Orthotics: The Sports Equipment You Didn’t Know You Needed (Until Now)

This fall, think orthotics to help improve your performance on and off the field.

We know, the word sounds like something reserved for the geriatric set. However, the reality is that all walks of life can benefit from these devices. That includes the weekend warrior, the student-athlete and even an avid mall walker.

What are orthotics, exactly?

Orthotics are devices placed in the shoe for overall correction of the foot, ankle and lower extremity posture for all foot types. They place the foot and lower extremity in a corrected or neutral position. This allows for optimal functioning by helping with stability for prevention and treatment of conditions including:

  • Bunions
  • Calluses
  • Flatfeet
  • Foot, ankle and heel pain
  • Foot ulcers
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Strains and sprains
  • Tendonitis

Can’t you buy those in the store?

Sort of. You’re thinking of shoe inserts, which are available for purchase in the majority of stores and are most notably made by one Dr. Scholl. However, they are not technically considered orthotic devices, despite what the advertising may state. These inserts are mass-produced and cannot correct biomechanical (how the body moves and functions) foot issues or long-term foot problems.

What are the benefits of prescription orthotics for athletes?

Compared to shoe inserts, prescription orthotics are crafted by a podiatrist using high-quality materials and are designed exclusively for your foot. This level of detail and customization ensures that it helps you the way you need it to perform optimally.

There are two types of prescription orthotics:

  • Accommodative orthotics, which are meant to provide cushioning and support for uncomfortable conditions such as painful calluses and foot ulcers (usually from diabetes).
  • Functional orthotics that are made from plastic or graphite to control pain abnormal foot function, as well as shin splints or tendonitis.

These specially-made devices are available for everyone and especially help young athletes in the competitive fields of soccer, ice hockey, figure skating and dance. They provide a number of benefits for athletes of all ages and activity levels, including:

Superior Support and Comfort

With 26 bones and over 100 muscles in the foot, it’s not surprising that something can go haywire with the way your foot works (especially since they’re burdened with carrying the load of your body around all day every day). Orthotics designed to fit your feet can provide you with comfortable support that your unique foot structure needs to run, dance or skate across a hard or an uneven surface.

Pain Alleviation

If you find yourself dealing with foot pain while participating in an activity, orthotics can address your specific issues and improve foot function. As a result, the pain will be relieved, and you will be able to play you’re very best. It may also help prevent injury or pain in the future by giving your foot the proper structure.

Correcting Pronation and Supination

Pronation occurs when the arches of the feet collapse, allowing the feet to fall toward the middle of the body. This places the knees, hips and low back in a strenuous position and can make you more prone to knee injury while playing a sport (such as soccer or ice hockey). Supination has the same effects—which includes creating chronic ankle sprains—but this time the arches are too high (one may even be higher than the other) and force the feet away from the middle of the body. Orthotics can help your feet maintain a more anatomically correct position to avoid injury and pain while you’re active.

How are orthotics created?

If your podiatrist has determined that you need help from an orthotic following a thorough examination, a plaster cast of the foot is made as the foot is held in a specific position known as the subtalar neutral position. Then, the unique orthotic shell is created from the plaster cast to give your foot the support it needs.

For more information about prescription orthotics or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, contact Essex Union Podiatry today.