Almost everyone has experienced foot problems of one sort or another and many people wonder about orthotics for flat feet. So let’s talk about foot pain, flat feet, how your foot functions and custom orthotics.
First, your foot has to perform 2 completely opposing functions. It has to act as a stable foundation for standing and also is relatively rigid when “pushing off” during normal gait. The opposite function is to absorb shock every time your foot hits the ground. Did you now that 2-5 times your body weight is transmitted from the ground into your foot and lower extremities with every step? With running, this is often 10 times your body weight with each stride.
Your foot accomplishes these opposing functions by operating within ranges of motion called supination and pronation. When standing, the foot should be in the subtalar neutral position. If you have flat feet or fallen arches, the arch of the foot usually “falls” resulting in pronation and an abnormal position while standing. This prevents the foot from functioning within the normal ranges of pronation and supination. Over long periods of time, this imbalance predisposes the foot to developing all sorts of problems and deformities including plantar fasciitis, bunions, claw toes, hammer toes, metatarsalgia and calluses. Calluses are always a sign of increased weight bearing and provide clues about foot function as do wear patterns on your shoes.
Orthotics are shoe insoles or “inserts” that should be custom designed to each individual foot for the purpose of restoring and maintaining normal foot function during the gait cycle. Orthotics for flat feet or any other condition should be customized by a professional to insure proper function is being restored. Let me be very clear that any type of orthotic or shoe insert is NOT customized if you buy them “off the shelf” at any retail business or even an apparent “specialty store”! Custom orthotics MUST be manufactured by a laboratory based upon the doctor’s specific recommendations, otherwise, they are NOT custom.
Did you realize that truly custom orthotics are frequently different for each foot? This is because your feet are not identical and have different distortions or imbalances. It is also imperative to match the proper orthotic to each patient factoring in their age, weight, activity level, health history and unique foot characteristics. If the orthotic is not supportive enough, the flat arch will still collapse in the standing position and little benefit is achieved. If the custom orthotic is to rigid, then it may be painful or does not allow for proper foot motion and function. Therefore, it is critical to have a professional examine your feet and tell the laboratory what specific modifications are necessary to achieve normal function for each person and foot.
In summary, almost everyone could benefit from additional foot support but only custom orthotics prescribed by a doctor or similar professional are designed to be corrective. Conditions such as fallen arches, plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, metatarsalgia and generalized foot pain often respond extremely well to properly prescribed and manufactured custom orthotics. A good pair of custom orthotics should last a minimum of 3-5 years for an adult unless there is a significant change in weight, activity level or health status. Take our foot quiz today to find out if you could benefit from orthotics for flat feet or some other condition.
By Richard Keuhn, Chiropractic Doctor