Orthotics are orthopedic devices that are used to alter or modify foot
function and are designed to treat, adjust, and support various biomechanical
foot disorders. Some orthotics are simple, commercially-made devices, such as
cushioned heel cups or insoles for shoes that are sold over the counter in drug
stores or other retail establishments.
The most effective orthotics, however, are custom-made devices that are
crafted to meet the specific needs of a particular individual. Custom orthotics
are created using an impression of the foot called a cast, which
duplicates any misalignments in foot structure. Using the cast and computer
technology, technicians in an orthotic laboratory design a device that balances
out deformities and corrects misalignments.
The finished orthotic is placed in the patient`s shoe to support the foot and
eliminate abnormal foot biomechanics by keeping the foot properly aligned.
Depending on the patient`s needs, the orthotic may have padding to cushion the
foot and make it more comfortable.
Types of Orthotics
In general, foot care specialists group orthotics into the following
- Functional orthotics are designed to support abnormal foot
biomechanics. These devices, which often are made of supportive plastic polymer
materials, prevent abnormal foot pronation (flattening of the arch) and reduce
the impact load from the ground (shock absorption) while walking or running.
Functional orthotics allow the foot to become a mobile adapter and a rigid
lever. They support the rear foot or subtaylor joints, as well as the midfoot or
midtarsal joints. This support stabilizes the foot and can help prevent
repetitive overuse injuries. Functional orthotics are used to correct many foot
- Accommodative orthotics typically feature a soft supportive device
that is designed to relieve mild foot pain and correct minor foot problems.
These devices often are used to correct biomechanical walking problems in young
children. Accommodative orthotics include include splints, gait plates, and
night bars (devices used to hold a child`s feet and legs at a proper angle while
sleeping) that promote corrective adjustment for excessive toe-in or toe-out
walking. Braces may be used in infants to correct foot, leg, or hip
abnormalities (e.g., metatarsus adductus, internal or external hip rotation