Shoe inserts or orthoses

Modern podiatry has a number of effective tools at its disposals, including the application of individualized orthotic supports that can be inserted into a shoe to effectively relieve pain and discomfort. In this article we look at what these orthoses do and how they are applied in modern podiatric practices.

What are shoe inserts?

Orthotics are defined as any piece of medical equipment that provides support in such a way as to correct or adjust for a physical abnormality. Orthotics are extensively used across the medical world in a number of different applications, and in podiatry they are an invaluable first-line method of treating podiatric problems affecting people of all ages.

Shoe inserts are a particular type of orthoses that are, as the name tells us, inserted into a shoe. While some orthoses are large braces or other such devices, shoe inserts are far smaller and more convenient. These orthotics are easy to adjust to tailor to the specific needs of an individual. No two feet are identical, and no two podiatric issues are identical either, which is why orthotics need to be customized to effectively provide treatment.

Why are shoe inserts used?

These inserts are used both in response problems affecting the feet and the fact that shoes as they are popularly sold sometimes don’t have the necessary support needed for healthy foot. For example, most trainers won’t have any arch support at all, and the amount of cushioning provided will also vary extensively.

While some shoes correct for over-pronation and under-pronation (two common gait problems which can cause pain in the ankles and knees), most don’t, and this is where orthotics can provide invaluable relief.

Many modern shoes can take their toll on our feet, particularly those with flat, thin soles like plimsolls. Shoe inserts can be invaluable to protecting our feet and preventing further injury, regardless of if there is an existing foot problem.

How are shoe inserts used?

Shoe inserts will be prepared as necessary by a podiatrist who decides that they will benefit a patient. As part of the preparation process, the foot will be closely examined and the condition in question understood fully. A podiatrist needs to know exactly where any pain is coming from to create orthoses that treat the source of said discomfort.

If you have a collapsed arch for example, the orthoses used will be prepared to provide support under the arch, thereby mimicking the absent structure. People with heel pain will have orthoses that cushion and support the heel in such a way as to reduce pain. Anyone suffering from toe conditions can also have orthoses prepared to support and prevent painful movement of the toes.

Shoe inserts are used in people of all ages, and because of their painless and convenient nature, are often used before any more radical measures like surgery. Children respond particularly well to orthotics as their bodies are still developing. The support and structure a shoe insert provides can guide the body’s development, ensuring that the foot and ankle grow into a functional and healthy unit.

What conditions are shoe inserts used to treat?

Shoe inserts are effective treatments of a number of different conditions, ranging from flat feet to chronic problems caused by diseases like arthritis and diabetes. Below is a list of common ailments which are treated by inserted orthoses:

  • Over-pronation (where the structure of the foot is abnormal in such a way that as a person walks his or her foot rolls inwards, placing excessive pressure on the inside of the knee, ankle, and large toe (hallux).
  • Under-pronation (similar to over-pronation, however rather than an inward movement, the shape of the foot forces an outwards movement that stresses the outside of the knee and ankle.)
  • Knee, heel, back, and neck pain.
  • Shin splints.
  • Plantar fasciitis (a painful swelling of tissues on the sole of the foot).
  • Pain in the ball of the foot known as metatasalgia.
  • Corns and calluses.
  • Weak ankles (orthotics can relieve stress on weakened ankles and allow supporting muscles to strengthen with a vastly reduced risk of injury.

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