What Is An Orthotic?

Custom orthotics are like prescription eyeglasses for the feet.   Just like glasses or contact lenses change the angles by which light reaches your eyes, orthotics change the way that forces from the ground work when they reach your feet.

There are two types of orthotics, functional and accommodative.  The foot is made up of 28 bones.  As you can imagine, there are many joints between these bones, not to mention between the foot and the lower leg, lower leg and thigh, and all the way up to the back.

Functional orthotics

A functional orthotic controls how these bones function in relation to each other.  Functional orthotics can be used to treat various conditions often treated by surgery or various exercises.  Using the analogy of the eye, orthotics would be like getting glasses, instead of having Lasik surgery or squinting.  It is often easier and more effective, therefore, to be treated with custom orthotics.  Some conditions where functional orthotics are needed include plantar fasciitis, osteoarthritis, tarsal coalitions, neuromas, metatarsalgia, hallux limitus, Achilles tendinitis, flat foot or pronation, pes cavus, chronic ankle sprains, leg length discrepancy.

Accommodative orthotics

An accommodative orthotic, on the other hand, works to take weight off a prominence such as a bone spur, ulcer, callus, etc.  Some conditions where accommodative orthotics are needed include Charcot foot, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy.

Orthotics can also be a combination of these two.

Orthotics can also be custom prescription, or over-the-counter.  The difference between over-the-counter inserts and custom orthotics is like reading glasses purchased at the store and eyeglasses prescribed by an eye doctor.  Dr. Hoy will go over with you based on your condition, which types can work for you and which types will not.

In general, like glasses, orthotics will not magically reverse the condition, but correct it.  Once the glasses are taken out, you can’t see well.  Once the orthotics are taken out, the foot problem may return.

“I am a diabetic, so keeping my feet in good shape is top priority. A set of custom-fitted orthotic inserts and periodic followup foot care by a caring and thorough physician and his fine staff has helped a lot.” -Thomas S.