Foot orthotics come in a variety of sizes, shapes and design. The best way to determine what type of orthotic is needed is to look at the reason for actually needing the custom foot orthotics. Pre-fabricated or off-the-shelf orthotics can be used to improve daily comfort through increased cushion and mild support. Off-the-shelf orthotics can be found (like the name sounds) on the shelves of specialty shoe stores. They can also be acquired through a foot care specialist. This device is often used when a small improvement in support and/or cushion is required to overcome an acute injury, or simply to improve daily comfort.
When custom foot orthotics are prescribed, the degree of support and cushion is tailored to suit the patient’s needs. These orthotics can be customized to range from rigid and controlling, which offers maximal support, to soft and accommodative, which offers maximal cushion. Most commonly, it’s a combination of support and cushion that is used to create the ‘perfect’ orthotic.
What Is the ‘Perfect’ Orthotic?
There are a number of ways to answer this question, but to the team at SoleScience, one of the most important variables in a perfect orthotic is comfort! Orthotics may be used to recover from an acute injury, avoid injury, redistribute pressure in order to avoid related issues, as well as to improve mobility, balance and quality of life. At the end of the day, we firmly believe that comfort is the most important underlying factor with all of these objectives. If your orthotics aren’t comfortable, they may lead to undesirable changes in the way you walk, potentially resulting in additional complications. Further, in our experience, if your orthotics are not comfortable, you won’t wear them no matter how well designed, manufactured or ‘pretty’ the orthotics are, if they aren’t being worn, they aren’t effective!
How Do We Measure Comfort?
When picking up your custom foot orthotics, it is imperative that the orthotics are properly fit to the footwear, or selection of footwear, in which they will be worn. In addition to re-assessing your gait while walking with your new orthotics, your foot care professional should evaluate your perceived comfort. This can be a difficult evaluation to perform as you typically only have a few minutes to wear and evaluate how your new orthotics feel at your pick up appointment. In most cases, foot orthotics are a completely new experience which can make it difficult to provide an accurate appraisal. The orthotics will be providing some combination of new support, cushion and pressure redistribution on the sole of your foot, all of which are perceived differently from person to person.
The first few steps in your new orthotics may feel strange, but it should never result in a new pain, an increase in pain or a general feeling of discomfort. For this reason, the questions your orthotic provider asks following your first few steps are imperative to ensuring the orthotics are appropriate before you leave your pick-up appointment. An appropriate evaluation of comfort can be used to direct small adjustments at your pick up appointment, which in our experience, makes the difference between loving your new orthotics the minute you put them in your shoes and leaving your pick-up appointment with concern.
Many people have questions regarding a ‘break in’ period for their orthotics. As mentioned, your orthotics may feel new and different for the first few days, but they should never be painful or uncomfortable. We typically ask that you re-evaluate how they feel one week after picking up your orthotics. If things still don’t quite feel right, we encourage you to come back in for an adjustment. Again, these small adjustments can be the difference between continued discomfort and complete success!
Check-In and Check-Up
The team at SoleScience is dedicated to ongoing follow-up to ensure your orthotics are providing continued comfort throughout their lifespan. Follow-up visits and adjustments are often an important part of the process and are always free of charge! If your orthotic provider discourages follow up visits or adjustments, it is a good indicator that they may not be appropriately trained to make such changes. If you have questions or concerns regarding your current or previous orthotics, we are here to help! Contact us with any questions or to book an appointment.