Learning the “Ins” and "Outs" of Orthotics

Improper orthotics leave you at risk for shin splints and other running injuriesAs a Houston podiatrist. I often recommend custom orthotics to my patients for a variety of reasons—to help with heel pain, to work on biological imbalances or gait issues or even to compensate for low or non-existent arches.

Yes, I love orthotics, but I have never once thought of them as hip accessories—until things started shifting over the last few years.

High tech scanners started showing up in supermarkets, claiming to create "custom" molds of your feet, all while you grab some milk, eggs and cheese. 

Sols, a company based in New York City, launched with a mission to “Make orthotics sexy,” says Joy Altimare, their VP of Marketing.

Their brand slogan is appealing to people of all ages, (not just older individuals, who are the stereotypical orthotic customers): “Improve your posture, align your balance, and live your life.” They do so by combining orthotics with 3D Printing: you to come into a showroom and have a technician take a picture of your feet; a digital model is then created and 3D printed.

All of these developments sound ok, but here's the thing: most won't truly offer the support of a custom orthotic. 

Custom Orthotics vs. Lower Tech Inserts

Studies have proved that, when it comes to shoe inserts, you really get what you pay for. For runners, custom orthotics are tied to a 28 percent lower risk of injuries and a 41 percent lower risk of stress fractures. Shock absorbing inserts, however, especially the kind that tend to be available over-the-counter or from a 3D printer, really do nothing in terms of injury-prevention. In fact, some evidence suggests you're at an increased risk of injury when wearing these thinner, flat insoles.

While you see the risks of choosing the wrong kinds of insoles, proper orthotics can do more than just prevent injury. Because a custom orthotic is a prescriotion shoe insert, crafted from a mold of your own foot, they are constructed alongside a thorough gait analysis--both visual and digital. In this way, as your orthotics are built, we can also assess the improper motion of the foot while you walk. By reducing the excessive pronation, the custom orthotic also effectively manages the abnormal motions and pressures that lead to the formation of problems like ingrown toenails, bunions and many other issues that can develop without gait correction.

Of course, not everyone needs an orthotic, but if you do, it’s worth getting yours from a trained professional. If you would like to be evaluated for a custom orthotic, schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider today.

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.