Article by Dr. Darren R Keiser MD
Orthotics. A foot pad or heel insert purchased at your local pharmacy or sporting goods store is an orthotic device. So is a custom-molded, individually designed shoe insert or ankle brace. Orthotic devices like these are frequently used to treat various conditions of the foot and ankle. They are often very effective in relieving common complaints.
Orthotic devices may be recommended for several reasons, including:
> aligning and supporting the foot or ankle
> preventing, correcting or accommodating foot deformities
> improving the overall function of the foot or ankle
For example, a wedge inserted into the inner (medial) side of the sole of a shoe can be used to help support a flatfoot, thus reducing the risk of tendinitis. An ankle-foot brace can help relieve the pain of rheumatoid arthritis in the heel or ankle. A heel flare can be used to increase support and help prevent ankle sprains. Heel cushions can help absorb impact and relieve stress on the heel and ankle when you walk or run. The type of orthosis recommended by your doctor will depend on your symptoms, the underlying cause for those symptoms, and the shape of your feet. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe an insert or pad; in other cases, modifications to your shoes may be necessary.
Although custom orthoses are considerably more expensive than off-the-shelf devices, they last much longer and provide more support or correction. In some cases, however, an over-the-counter device can be just as effective, particularly when combined with a stretching and exercise program. In the past, plaster molds of the foot were used to construct the custom-made orthosis. Now, computerized foot analysis is often used to develop orthoses that more accurately reflect the dynamics of your gait.
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