Taking a step in the right direction

Each year Paul Lucas, a Canadian certified pedorthist and the 2008 president of the Pedorthic Association of Canada, consults with hundreds of new patients experiencing knee, hip or lower back pain caused by foot problems.

A number of his patients require foot orthotics in order to help alleviate their discomfort. Unfortunately few people know much about the value of foot orthotics — with the exception of the myths that foot orthotics are only for seniors, are one-size-fits-all and are designed to fit only in “fashionable” footwear.

“A foot orthotic is a brace that can be discretely inserted into the shoe to support and improve foot function. They are not just for seniors, as foot orthotics can treat a wide range of foot problems in children, teens, adults and seniors,” said Lucas. “And, depending on the type of orthotic it can be modified and fitted in most types of athletic and fashionable footwear.”

According to Lucas, once he explains to patients requiring a foot orthotic what an orthotic is, the next questions are usually “How can this small piece of material help to ease my pain?” and “How quickly will it work?”

A foot orthotic can help patients with foot problems caused by high arches, mild to excessive pronation (foot rolls inward), heel or forefoot pain, bunions, callouses, as well as pain and complications related to health conditions such as arthritis or diabetes. How? By supporting and correcting deformities in order to improve the way the foot moves and functions. For example, if a patient has a high arched foot with poor shock absorption they may be prone to painful callousing. A foot orthotic inserted into appropriate footwear can help to provide the necessary shock absorption and alleviate certain pressure points to help prevent further callousing.

In terms of how quickly a foot orthotic can help alleviate discomfort, Lucas adds, “Most patients will adapt quickly to the new foot orthotic, resulting in fast relief.However, some patients may take more time and may experience new aches and pains as the body adapts to the orthotic — but this will ease up over time.”

Foot orthotics are not one-size-fits-all.They can vary in size and shape and can come in a variety of different materials from hard plastic to soft foam. There are two types of foot orthotics — over-the-counter and custom made.

Basic over-the-counter foot orthotics are mass produced and can be found in most pharmacies, grocery stores and other retail outlets. Typically they are less expensive than custom-made foot orthotics and can sometimes bring satisfactory results in treating mild foot conditions. However, over-the-counter foot orthotics generally have a shorter lifespan and require more frequent changing than custom-made orthotics and therefore may end up becoming less cost-effective over time. Additionally, without the assistance of a certified healthcare professional, such as a Canadian certified pedorthist who is a footwear and orthotic expert, the incorrect product may be purchased, which may aggravate the foot condition instead of improving it.

Tavis Lehr is a certified pedorthist with Summit Pedorthic Services Ltd. in Vernon.


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