Orthotics (or orthoses), are medical devices inserted into footwear in order to correct abnormal or irregular foot function. Since these are medical devices, they should be prescribed by a qualified foot specialist (a chiropodist or podiatrist in Ontario). Sometimes called arch supports, orthotics allow people to stand, walk, and run more efficiently and comfortably. While over-the-counter orthotic are available and may help people with mild symptoms, they normally cannot correct the wide range of symptoms that prescription custom foot orthoses (PCFO’s) can since they are not custom made to fit an individual’s unique foot structure.
Orthotic devices come in many shapes, sizes, and materials and fall into three main categories: those designed to change foot function, those that are essentially protective in nature, and those that combine functional control and protection.
Rigid Orthotics (Functional Orthotics)
Rigid orthotics are designed to control function and are used primarily for walking or dress shoes. They are often composed of a firm material, such as PPE, plastic or carbon fiber. Rigid orthotics are made from a mold after a chiropodist or podiatrist takes a plaster cast or a 3D laser image of your. Rigid orthotics control motion in the two major foot joints that lie directly below the ankle joint and may improve or eliminate strains, aches, and pains in the legs, thighs, and lower back.
Soft Orthotics (Accommodative Orthotics)
Soft orthotics are generally used to absorb shock, increase balance, and take pressure off uncomfortable or sore spots. They are usually effective for diabetic, arthritic, and deformed feet. Soft orthotics are typically made up of soft, cushioned materials so that they can be worn against the sole of the foot, extending from the heel past the ball of the foot, including the toes. Like rigid orthotics, soft orthotics are also made from a mold after a chiropodist or podiatrist takes a plaster cast or 3D laser image of your foot.
Semi-rigid orthotics provide the patient with both corrective and accommodative features. In addition they provide foot balance for walking or participating in sports. The typical semi-rigid orthotic is made up of layers of soft material, reinforced with more rigid materials.
There are also special orthotics for patients with severe foot and ankle problems and also special orthotics for children to treat conditions such as pediatric flatfoot, in-toeing or out-toeing disorders.