What Are Orthotics?
An orthotic is an individually designed custom arch support that corrects the function of your foot. Another way of stating it is orthotics are shoe inserts that are intended to correct an abnormal, or irregular, walking pattern.
Doctors of Podiatric Medicine prescribe orthotics as an approach to many foot problems since many foot ailments are the result of abnormal foot function or foot mechanics. They are also used after certain types of foot surgery to maintain correction.
How Do They Work?
An orthotic changes the way your foot works. Your doctor will determine why your foot function is causing your particular symptoms. Then, by using an orthotic that changes the mechanics of your foot, the symptoms may be relieved. Flat feet, high arches, hammertoes, neuromas, callouses, bunions, and heel pain are common foot problems that may be helped by changing your foot function. Ankle weakness or frequent sprains are also often treated with orthotic devices.
We are contract providers for Medicare and many private insurance plans. Medicare will cover non-custom and custom orthotics for diabetic patients that satisfy certain criteria. Other insurance companies may cover all or a part of the cost of foot orthotics depending on the diagnosis. Pre-authorization regarding a patient’s coverage is always done in our office so the patient will know ahead of time if orthotics are a covered benefit, and if so, what percent is covered. A payment plan through our office can be arranged for any part of the fee that may not be covered.
How Often Do I Need to Wear My Orthotic Devices?
You should discuss your particular needs with your doctor. Orthotic control is somewhat analogous to the use of eyeglasses. They only work while you are wearing them. Ideally, you should wear the orthotics whenever you are on your feet. The more you wear them, the greater the benefit. If your symptoms are because of the strain of a particular activity, you may need to wear the orthotics only while engaged in that activity. In most situations, it is advisable to wear orthotics at least 75% of the time you are on your feet.
Types of Orthotics
There are many types of orthotic devices. All are geared towards improving foot function and minimizing stress and pain. Some are soft and cushioned and others are rigid or semi-flexible, needing to support the patient’s weight. Dr. Goldstein will decide which type will be best for treating your particular problem. The orthotic materials that are used will depend on your activities. For example, patients involved in activities requiring rapid direction changes, such as basketball, are prone to blistering, and will need a special friction reducing material on top of the orthotic. Dr. Goldstein will discuss the different types of shoes you wear prior to having orthotics made.
Types of Shoes
Some types of orthotic devices will work in nearly any shoe. Other orthotics work best only in a laced walking shoe or tennis shoe. It is important both the orthotics and the shoes are appropriate for your activities. A woman’s foot obviously needs to be in a different position in a high heeled dress shoe than in her running shoes. Therefore, it is important for the doctor to determine the best style of orthotic in order to insure the best control of foot function.
How Long Will Orthotics Be Needed?
An orthotic device will change the way your foot works only while you are wearing it. Therefore, orthotics only control abnormal function, not permanently correct it. Because of this, orthotics will be required as long as you are involved in an activity that is causing your symptoms. If the foot pain occurs during general standing and walking, orthotics should be considered like eyeglasses and will need to be used long term. An exception may be when orthotic control is used to prevent development of a deformity during growth of a child’s foot. In this situation, it is best to use the orthotics until growth is complete and then as needed if symptoms are present. Controlling abnormal function of a growing foot allows for a more normal structure to develop, limiting future symptoms.
Orthotics for Children
Orthotic devices are especially effective in the treatment of children with foot deformities. Most podiatric physicians recommend that children with such deformities be placed in orthotics soon after they start walking, to stabilize the foot. The devices can be placed directly into a standard shoe or an athletic shoe. Usually, the orthotics need to be replaced when the child’s foot has grown two sizes. An outgrow plan is available through the orthotic lab to reduce costs when the child requires a larger orthotic. The length of time a child needs orthotics varies considerably, depending on the seriousness of the deformity and how soon correction is addressed.
- Wear shoes that appropriate to work well with your orthotics.
- Bring your orthotics with you whenever you purchase a new pair of shoes.
- Wear socks or stockings similar to those that you plan on wearing when you shop for new shoes.
- See Dr. Goldstein annually to have him evaluate the functioning of your orthotics. This is important for making certain that the orthotics continue to provide the proper control of function of your feet.
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