Orthotics Overview


Foot Orthotics

Calgary Foot Clinic podiatrists prescribe and construct foot orthotics. These are specially designed devices that are worn inside the shoe to control abnormal foot function and/or accommodate painful areas of the foot. Properly designed foot orthotics may compensate for impaired foot function by controlling abnormal motion across the joints of the foot. This may result in dramatic improvement in foot symptoms. The orthotics your podiatrist provides are custom-made for your feet and modified to suit your particular needs. Proper orthotics can only be prescribed after a thorough assessment by one of our highly trained podiatrists.

Foot orthotics that are dispensed by our clinic are custom made for your feet, they should not be confused with over-the-counter arch supports. These may help the occasional patient with minor arch discomfort, but they frequently fail because they do not properly control foot function and/or do not properly fit the patient’s feet. The consumer should beware of individuals with little or no training, who hold themselves out as experts on foot problems and orthotics.

Orthotics will control the position and motion of your foot. This may prevent the development of pain and disability, and the development of additional deformity. Orthotics will not change the underlying structure of the adult foot. If they are not worn, abnormal function will immediately return. In a sense they are analogous to dentures, if you remove then you can no longer properly chew your food.

Foot orthotics broadly fall into two main types:

Functional posted foot orthotics

Functional foot orthotics are usually made from rigid materials, especially plastics and carbon-fiber composites. They are constructed upon a plaster impression or non-weightbearing three dimensional scan of the feet, and modified based on the podiatrist’s evaluation of your problem. They are normally quite comfortable, and do not feel hard or uncomfortable in the shoe. Rigid orthotics normally last for a few years, additions such as top covers and extensions may require periodic replacement.

Unlike simple arch supports, functional posed orthotics control abnormal position and movement of the foot. While standing or walking the heel and midfoot are held in a more stable position. This allows the foot to function more efficiently during weight-bearing and propulsion. This control is often accomplished by limiting abnormal pronation of the foot. Pronation is a complex movement involving eversion (turning out) of the heel and forefoot. There is a corresponding internal rotation (turning in) of the lower leg, and flattening of the arch. Ligaments become strained, and muscles over work attempting to pull the foot into a more stable position. By controlling abnormal pronation, functional orthotics help prevent some of the complications of the chronically unstable foot.

Your assessment for functional orthotics includes:

  • History and physical examination
  • Lower extremity biomechanical examination
  • Computerized plantar pressure mapping of your feet or plaster foot impressions
Accommodative foot orthotics

Some patients, for example the very elderly, may not tolerate rigid functional orthotics. Under these circumstances, the podiatrist will prescribe an orthotic made from softer materials with special accommodations for painful areas, or constructed to provide gentle control of foot motion. These are generally custom made from softer materials and usually need more frequent replacement.

Ankle – Foot Orthoses

Patients with serious functional impairment sometimes require an orthotic that stabilizes the ankle joint as well as the foot. These devices are varied and constructed to suit the individual’s needs. They are custom made and conform to the foot, ankle and the lower part of the leg. They permit the use of normal footwear. Conditions that often require this type of device include advanced osteoarthritis, pathology of the major tendons of the foot & leg, and neuro-muscular disorders.

Our podiatrists are able to evaluate, diagnose, and treat your foot and leg problems. If orthotics are indicated, they can utilize the most advanced methods of construction. The orthotics case fee includes your assessment, plaster impression, fabrication, dispensing, initial adjustments and limited follow-up visits. If complications develop, the podiatrist is there to evaluate and treat those. They can offer you alternative treatments, be they medical, orthopedic, or surgical. If required, appropriate referrals can be made.

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