Over-the-Counter or Custom Orthotics?
At Trevor Lane Podiatry, we are proud to be associated with Queensland Orthotics Lab, one of Australia’s first commercial orthotics labs.
While custom orthotics may still be created using traditional casting methods and then handmade, Queensland Orthotics Lab has introduced technologies to make custom orthotics more accessible and affordable, such as:
- digital scanning incorporating an Australian first foot positioning tool – QOL Scanmate;
- an online portal for orthotics prescriptions in MyQOL;
- and 3D printing.
At Trevor Lane Podiatry, our podiatrists are trained to use both methods of capturing the foot, in preparation for the creation of custom orthotics.
What are Orthotics?
Orthotics are devices which are placed into your shoes, to help adjust your movement pattern and so reduce discomfort and strain – in your feet, legs, or even your back.
They may be used to treat a range of conditions, for example:
- to aid recovery from a sports injury;
- to compensate for a difference between your two feet;
- to prevent problems in the future;
- or to relieve pain in your feet, knees and even your back (see my earlier article about podiatry and back problems).
There are orthotics for plantar fasciitis, orthotics for bunions and arch support, orthotics for heel pain, orthotics for running, children’s orthotics, orthotics for diabetics, knee orthotics, ankle orthotics, toe orthotics and orthotics for flat feet, to name just a few!
Podiatrist Orthotics – what to expect
Before prescribing or measuring you for orthotics, your podiatrist will conduct a thorough assessment, and have an in-depth discussion with you, to gain vital information about:
- your feet and how you walk. At our Redlands podiatrist clinic, we use the latest technology, such as digital gait scan.
- your weight;
- your age;
- your usual shoe style;
- the surface you spend most of your day on;
- your medical history (including any injuries);
- your lifestyle;
- and your budget.
Shoes for Orthotics
Considering the combination of shoe and orthotic is critical.
The design and style of your everyday footwear has a direct influence on the type of orthotic your podiatrist is likely to recommend for you.
At Trevor Lane Podiatry we understand that an orthotic that fits with your preferred shoe style is incredibly important. They may not be the most supportive device available – but we also know that the best results are gained when you actually wear your orthotic!
TIP: Shoes with removable liners allow greater choice and selection of orthotics.
What about Price?
Orthotics range in price greatly, depending on the material type and functionality. The more expensive orthotics are custom-made, have more function, and offer the best quality in terms of technological innovation and material choice.
However once again, there needs to be a balance between offering a client the best orthotic for their condition, and what they can actually afford. At our Redlands podiatry clinic we will help you find a solution that ticks all the boxes:
- a good shoe;
- a good orthotic;
- and suited to your budget, health fund (if applicable), and lifestyle.
Type of Materials
Orthotics may be made from EnviroPoly (3D printed), EVA foam, polypropylene plastic, or carbon fibre, depending on whether it is a functional or accommodative orthotic device.
Different brands use different trade names for these materials, so a good podiatrist needs to be familiar with the various names and their equivalents, in order to prescribe the best orthotics for your needs.
Functional devices are often used for conditions which affect the body above the foot – such as ligament injuries; knee strain and lower back problems.
The more rigid the material, the further up the body you get the effect. Being more rigid, they have greater impact on the plane of movement which has excessive (or restricted) motion, and is therefore causing problems.
These semi-rigid materials – eg 3D printed EnviroPoly, polypropylene, carbon fibre – are thinner; and because they are custom-made, functional orthotics generally cost more.
Your weight affects the thickness and rigidity of the material chosen for your orthotic. For example, for individuals less than 80kg, a 3mm polypropylene or 2.8mm EnviroPoly will generally be chosen; those weighing 100 kilograms will require a 4mm device; while heavier individuals will need 5mm.
Example of a 3D foot scan
Accommodative orthotics are made of cheaper and less functional materials such as EVA foams and are usually molded to the entire length of the boot. Although they are cheaper, they are bulkier, meaning your shoe choices will be more limited.
Commonly prescribed for clients with diabetes, Charcot’s, or high arch feet, they primarily provide comfort contouring of the foot.
They are most useful in treating problems in the feet themselves, while functional orthotics help with further up the body.
If you are unhappy with your podiatrist orthotics, feel you have not been offered material choice, or don’t know why a specific recommendation has been made, I urge you to go back to your local podiatrist to discuss.
To achieve the best outcomes in the shortest possible time frame with orthotics, it is important that you:
- understand the reasoning behind your orthotic type and material,
- are happy from an economic perspective.
We have found that this results in clients being more likely to adhere to their treatment program (which likely includes exercises as well as orthotics), so they experience less pain, faster healing, and better quality of life.
If you have any questions, feel that you might benefit from orthotics, or would like to check out our range of orthotic-friendly shoes, call us today on 3207 4736.