There are plenty of myths and misconceptions surrounding orthotics, shoes, and foot care. Sometimes, with all of the myths milling around out there, orthotics can get a bad reputation. While some of these myths simply have eroded due to improvements and research over time, others were never based in fact from the start. Seeing dozens of patients every week, our Pedorthists frequently debunk these myths for the benefit of our patients. Here we dive into the most common misconceptions we see.
MYTH #1 — Orthotics are for seniors
This couldn’t be further from the truth! Orthotics have been stereotyped for ages as only being for older adults, and often also associated with big, ugly orthopaedic shoes. While it is true that as we age the tendons and ligaments become more lax and condition like arthritis more prevalent, foot dysfunction, injuries, and other ailments occur across age groups and are just as debilitating for younger individuals.
Orthotics can be helpful for anyone experiencing foot or lower limb pain resulting from an overuse injury (such as plantar fasciitis), chronic condition (arthritis or diabetes), or other condition (bunions, knee pain, etc). Orthotics are an effective, conservative treatment for foot and lower limb conditions for people of all ages.
MYTH #2 — All Orthotics are hard, and will hurt my feet while they “break in”
Orthotics are intended to help your feet, not hurt them! While some orthotics are firm and corrective, that style is certainly not the only one available. We like to think of orthotics being on a spectrum of soft to firm. Depending on what you need, your orthotics will be as soft or as firm as you need to recover from your injury. Furthermore, orthotics should be adjustable for both fit and comfort throughout their lifespan. Depending on your needs, a wide variety of materials can be used to create a device that is just right for you.
Orthotics should never increase your pain, cause blisters or create new problems during the break-in period. Mild discomfort may occur as you get used to the new devices, but this discomfort should be no more than mild—similar to a bit of discomfort you might experience with a brand new pair of shoes. If you are experiencing discomfort, visit your Pedorthist for an adjustment! Your Canadian Certified Pedorthist can adjust your orthotic in dozens of ways to increase comfort without compromising function.
MYTH #3 — Orthotics make your feet dependent on them, or weaken foot muscles
We commonly use the analogy of eyeglasses when discussing this with patients. Orthotics work like eyeglasses; they only work while you are wearing them, and they do not weaken the muscles in your feet and legs. Orthotics are not a crutch or a brace, and your feet do not become dependent on them. Custom foot orthotics provide essential support in key areas that improve function and/or limit excess motion causing stress on the tissues of the foot.
Podiatrist Doug Ritchie, DPM discusses this further HERE.
MYTH #4 — As long as you’re wearing an orthotic, you don’t have to wear good shoes
Without the structure of a good shoe supporting it, an orthotic can’t always perform at its best. Similar to the foundation of a house, your orthotics need a solid base to sit upon in order to perform the best of your feet. Furthermore, a well-structured shoe typically has an adequate removable footbed, which provides ample space for both your foot and your orthotic in the shoe. Many shoes are orthotic friendly, and your orthotics can be adapted and adjusted to fit into several different pairs of shoes so you’re not “stuck” wearing only one pair.
MYTH #5 — Off-the-shelf devices work the same as custom
Off-the-shelf (OTS) devices and insoles often found at the drugstore or grocery store range small gel heel cups to full length memory foam insoles with various padding, support, and materials. The biggest difference is that none of these insoles consider your individual needs, nor are they made to properly for your foot. While some of them use pressure-mapping mats to give you the sense that you’re getting a custom product, it is still only a computer’s estimation of your foot shape—a pressure mat can’t see how high or low your arch is, it can only tell what parts of your foot are pressing down.
OTS devices are always sold at a lower cost than custom, but like many other things; you get what you pay for. While OTS devices might be easy to fit and easy on the wallet, they simply don’t stand up to a custom made device. OTS devices are made to fit an “average” foot, so if your foot is not similar to their device, it may not be of much help.
Custom made orthotics are made 100% custom to your foot. Your Pedorthist will take a 3D mould of your foot and the materials used to manufacture your orthotics are formed directly to that mould, making a custom insole. Your Pedorthist will choose a combination of materials and support features that fit your exact needs, and they can be adjusted throughout their life if your needs change over time.
If you’ve made it though all of these debunked myths, you might be wondering if everyone could benefit from orthotics. That’s not true either! While there are many conditions, injuries, and disorders that can be treated with orthotics, they are certainly not needed for every person. For a bit more on our thoughts on who needs orthotics, check out the following video. If you still have any questions on whether orthotics are right for you, contact us at SoleScience at anytime!