Orthotics are footwear inserts worn to provide foot support and alleviate the discomfort, pressure, pain, imbalance, and other symptoms caused by foot and ankle deformities, injuries, misalignments, and degenerative diseases. Orthotics, or orthoses, can be custom-molded and prescribed by a podiatrist, or they can be purchased over-the-counter in a pharmacy or sporting goods store.
Prescription orthotics are custom-fitted and molded to address a patient’s specific foot structure, gait, and ailment, whereas over-the-counter inserts add some support and treat minor discomfort. Doctor-prescribed orthotics are more durable and provide more support and correction that over-the-counter versions. Prescription orthotics are fitted and constructed using innovative technology that scans the patient’s foot, providing podiatrists and orthotic laboratories with a computerized analysis of the foot that addresses the patient’s unique foot structure. They can also be crafted from a mold generated from a plaster cast of the foot.
Orthotics are used to treat a range of foot and ankle conditions, including but not limited to bunions, corns, calluses, high arches, flatfoot, in-toeing/ out-toeing, big toe ailments, hammertoe, claw toe, forefoot pain, neuropathic ulcerations, and heel pain. Common types of orthotics are arch supports, insoles, heel pads, and foot cushions. The two main classifications of orthotics are accommodative and functional; accommodative orthotics are softer and provide extra support and cushioning for improved comfort and reduced distress on the problem area of the foot, whereas functional orthotics are more rigid and treat problems and pain associated with foot and ankle motion. Shapes, sizes, and materials used to construct orthotics vary, depending on the needs of the patient.