Orthotics: Helpful or Useless?
Orthotic inserts represented a $400 million industry in the United States in 2014. Some athletes purchase specialized orthotics for specific sports activities while other people wear orthotics in their shoes on a daily basis. The purpose of orthotics is to correct your bone and joint alignment, preventing injury. However, recent research has led to controversy about whether orthotics actually work.
The Claim: How Orthotics Help Your Alignment
Orthotics, shoe inserts, insoles. These words are all used to describe the same product: a piece of material placed in shoes to change their ability to support the foot. The flexibility and rigidity of orthotics depend on the type of foot problems you are trying to correct.
One of the most common causes of orthotics is pronated foot, also sometimes called flat feet. A pronated foot is one that has a falling arch. This causes the leg to rotate inward and the foot to roll to the inside. A collapsed arch causes abnormal wear and tear on the foot as well as its surrounding muscles and joints. For runners, continuing to run on flat feet can cause misalignment of your form, leading to overuse injuries. Orthotics add additional support to your arches, correcting this anatomical abnormality. Proponents of orthotics argue that getting the right insoles can correct posture and prevent a variety of injuries.
Do Orthotics Actually Help?
Some people oppose the use of orthotics, saying that insoles do not actually do anything to help alignment or gait. They argue that purchasing orthotics is just throwing away good money on something that cannot help. Experts in orthopedic medicine disagree, saying that carefully chosen orthotics can significantly reduce the risk of mechanically induced foot problems.
Numerous research studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of orthotic inserts in decreasing the risk of sports injury. However, sports medicine experts do not actually know why orthotics work. Different people respond differently to the same orthotic. An orthotic designed to support the arch may cause one person to pronate the foot less, while another person might push against the orthotic implant and pronate the foot even more. Thus, it may take some trial and error with an orthopedic specialist to determine the type of orthotic that works.
If you are wondering whether orthotics are right for you, visit our orthopedic specialists to learn more. We can examine the anatomy of your feet and ankles, helping you understand how anatomical abnormalities may affect your injury risk. When medically warranted, we help patients find custom orthotics that correct any anatomical problems and keep them healthy.