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A Guide to Orthotics

Here at Wright Physical Therapy, we are on a mission to clear up some confusion about custom orthotics and their appropriate use.  These powerful tools can alleviate back pain to a degree, straighten out hip and knee alignment and alleviate foot/ankle pain and dysfunction.  By bringing the ground to the foot effectively, the ground reaction forces can become an ally to your life rather than an enemy.

Orthopedic foot inserts shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg.  We have found a very durable and extremely useful solution that costs less than half that of most other prescription orthotics.

Person walking with custom orthotics

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What are orthotics?

Orthotics are different. They are prescription medical devices that you wear inside your shoes to correct biomechanical foot issues such as problems with how you walk, stand, or run. They can also help with foot pain caused by medical conditions such as diabetes, plantar fasciitis, bursitis, and arthritis. Orthotics might even help you avoid surgery to fix flat feet.

To clear the air about the research, not all types are good choices, even if they are custom-made for your foot.  Finding the right balance of flexibility and rigidity is crucial. Posting the foot to meet the ground better is paramount to success, and having a full-length orthotic is imperative.

We recommend a custom-made orthotic rather than the generic over-the-counter foot inserts for the aforementioned reasons.  Once you have been helped to a far more mechanically sound future of less pain through custom-made orthotics, you need to know how to use and care for them.  Here is a guide that we hope eases your experience with these wonderful tools and enriches your life.

What conditions are orthotics used to treat?

Doctor of Physical Therapy may prescribe orthotics to treat a number of medical conditions. Examples include:

  • Arthritis
  • Back pain
  • Bunions
  • Bursitis
  • Diabetes
  • Flat feet
  • Hammertoes
  • Heel spurs
  • High arches
  • Injuries
  • Plantar fasciitis

How to wear foot orthotics?

It is not uncommon to require break-in times for new adaptations.  Your body will typically take 2-3 weeks to get used to your new foot inserts. During this period of time, we ask that you follow these simple rules to have the best transition:

  • Start by wearing your orthopedic foot inserts 2-3x each day.
  • On Day 1, wear your orthopedic foot insert for 30 min during each time you wear them.
  • Extend your wearing time each day by 15-30 min until you can comfortably wear your orthopedic foot insert all day, every day during all activities.

If your feet become sore and/or tired while wearing your custom foot inserts, take the orthotics off and allow your feet to rest for several hours before wearing them again. THIS IS NORMAL DURING THE BREAK-IN PERIOD.

After 3 weeks, if your feet continue to be sore and/or tired from wearing your prescription orthotics, they may need to be adjusted, and we can do this for you at no cost if you received them from us. We can help, too, if you have gotten your orthopedic foot inserts from a different source.

How do I care for my orthotics?

Your orthotics should be in good usable condition for 1-4 years.  They can last longer depending on your body weight and activity level. Custom orthotics can typically be “refurbished,” so DO NOT throw them away. Call us, and we will help you get them looking and working as good as new without the cost of a new pair.

To keep your orthotics in good shape and help them last as long as possible, do the following:

  • Never put your foot inserts in a washing machine or dryer. If they need to be cleaned, wipe them down with a damp rag. Mild dish detergent can be used as well, followed by rinsing with cool water. Then, wipe down the orthotics with a dry cloth and then allow the air to dry before putting them back in your shoes.
  • Do not leave them in a hot vehicle.
  • Always wear socks with your orthotics to prevent premature wear of the top covers.
  • Your orthotics can get wet. If they do, remove them from your shoes or boots, wipe them down and allow them to air dry before putting them back in your shoes.Doctor of Physical Therapy helping a patient figure out the best custom orthotics

When Choosing your Orthotics

When choosing new shoes or boots, you must take your orthotics with you to the store. Keep the following in mind before you buy!

  • Be sure that the shoes/boots have removable insoles (aka footbeds or sock liners)
  • Take the original footbeds out of the shoes and insert the orthotics. Wear the shoes with your orthotics in them around the store for a while to ensure comfort.
  • The orthotics take up more room inside the shoe than the original insoles. You may need a shoe with a wider toe box, which is cut “taller” from top to bottom. You should not need a longer shoe.
  • Lace-up shoes and boots are most suitable with functional orthotics due to the ability to adjust the shoe volume.

Work With Us

For more information, check out our foot orthotics service at Wright PT’s or find a Wright PT clinic near you to schedule an appointment.

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