Orthotic Devices

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Custom-molded orthotics are individually designed shoe insert or ankle brace. Orthotic devices like these are frequently used to treat various conditions of the foot and ankle. They are often very effective in relieving common complaints.

Orthotic devices may be recommended for several reasons, including:

  • aligning and supporting the foot or ankle
  • preventing, correcting or accommodating foot deformities
  • improving the overall function of the foot or ankle

For example, a wedge inserted into the inner (medial) side of the sole of a shoe can be used to help support a flatfoot, thus reducing the risk of tendinitis. An ankle-foot brace, referred to as an AFO, can help relieve the pain of Rheumatoid arthritis, or deformities due to congenital conditions or trauma.  A heel flare can be used to increase support and help prevent ankle sprains. Cutom orthodics can absorb impact, support arches and relieve stress on the heel and ankle when you walk or run. The type of orthosis recommended by your Hinsdale Orthopaedics physician will depend on your symptoms, the underlying cause for those symptoms, and the shape of your feet. In some cases, your HOA physician may prescribe an insert or pad; in other cases, modifications to your shoes may be necessary.

Although custom orthoses are considerably more expensive than off-the-shelf devices, they last much longer and provide more support or correction. In some cases, however, an over-the-counter device can be just as effective, particularly when combined with a stretching and exercise program. In the past, plaster molds of the foot were used to construct the custom-made orthoses. Now, computerized foot analysis is often used to develop orthoses that more accurately reflect the dynamics of your gait.

The following are the main types of custom shoe inserts:

Rigid orthotics Made of firm materials like plastics, fiberglass and carbon fiber, these primarily address motion in the two major foot joints below the ankle. If a foot imbalance is the cause of pain in the leg, thighs or lower back, rigid orthotics, which are usually designed for use in walking or dress shoes are recommended.

Semi-rigid orthotics These act as a balance aid during walking or athletic activities. They are made from foam with a thin, plastic shell laminated to it.

Soft orthotics Designed to act as shock absorbers and also to increase balance and reduce pressure in sore spots, these inserts are made of compressible foam. They have proven effective for arthritic feet and are also widely used to care for diabetic foot conditions. They tend to be bulkier than other inserts and may require extra room in shoes or prescription footwear.


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