial if cushioning is required. Semi-rigid orthotics provide more stability than soft orthotics and still provide good shock absorption while rigid orthotics provide maximal support and stability.

Orthotics can be custom made or pre-made and are designed to fit easily into most casual or sports shoes. After an initial break-in period orthotics should feel comfortable. Feet, ankles and knees need time to adapt to new orthotics. If the orthotics are not comfortable in 2-3 weeks they may need to be adjusted. Properly designed, manufactured and fitted orthotics should not make feet, ankles or knees feel worse.

Orthotics have some drawbacks. They do not fit in all types of shoes. Some people report that their orthotics are uncomfortable when they first start wearing them. Sometimes the material used to cover the orthotics can irritate the skin. Orthotics can be expensive and they do not always improve foot and ankle pain. Soft orthotics are made of softer materials and they tend to wear out and lose their effectiveness quicker than semi-rigid or rigid orthotics. However, when used in conjunction with a general foot and ankle rehabilitation program orthotics can serve an important role in the treatment of some types of foot and ankle pain.

In summary, orthotics should be considered in the treatment of many types of foot and ankle pain. Doctors and physiotherapists who are skilled in treating foot and ankle problems can advise whether orthotics would be helpful and how to get the correct type.

Please visit the links section for additional information on orthotics. Links have been provided to other websites as well as online medical journals.


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