Orthotic Myth Busting
A foot orthotic is a medical device that goes inside a pair of shoes. They function to correct a person’s gait (walking) and biomechanics (movement). Many are familiar (while many are also unfamiliar) with the terms “insoles”, “arch support”, “cushioning”, “padding”, “flat feet”. Plenty of hearsay go around Malaysia regarding orthotics and how they work. Presently, there is an overwhelming amount of information given by shop assistants, the internet, friends or family, pamphlets in the postbox and bantings along the NKVE highway. There are many out there who claim to be qualified to prescribe orthotics. Sales people, healthcare professionals, chiropractors and even shoe makers claim to have been trained to prescribe orthotics. Whether advice is given with good intentions or to make a sale, wrong advise is dangerous advice. To help make sense of it all, here are some common myths regarding custom-made foot orthotics:
Myth #1 – An orthotic will weaken my feet
Many patients express fear and worry that they will become dependent on orthotics. A simple read of medical literature will reveal the opposite effect. With poor alignment of the feet, it is more likely for you to damage the muscles and ligaments in the feet. When correcting the foot into the ideal position, the foot starts to function the way it should; engaging and strengthening the correct muscles. Once the problem is corrected you can stop wearing orthotics.
Myth #2 – My child is too young for orthotics
While it is true that not all children require orthotics, abnormal appearances in your child’s foot or walking is a cause for concern. Not all children will require orthotics as treatment, however, orthotics can play an important role in improving their foot postures. For instance, children are fitted with spectacles regardless of their age but based on their eye problems. Similarly, if a foot problem is noted, it must be corrected especially at an early stage.
Myth #3 – Custom orthotics from a podiatrist and “custom” insoles from the shopping mall are the same
Podiatrists spend 4 years of their training learning how to prescribe an orthotic. Podiatrists are certified to prescribe corrective medical orthotics the same way your general practitioner is certified to prescribe drugs. Custom orthoses work like medication too. There are over 100 prescription variations for custom made orthotics. Ready made orthotics and semi-custom made orthotics purchased in stores, at kiosks, orthotists or at pharmacies all do the same thing; provide some level of mild arch support. Most people with pain or deformity require a Podiatrist prescribed custom orthotic. People with no pain just looking for comfort will do well with orthotics bought from a store.
Myth #4 – Everyone needs arch support
In recent years, awareness of foot health has greatly increased. It is now commonplace to see Birkenstocks and Fitflops everywhere. It is absolutely true that if you are ‘flat-footed’ you need some form of arch support. However, if your foot is arch supports will actually worsen your problem. Not everyone needs arch support.
Myth #5 – When wearing sport shoes for flat feet, I don’t need to wear orthotics
Anti-pronation / Stability running shoes are now more accessible than ever before. The Asics Kayano have become fashionable, while the New Balance 860s are incredibly comfortable. The built-in support of the shoe is made for the general population and is not meant to be corrective at all. These shoes work best when coupled together with a pair of custom foot orthotics to treat your specific problem.
So there you have it. Five myths busted! There are no doubt more but hopefully this helps to demystify how an orthotic actually works.
Written by podiatrist Emily Mah