We get a little excited around here when the topic of custom orthotics comes up.
We know, it sounds a bit nerdy. And maybe it is. But we get to see how these versatile, awesome, personalized insoles help people get their lives back—up close, every single day. We even have some personal experience—Dr. Shih wears a pair himself! Ask him—he’ll show you.
So what’s all the fuss about custom orthotics? Here are just some of the most significant benefits of these tools for foot and ankle conditions.
They Soften the Blow on Your Feet
When you stop and think about it, it’s almost mind boggling how much weight and impact force your feet and ankles need to handle on a day-to-day basis.
Even when you’re just standing, your feet have to bear your full body weight across a relatively small surface area.
But when you factor in the additional impact of your feet contacting the ground while walking, running, or landing from a jump, the actual force applied may actually be equivalent to several times your weight. And that’s with every single step!
Also, consider that our ancestors didn’t have to contend with spending nearly 100% of their day on hard, flat surfaces like linoleum and concrete. And, for better and worse, people today tend to be a lot bigger (taller and heavier) than the people of yesteryear.
It all adds up, and the wear and tear can lead to constant pain and soreness for many people—especially those who have active lifestyles, are overweight, or who simply have inefficiencies in their foot structure that the were either born with or developed over time (for example, flat feet).
But the right pair of orthotics can put a significant spring back in your step. Soft yet semi-rigid, they both support beleaguered arches while cushioning heels, absorbing impact shocks, and distributing pressure more evenly across your feet.
They shoulder more of the load so your feet can feel fresh and healthy enough for your active lifestyle.
They Keep Your Foot and Ankle Joints Working Smoothly
Custom orthotics can be much more than tools that “accommodate” defects and soften impact forces. They can also be made to control irregular motion. That means your feet won’t just feel better—they’ll actually work better, too.
For example, many people suffer from mild to moderate overpronation, which is what happens when your feet roll too far inward during the “loading” phase of a walking or running gait.
In other words, there’s too much flex and motion in the feet and ankles as you shift your weight from the front to the back of the foot. This can cause the foot to tire out faster and increase your risk for certain injuries.
A good pair of “functional” orthotics won’t just cushion that step, but can actually improve joint alignment and provide extra stability for the feet and ankles so that you stop overpronating so excessively in the first place.
And that’s just one basic example.
They Fix Alignment Issues All the Way Up Your Legs and Spine
Let’s build a little further off the last point.
It’s probably obvious that custom orthotics can fix alignment issues with your feet and ankles by repositioning them and preventing them from excessive abnormal motion. But the benefits of foot realignment don’t stop there.
Remember that your feet are at the base or foundation of your body, and everything above them is built on top. If your feet are out of balance, there’s a very good chance your knees, hips, and back will also be out of balance. Because they have to compensate for misaligned feet, they too become misaligned and suffer accelerated wear and tear.
But of course, that means that if you fix the alignment issues at the lowest end of the chain, you fix them all they way up, too. That’s why orthotics are commonly prescribed not only as an effective treatment for foot pain, but leg, hip, and back pain as well.
They Fit Your Feet Perfectly
Or at least perfect for practical purposes, anyway.
Now, you might be familiar with fancy kiosks with force plates that you might see at some pharmacies. Supposedly, you stand on them and the machine tells you which “orthotic” you’re supposed to select off the rack.
That’s not what we’re talking about—not even close.
In order to create your custom orthotics, we first make molds of your feet. Next, we run those molds through a 3D scanner to get ultra-precise measurements of all dimensions in all directions. That data gets send off to the laboratory where your custom orthotics will be made. When they come back, we’ll get them in your shoes and make any final tiny tweaks that may be needed to optimize the fit.
In other words, you’re not getting an “approximate” fit. You’re not getting “the best fit out of our six prefabricated choices.” You’re getting truly custom orthotics made to fit you and only you. It’s no wonder that they work so much better than insoles from the drugstore!
They Stand the Test of Time
As long as we’re on the topic of why custom orthotics are better than cheap insoles, there’s another important thing we need to talk about: durability.
Simply put, custom orthotics are made with high-quality materials that are meant to last—much more so than store insoles. The ones we use in our office are fashioned from an advanced EVA blended material favored by professional athletes and sports teams for long-lasting quality.
Better yet, custom orthotics can often be refurbished, adjusted, or even repaired to extend their useful lifespan, even if your feet have changed size or shape or your activities have changed in the meantime.
With proper care and annual checkups, your orthotics can provide years of pain relief and improved function.
They Could Save You Money
We’ll get this out of the way first: yes, custom orthotics cost more up front than a cheap pair of pharmacy insoles. You might be looking at a few hundred dollars instead of fifty bucks or less.
However, in the long run, you’re going to come out ahead—at least in terms of your medical outcomes, and very likely financially as well.
Consider first of all that your custom orthotics can last you years, instead of needing to be replaced every few months. They can pay for themselves based on this alone.
But on top of that, because your custom orthotics are likely to do a much better job at relieving your pain and reducing your injury risk, you are less likely to need to come back and see us again and again for subsequent pain and injury. And because pain is no longer stopping you from being as active as you want, you can do a better job staying healthy and managing your long-term risk of chronic disease.
Investing in your foot health now is a great idea for no other reason than that it lets you live your best life without pain. But if it ends up preventing a foot surgery or expensive-to-manage chronic condition, it might just be the best money you ever spent.
So what are you waiting for? If your feet are hurting, make an appointment with Dr. Alan Shih at Head to Toe Healthcare. We’ll give your lower limbs a full checkup and determine whether a pair of custom orthotics are right for you. Call today at (520) 545-0202.