What are orthotics for the feet and ankles?

Foot or ankle orthotics are special prescription inserts that go into your shoes. Doctors often use them to help correct an abnormal walking pattern. They can also fix the alignment of your foot when it hits the ground. Doctors use them to help relieve pain from certain foot and ankle conditions and medical conditions like diabetes. 

Types of orthotics for feet and ankles

There are several types of orthotics. Rigid orthotics are usually made out of carbon fiber or plastic. They help to ease aches and strains in your feet. They also relieve pain in your lower back and legs. 

Soft orthotics are made of compression material that provides cushioning. These devices take pressure off sore spots. Doctors often use them to treat conditions like diabetic foot ulcers. They tend to be bulky. Some patients need to wear them with prescription shoes. You can also have specialized orthotics added to sporting equipment. Your doctor can help you find custom orthotics to put into ice skates, ski boots, running shoes and other special footwear.

What to expect from foot or ankle orthotics

If you think you need orthotics, your doctor does a complete examination. That might include watching you walk to see how your feet and ankles move as you go. The doctor also takes three-dimensional images of your feet and ankles. The doctor makes molds of your feet so your orthotics fit perfectly.

When you wear orthotics, they guide the way your foot moves. They realign your ankles and feet to bear weight effectively. Expect to experience an adjustment period. Most people need one to two weeks to get used to wearing orthotics. It's often best to start by wearing them for a couple hours a day. Increase the length of time a little bit every day or two as directed by your foot doctor.

Common conditions requiring orthotics for feet and ankles

Orthotics can treat a variety of foot and ankle problems. Doctors often recommend them for anyone who stands for much of the day and those who walk long distances. Orthotics ease the discomfort associated with corns, calluses and bunions. They help prevent ankle sprains and hip pain. They also treat:

  • Arch pain
  • Heel pain
  • Knee pain
  • Tendonitis
  • Shin splints
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

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