Treat your Feet!

Coming Out of Hibernation: Do I Need Orthotics or Inserts

Spring is just around the corner, according to Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction four weeks ago of six more weeks of winter…. that leaves only two more weeks to go! For many, the slow emergence of spring signals an increased need and desire to get outside. Whether escaping outside purely for some fresh air after being cooped up indoors during the COVID winter of 2020-2021 or for more specific reasons such as running and exercise, many of us may notice the onset of new aches and pains or the re-emergence of old ones.

The area that takes the brunt of the abuse is all too often our feet, due to the amount of force that is put on them daily. Coming out of winter hibernation, especially this year with an increased chance of excess weight gain, may make those chances more of a reality.

If you find yourself suffering from foot pain, a good resource is your favorite physical therapist, as they are experts in how the body works and are extensively trained in lower body anatomy, kinesiology, and pathology.

Foot pain often has contributing factors throughout the lower extremity that can be identified and treated very effectively with physical therapy and may not require the addition of an orthotic or insert. If an orthotic or insert is determined to be necessary, however, they can be a game-changer for the appropriate patient.

When considering an orthotic vs an insert, there are some significant differences between them to be aware of.

About Orthotics

Orthotics are prescription medical devices that you wear inside your shoes to correct biomechanical foot issues with how you walk, stand, or run by maintaining the foot in or close to its subtalar neutral position. They can also help with foot pain caused by medical conditions such as diabetes, plantar fasciitis, bursitis, and arthritis. Foot, ankle, knee, and hip biomechanics are complex, and orthotics should not be prescribed without a thorough examination in both unweighted and weighted positions.

Four common conditions that orthotics have the most potential to help:

  • Plantar Fasciitis: a common painful inflammation of the sole of the foot, most easily recognized by its tendency to cause pain first thing in the morning
  • Arthritis: which often affects joints of the foot
  • Diabetes: which interferes with circulation in the feet, requiring custom shoe modifications or custom-built footwear
  • Metatarsalgia: a painful foot disorder that affects the bones and joints at the ball of the foot

About Inserts

Inserts are devices that you can buy in stores without a prescription, providing cushioning and support, but they are not custom-made for your feet. They are made of a variety of materials like gel, plastic, or foam, and can provide arch support or extra cushioning on the heel, around the toes, or for your entire foot. Inserts might make your shoes more comfortable but are not designed to correct foot problems.

Whether or not you put much stake in what Punxsutawney Phil has to say (or even know who that is…) it is truly downhill from here to the reality of warmer days spent outside.

Don’t let foot pain get in the way of you enjoying those days!

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