Have you ever been to physical therapy for something other than foot pain and been given an exercise for your foot? Have you ever been told to get new shoes or orthotics for your shoes? Have you ever wondered why?
Foot orthotics go inside a shoe to help support the foot and can be made from several different materials. These come in many different shapes, sizes, prices, and levels of sturdiness. Some companies sell pre-fabricated orthotics, which you may have seen in a pharmacy, shoe store, or sporting goods store. Some companies sell custom orthotics, where your foot gets measured and the orthotics are made specifically for your needs. With the number of choices and amount of information out there, it can be overwhelming to choose which option is best for you.
Orthotics have been found to improve foot posture and lower extremity mechanics, which can help address pain in feet, knees, and as far up as your lower back! 1,2,3,4 Research shows that orthotics can be effective to help decrease pain in people with chronic ankle instability, Sever’s Disease, patellofemoral pain syndrome, and low back pain.1,2,3
It is best to do both. Research has shown that exercise and orthotics are both effective, but that the positive impacts of exercise lasts longer.2 Orthotics also have limits to their abilities. Some research shows they help with squatting and stairs, but not with jumping. This means that if you do sports that involve running or jumping, orthotics won’t solve all of your problems.5 Orthotics also can be difficult to manage if you wear more than one pair of shoes. Although, some can be made to fit into sport-specific shoes, such as skating boots or cleats.
The most important thing is to get a shoe that fits you! The vast majority of people wear shoes that don’t fit the length and/or width of their feet, which can lead to foot pain or issues such as calluses.6 Some research has also linked shoes that are too narrow with toe deformities like bunions.7 Make sure your shoe has enough room for your foot and all your toes.
If you are looking for running shoes, you might have heard about shoe “minimalism”. Current research has not proven that minimalist shoes are better or worse than traditional shoes, but has shown that switching shoes while training for a race can increase pain.8,9,10 The best thing to do is stick with your shoes if you are also increasing your activity level, but make sure you get new shoes every 400 miles or so.
Yes! If you are having foot, knee, hip or back pain, our therapists can help you decide if orthotics should be a part of your treatment plan. We can help you find the best pre-fabricated orthotic for your foot or order custom orthotics for you. All of our physical therapists are certified with Sole Supports, using their Gait-referenced casting technology, and are qualified to measure foot posture to create custom-built foot orthotics. They can also be measured and recommended during a Wellness Visit.
Madeleine Hines, PT, DPT