Orthotics are medical devices that slide into your existing footwear and help to support and correct dysfunctions of the foot and lower limbs. In turn it can help enhance performance and movement of the human body. Orthotics function by holding the foot in a neutral position, a more biomechanically advantaged position, making the foot move and function as optimally as possible.
If we are born with or develop dysfunctions of the lower limbs and feet, it will increase stress placed on structures of the lower limb including the ankles, knees, hips and even low back. Having improper foot mechanics from internal factors or external such as improper foot wear (high heels, pointed toe shoes, shoes that are worn down with no support) may create pain in the toes, balls of the feet, the heel, etc. Severe heel pain especially during our first steps in the morning may be a sign of plantar fasciitis. Pain located in the balls of the feet are typical for conditions like metatarsalgia. By observing the wear and tear pattern of our foot wear can also show if individuals are oversupinators (high arch), overpronators (flat feet), or have other foot dysfunctions.
Although there are many people that have the same issue, it is always most beneficial to first receive a biomechanical assessment and gait analysis before making custom orthotics for the individual. Similar conditions can present as the same symptoms in people but have different recovery rates as individual bodies are made slightly differently and function differently from each other. All custom orthotics are not made the same, there are different materials and moulds not only depending on the shape of the individuals foot, but also by their daily activities, sports, and needs. A foam impression is taken of your foot and this gives us your unique shape so we can design the perfect orthotic for you. Also, not everyone with flat feet need orthotics, it can simply be an issue with weak muscles of the foot and ankle, or even at the hip. Assessments are very important before jumping into the orthotic world.
In the images below you can see a typical case of what flat feet can do when you walk, take stairs, or exercise. Without orthotics you can see the arch collapses, the shin turns inward as well as the knee bows inward. The hips will also rotate and the pelvis will tip forward affecting the low back. All these abnormal positions will occur every step, every lunge, every squat placing small but repeated strain on the different joints. In the second image with the orthotic under the foot you can see the immediate impact. The arch is support and held up, in turn keeping the rest of the lower body in a better alignment as well.
Talk to a trained professional to educate yourself on proper foot health and mechanics as you can learn some signs and symptoms of foot and body conditions and to take preventative/corrective steps towards a better health. Remember, orthotics don't always have to be permanent, depending on your age and the severity/type of problem, they can be an aid for the time while you train your muscles and body to support your self without the orthotic.