Here’s a question I get pretty often: why feet? And I answer, because I love feet. And usually I’ll add a comment about how it’s a good thing I’m not a gastroenterologist or a urologist or something along those lines.
Your feet that is. And how is that done? Well of course there is reconstructive surgery, but that may be a little extreme for certain conditions. There are binding shoes, but that is painful and ineffective. There is another way, one that is non-invasive and can be life changing. And that is through the use of custom orthotics.
So what are orthotics, anyway?
Orthotics are arch supports that are placed in a shoe to provide - yes, you guessed it - arch support. Imagine a custom footbed designed to be placed in a shoe and replace the insole that comes with each pair of shoes. Orthotics can transform any shoe into the equivalent of a custom made shoe by adding customized support to the bottom of the shoe. There are many different styles available, some more bulky than others, and almost all types of shoes can accommodate an orthotic - especially thin graphite devices that are designed for dress shoes. The orthotic can be switched between shoes, and a good custom pair should last a lifetime.
And what exactly do these treat?
In a word - everything. By adding an arch support to a shoe, the structures that are strained in such conditions as heel pain (plantar fasciitis), heel spurs, tendonitis, and Achilles tendonitis are not only supported, but will function in a more optimal way. Runners, those with tired feet, and people who stand for long hours on the job generally find that an orthotic can relieve not only foot pain, but knee, hip and back pain as well. And since most of us have uneven leg lengths which may contribute to lower extremity joint and back pain, the addition of a lift to an orthotic can minimize the difference. In fact, a published study in 2006 showed that patients who suffered from lower back pain and were treated only with a lift on the short leg to even out leg lengths, all felt better.
But do they work?
Well sure! There is good evidence that orthotics work great for many conditions, and many patients in my NYC podiatry office feel, walk, and run better in their orthotics. Of course there are some good over the counter orthotics, but it's important to choose a device that is supportive, not just cushioned or gelled. However, devices chosen by an in-store kiosk won’t compare in quality, durability, and comfort to that of a custom orthotic.
So if you have feet, and many people do, you will probably feel better with orthotics. And to paraphrase the great Sy Sperling, I'm not just a doctor, I'm also a patient and proud wearer of custom orthotics.
See you in the office.
Ernest L. Isaacson, DPM
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