What’s the difference between a 120-pound woman and a 250-pound man? Besides the fact that one weighs twice as much as the other, the answer might surprise you: their orthotics.
We're not talking about the $30 insoles you’ve seen at the drug store. We’re referring to customized orthotics created by a Rehab practitioner like Megan McInroy, our physiotherapist at HealthOne.
“There are so many factors that vary from person to person – like their activity level, lifestyle, walking pattern, and foot mechanics,” she explains. “All of these things influence the type of orthotic you might need. A store-bought orthotic won’t provide that kind of individualized, customized support.”
We sat down with Megan to learn more about custom orthotics and the main signs that you might benefit from them.
What is orthotics?
So, what is an orthotic, exactly? Megan describes it as a device used to align the foot and ankle into a more anatomically efficient position.
The arches of the feet can vary a lot from person to person – some people have high arches, for example, whereas others might have flat feet. “An orthotics’ job is to come in and keep everything in a neutral position which allows for the joints and the muscles to work more efficiently,” she explains.
This is why orthotics are designed to withstand the weight of your foot and body. Areas that require more support – like the arches or the heel – can be made with a firmer material, whereas other parts of the orthotic may be softer and more flexible. Ones created by a Rehab team, like the ones available at HealthOne, will be made with high-quality professional materials and custom designed depending on your needs.
As we mentioned, it’s better to get custom orthotics instead of general ones available at the store. This is because custom orthotics are designed specifically for your feet. A physiotherapist like Megan will conduct a variety of steps to analyze your unique needs. Here’s an overview of what happens during an orthotics assessment:
- Discussing your history. First, Megan will ask questions about why you’re interested in getting orthotics. Are you experiencing pain? What types of activities are you involved in? Why did you decide to book an orthotics appointment in the first place? Understanding what landed you in her office is the first step to fitting you with the perfect insoles.
- A Gait assessment. The word “gait” means walking pattern. Megan will ask you to walk in a straight line in front of her so she can evaluate any imbalances. “During this, I’m looking at their feet as well as what happens up the chain of their body,” she says. “I look for anything that doesn’t look natural – like the stride length being a bit off, a limp, or a hip drop.” These issues can be an important part of the puzzle. She might suggest that you would benefit from a visit with one of our physiotherapists or chiropractor depending on her findings.
- A Gait scan mat assessment. Next, Megan will ask you to walk across and stand on a high-tech mat called the GaitScan. “It gives us an incredible amount of information about what is happening to your feet when you are weight bearing. It tells us how the weight is being translated when walking and how hard you’re hitting certain parts of your feet,” she says.
- A 3D scan. Lastly, Megan will take a 3D scan of your feet. This is done using technology that provides an exceptionally high degree of accuracy. When combined with the previous information from the GaitScan analysis, she’ll have a fully comprehensive view of your feet and the areas you need support.
All of this information is sent to the lab and used to create your custom orthotics. A practitioner like Megan may make additional recommendations during the creation process, like a heel cushion or reverse Morton’s extension if you have bunions, for example. “All of these factors help us create the best possible product for you, with the best possible fit,” she says. It doesn‘t get any better than that!
Reasons you might need orthotics
Now that you know how custom orthotics work, you might be wondering: should you be getting a pair? Here are the top signs, according to Megan, that you should consider custom orthotics:
- You deal with foot pain. This could be in the arch, heel, or toes.
- You have knee, hip, or low back pain. Everything in the body is connected, and it all begins with your feet. If you experience pain in any of these areas, there’s a chance that some extra support from orthotics could greatly benefit you.
- You have bunions, hammer toes, plantar fasciitis, or another foot condition. This could be diagnosed by another healthcare provider or by a member of our team.
You could also benefit from custom orthotics if you frequently wear flat shoes with little to no support. Even someone with normal feet or good arches can experience negative side effects from prolonged use of this kind of footwear.
Do orthotics work?
If you’re a sceptic, you might be wondering: do orthotics really work? Absolutely – in fact, the longer you use them, the more benefits you’ll reap.
“I commonly hear the misconception that if you wear orthotics, it’ll make your muscles weaker,” Megan shares. “Many people view them like a crutch – but that’s definitely not true. Orthotics don’t reduce muscle tone at all. They basically help position your foot so you’re using the right muscles at the right time. This significantly decreases fatigue and allows the muscles to work more efficiently.”
Another common misconception is that only older people should wear orthotics. While it’s true that they can provide support to people of all ages (even kids!), it definitely isn’t true that you’ll only need them when you age.
Orthotics are for everyone, as long as you’re a good candidate. Foot, knee, hip, and low back pain can be experienced and treated at any stage of life. Similarly, the foot conditions mentioned above can happen to anyone – and the earlier you spot the signs and begin to treat them, the less likely they’ll cause more serious problems later on.
By now, we hope you have a better understanding of what custom orthotics are and the reasons why you might benefit from them. If you’re looking for orthotics in Toronto, HealthOne’s Rehab team has got you covered!
Here’s a recap of what you can expect when you come in:
- Expert practitioners like Megan who specialize in custom orthotics.
- The latest and greatest technology, which includes 3D scanning and imaging.
- High-quality materials that will last much longer than store-bought orthotics.
- Custom insoles based on your unique lifestyle, activity, and gait.
- Ongoing support of your symptoms and referrals to other Rehab practitioners if needed.
Click here to book a FREE orthotics consultation with Megan McInroy, our physiotherapist!
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