People’s views on custom orthotics tend to be varied, but there is a firm camp who believes that these devices are “just not for them.”
One of the more amusing parts of this camp is that it contains both the following types:
- Athletic folks who believe orthotics are for slower people, and that using them will be a hindrance.
- Less active folks who believe orthotics only benefit people who move a lot, and won’t be of particular benefit to them.
It’s human to adopt a “not me” attitude to certain things, but in this case both sides are mistaken.
Are orthotics for everyone? No, but no matter what your activity level is, the right inserts can address problems that may be keeping you from performing your best—whether that’s on the field or in the office!
How Orthotics Can Benefit Athletes
When you are physically performing, your body acts like a vehicle you are powering toward a goal, whether it’s running into the end zone or hitting a sweet jump shot.
Naturally, you want this machine running at its best. You build power and speed through training and healthy habits. That gives you a great “engine.”
But what if you are out of alignment, so to speak?
When a car falls out of alignment, it has negative effects to the overall performance. You may find yourself having to adjust to the car drifting or oversteering, and your ties are going to start wearing unevenly.
The same thing can happen to your body if you have an abnormal foot structure or gait. For example, if your feet roll too far inward as you run (over-pronation), your body must expend extra energy to maintain your stability. In other words, you’re firing muscles in lateral ways that aren’t necessarily propelling you forward.
Additionally, this extra movement and shifting can place excess stress on your body. This can often be seen on the treads of shoes. Those who over-pronate will often see significantly more wear near the ball of the foot and the big toe.
Now think of that wear applying to you, too! Unintended stress centralizing in areas not originally meant to handle it can increase the risk of injury. This doesn’t just apply in the feet and ankles, either. Due to the way our bodies adjust to stabilize ourselves, extra stress may be felt in the legs, knees, or hips, too.
Custom orthotics are capable of providing proper support and correction for many structural issues athletes might have. Not only can they reduce the risk of sidelining injuries, but the increased comfort and realignment they offer can make for more efficient and confident performance as well!
Now, we are not saying orthotics are a magic Disney movie prop that will turn you into a star player as soon as you put them on. What they can do, however, is reduce the barriers that can slow down your improvement.
How Orthotics Can Benefit the Not-Quite-As-Athletic
So, orthotics can be a good choice for people who like to run and jump a lot, but are they really going to have an effect on a slower paced life?
You don’t have to have a high-impact life to be facing problems that orthotics may help. If you have a sharp, stabbing pain in your heels as soon as you get up in the morning, that’s just one way you might be a candidate!
While plantar fasciitis, a likely cause of that heel pain above, can develop in athletes who push their routines too far too quickly, it can also come up in people who spend all day working on their feet—even in just a standing position. This is especially true if the surface you work on is hard and unyielding.
Once again, foot structure and stress points can play a role in developing pain and discomfort, even if only gravity is mostly to blame.
Custom orthotics can address these issues, as well as provide additional cushioning to feet that must bear the brunt of concrete or asphalt all day. (If possible, we would also recommend bringing a cushioned mat to your work zone to stand on.)
The effects of painful feet and heels can be draining on an everyday existence. If you dread getting up in the morning, or feel too wiped to do much after dealing with discomfort throughout your work day, it’s reducing the quality of life.
If you live with diabetes and/or nerve damage to your feet, orthotics can be more than comforting; they can also help protect your feet against sores and injuries that can develop serious complications.
Are Orthotics Right for You?
While a store-bought insert might provide help in a handful of circumstances, only custom-made orthotics are prescribed specifically to your unique foot shape and lifestyle needs.
Whether you are more of a track runner or a desk jockey, knowing the root causes of your pain will allow us to more directly confront it. Custom orthotics may be exactly what you need, or maybe they are part of an overall treatment plan that includes lifestyle changes and physical therapy to condition the areas that are causing trouble. Sometimes orthotics may not be needed at all, and other treatments are recommended instead.
Whatever the recommended course of action, we will be sure to fully discuss all of your options with you. We want you to have all you need to make a decision in full confidence.
Our office on Colby Street in Berkeley is ready to see you and provide you the foot and ankle care you deserve. Call us at (510) 647-3744 or fill out our online contact form to have a member of our staff reach out to you.