Orthotics for Foot Injuries
Do Orthotics for Foot Injuries Really Work?
Foot orthotics are a booming business, but disagreement still exists within the foot care community about their potential benefit to patients. While the foot orthotics industry reached $4.7 billion in 2015 and will continue to grow through 2021, advanced kinesiologists maintain that training and physical therapy are superior solutions to the problems that foot orthotics aim to solve. The products are marketed as a fix to pain and dysfunction in the foot, but many experts say foot orthotics do not address the underlying biomechanical problems that cause that pain. They are not a permanent fix, according to Dr. Heather Vincent, director of the University of Florida Health Performance Center in Gainesville. Vincent says foot orthotics can actually worsen the conditions they are meant to treat if patients wear them too long. Instead, patients should focus on adopting movement patterns more like those humans used before orthotics were invented. Foot orthotics can provide temporary relief, but concentrated gait training is likely the best way to solve chronic foot problems.
“Orthotics are like prescription drugs. When indicated and prescribed correctly, they are beneficial to the user. When unnecessary or prescribed incorrectly, they can be dangerous.” explains Dr. Rock Positano a foot and ankle specialists at Hospital for Special Surgery, New York City, New York. Some over-the-counter orthotics may exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions, Dr. Positano says. Those at particular risk are people with heel pain, Achilles tendon pain, back or knee problems, or those who have a high arch foot type or flat feet. Exercise enthusiasts who engage in high impact or high velocity sports often buy orthotics to provide support or serve as shock absorbers. That, too, can spell trouble.
“Orthotics alter the way a person walks, stands and absorbs shock from the ground,” he says . “Anyone wishing to use them should have a good reason and be sure to consult a professional with the proper training and credentials, such as a podiatrist.” He or she will ask about any medical problems or pain the person may have. The health professional will also consider gait analysis, orthopedic issues, level of activity, the type of activity, foot type, and biomechanics, which refers to ankle, knee and hip movement. X-rays may be taken, as well.
When prescribed responsibly and used correctly, orthotics can be extremely helpful. It’s important for patients to follow the doctor’s instructions on when to wear them to obtain the greatest benefit, according to Dr. Positano.