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What are orthotics?

Angela Davis

Sunday, December 17, 2017

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AN orthotic is a device designed to support the foot, improve foot posture, and correct any imbalance that may be present.

The shoe in which the orthotic is placed must be supportive, with extra depth to accommodate it. Many athletes wear them to help correct foot problems that can hinder performance.

Orthotics can help prevent corns, calluses, foot ulcers, back, hip, knee and ankle pain, tendinopathy, and many other ailments.

Types of orthotic

There are three main types of orthotics:

1. Custom orthotics are usually made by a podiatrist and are designed specifically for that patient. Consideration needs to be given to the patient's pathology, foot type and activity level.

2. Off the shelf orthotics are found in pharmacies and sports shops. They tend to provide gentle support to the arch and spread the body weight more evenly along the sole of the foot. You should consult your doctor before purchasing, as I have often seen patients buy the wrong type of orthotic for their ailment and this can lead to further problems. The Dr Scholl's brand has a wide range of orthotics.

3. An ankle-foot orthotic is a special brace that is designed to help control movement in the ankle and support the foot. They are usually custom-made. They can be useful for those patients who are prone to sprains and strains.

Orthotics can be made of hard or soft material and both types have their pros and cons. Some people find the hard materials uncomfortable whereas others find the soft material wears out too quickly.

Your podiatrist will be able to assess which type would be best for you.

When prescribing an orthotic it is important to understand what the ailment is. The issue may be solved by simply changing the shoe and wearing something more appropriate. Most of my patients who complain of pain will greatly benefit from wearing a pair of good, supportive sneakers that have a built-in orthotic. If this does not rectify the problem, prescribed orthotics may be indicated.

It is important to wear them gradually, to avoid “shocking” the body. I recommend one hour for the first day, two hours for the second day, three hours for the third day, and then permanently.

Your orthotics should be reviewed regularly by your podiatrist to check that they are still fit for their function and, if necessary, adjustments can be made accordingly.

Angela Davis BSc (Hons) DPodM MChS is a podiatrist with offices in Montego Bay (293- 7119), Mandeville (962-2100), Ocho Rios (974-6339), Kingston (978-8392), and Savanna-la-Mar (955-3154). She is a member of the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom.

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