Do I need orthotics?
Orthotics are commonly prescribed for individuals who experience back, hip, knee, or foot pain. Most commonly people present with flat feet, and the orthotics are intended to support the arch of the foot and improve alignment of the foot and lower extremity (although some individuals present with higher arches which can also be a problem). Often times, using orthotics for support and to improve alignment can help to improve symptoms. However, should we be wearing orthotics forever? What about when we want to wear shoes that the orthotics don't fit in?
My question to patients is always - would you wear a back brace forever? Or a neck brace forever? What about a knee brace - would you wear that every day, forever? Of course not. So why should we plan to wear orthotics forever?
I'm not saying you shouldn't wear orthotics at all - they are often very helpful in relieving pain and keeping individuals moving. However, the focus should be on building strength in the foot and lower extremity. The appearance of the foot itself may not change (for example, the arch may still appear flat), however, if the muscles of the foot and ankle are strong and stable, you will have strong support at the foot during dynamic activities and should be able to wean out of the orthotics like you would any other type of brace.
In conclusion, orthotics can definitely be very helpful and a necessary part of a treatment plan. But overall, the goal should be to improve movements mechanics, address muscular imbalances, and build a stable foot that doesn't need external support long term. As always, treatment plans should be individualized, and there are certain circumstances where long term orthotic wear is indicated. You should get assessed by a movement professional who can help to determine the best plan of care for you.
If you are experiencing pain, or if you have been prescribed orthotics and want to learn how to address deficits to wean out of those orthotics, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.