Guide to Orthotics

guide to orthotics

Choosing the Right Orthotic

Your feet can cause you pain for so many different reasons. Foot pain is a common problem for athletes and fitness enthusiasts, but it is often possible to relieve foot pain by choosing the right orthotics, which are commonly referred to as “insoles for foot pain”. You may have foot pain that is caused by other reasons, including flat feet or high arches or even other health issues, such as diabetes. In this helpful guide, you can learn what you need to know to choose the right insole for your type of foot pain.

Why Use Insoles for Foot Pain?

Aside from simply wanting relief from your pain, there are a number of health reasons why you should consider using orthopedic insoles. For starters, orthotics can not only ease your pain, but in many cases the use of insoles actually improves the health of your feet. This is because insoles can improve the alignment of your feet, your body’s ability to sense and respond quickly to nerve impulses (or sensory feedback) coming from the feet, stabilize the ankles, improve arch support and improve overall balance.

But the usefulness of orthotics doesn’t begin and end with the feet and ankles. Foot and ankle pain can also contribute to pain in the back and spinal column. This means that the better aligned your feet are and the straighter your posture is, the less back pain you will experience. As it turns out, foot pain is linked to all kinds of other health issues not only back pain, but also neck and shoulder pain, headaches and more.

As you probably know, the less pain you are in and the more balanced and stable you feel, the more likely you are to want to get out and exercise, get fit, play sports and stay healthy. And all this means that you feel great, and that is the best benefit to finding and using the right insole.

Common Foot Pain Issues

One of the best ways to begin your search for the right insole to relieve foot pain is to get a better understanding of the foot pain itself. Different insoles are recommended for certain types of foot pain issues.

Here is a list of common foot pain issues that you can use as a reference:

  1. Pronation – Pronation is what happens when your feet roll inward too much as each foot hits the ground. This can cause wear and tear on the tendons and muscles as well as flattening of the arch over time.
  2. Supination – Supination is what happens when your feet roll outward too much. This can cause sprains and even ligament ruptures.
  3. Heel pain (Plantar fasciitis) – This is one of the most common causes of foot pain. It occurs when you strain the ligament that supports your arch.
  4. Bunions – When your big toe swells up at the first joint, it is likely you are suffering from a bunion. Bunions can be caused by genetics, arthritis, different lengths in the legs and other reasons.
  5. Hammertoes – Hammertoes are a condition where the toes always look like they are slightly curved down. This is often due to genetics or a weak muscle, or even shoes that don’t fit correctly.
  6. Calluses – When you have gait issues, sometimes your weight falls unevenly on the balls of your feet, causing calluses (thickened areas of skin) to develop. Other conditions like neuropathy (peripheral nerve damage to the feet) can also lead to the development of calluses.

Different Types of Orthotic Insoles

Once you understand more about the specific type of foot pain you are experiencing, you are equipped with the knowledge to select the right type of orthotic insoles to ease your pain. You will also notice here that some types of insoles are designed to treat just one specific issue while others are multi-­purpose in their design. As well, if you are an avid athlete or fitness buff, there are certain types of orthopedic insoles that are specially designed for use by athletes, who tend to experience pain from certain types of frequent repetitive movements.

Here are some of the most common types of insoles:

  1. Insoles for Comfort – These insoles are designed to minimize wear and tear on feet from daily life, standing for work, exercise or athletic activities, and other regular pursuits. You can think of these more like preventative inserts.
  2. Insoles for Support – This category of insoles recognizes that the time for prevention has passed. Foot pain is now a reality, so it is a matter of identifying what type(s) of foot pain you are having and how best to relieve it. The common reasons for foot pain listed in this guide can all be addressed through the addition of support insoles.
  3. High or Low Volume Insoles – This type of insole is specifically designed to adjust the fit of shoes. Both types of insoles are designed to minimize free space within the shoes so your feet and ankles bear less risk of injury. High volume insoles are often used with hiking or ski boots or other athletic shoes. Low volume insoles are better paired with work or casual shoes (depending on whether you are wearing hose or socks and how thick they may be).

Finding the Right Fit with Insoles

After you have identified any specific foot pain concerns you have and the right type of insole for your needs, the next step is to select the insole that will give you the perfect pain ­relieving fit. Be aware that insoles, as their name suggests, are designed to be worn inside your shoes. This means, as the previous section indicated, that you may need a different type or thickness of insole depending on which shoes you are planning to wear that day. Many people have more than one type of insole that they can transfer from one pair of shoes to the next as needed.

Here’s what to do to determine if your insoles are giving you the best fit:

  1. For your first step, just stand on the insole in your bare feet (without your shoes).
  2. ­ Stand on one foot at a time and see if the insole helps you feel more stable.
  3. ­ Next, put the insole inside the type of shoe you plan to wear it with.
  4. ­ Again, stand on one foot at a time and see if the insole lessens your pain.
  5. ­ Also notice if your feet feel secure inside your shoes in terms of the amount of free space that is left after you add the insole.

Caring for Your New Insoles

In addition to any specific instructions that may accompany the insoles you select, it is important to practice general good care tips to prolong the useful life of your insoles.

Here are some tips for daily care of your insoles:

  1. ­ Allow them to air out after each use to reduce the moisture to dissipate.
  2. ­ If you need to wash your insoles, use only a very mild detergent or soap and wash them by hand.
  3. Never dry them in the dryer, but allow them to air dry naturally.
  4. ­Do spot checks to see if your insoles are developing wear and tear (which may be a sign they are becoming less effective and need to be replaced).

In Summary: Getting Set Up with the Right Insoles for You

When you take the time to become educated about your feet, causes for foot pain, different types of insoles, how to determine if a pair of insoles is a good fit and how to take good care of your insoles, you will be on the right road to an easy, pain ­free walk you can truly enjoy.