Foot Orthoses (orthotics) are inserts typically worn inside a closed-heeled shoe. They are used to improve the biomechanics of the foot and lower extremities in order to create greater muscle efficiency with weight bearing activity and/or re-distribute the weight bearing forces throughout the foot to alleviate painful symptoms. Sometimes over-the-counter orthotics can be used successfully; however when the problem persists custom orthotics or therapy should be considered. Freedom Physical Therapy Services has several qualified professionals to help you in solving your problem and deciding if custom orthotics are appropriate for you.

Freedom recently invested in the “Extremity One” foot scanner after years of using plaster to create molds of the feet in order to design custom orthotics. Extremity One is a state of the art scanner that scans the bottom of your foot in a vertical position which is essential for a successful and accurate image. The vertical position allows the clinician to better control the position of the foot during the scan. Other scanners take an image by placing the foot on a horizontal scanner, losing the clinician’s control of the proper position and therefore accuracy.

Whether casting or scanning, the key to a successful orthotic is the clinician’s assessment of the foot (not just scanning the foot) and a detailed evaluation of the entire lower extremity to include the pelvis and low back. It is important to understand that not everyone with foot or ankle pain needs a custom orthotic. Freedom therapists are very careful to recommend custom orthotics, only when it is clear they will help a patient’s problem. Just because you have “flat feet” does not automatically make you a candidate for custom orthotics. There is great debate on the issue of whether or not to prescribe orthotics. As important as the product itself is making sure the rest of the body is in balance. Flexibility, mobility and strength deficits from the waist down may cause the foot to compensate. Although this manifests as foot pain, the problem will persist if it isn’t treated with a holistic approach. I have seen many patients that were prescribed custom orthotics using a tunnel vision approach, leaving them frustrated with the product and still in pain. Many of these patients will get better with a detailed evaluation and treatment approach that enables the body to move more efficiently, and in many cases, change how their foot hits the ground allowing the orthotic to work most effectively. Therefore, it is important to seek out someone with the expertise to not only look at the foot, but properly assess the rest of the body.

If you are interested in learning more about our Extremity One scanner, and how we assess the foot along with the rest of the body, give us a call. That is what we are here for; to make physical improvements in the lives of everyone we touch.

Jeffrey Verhagen is the Clinical Operations Administrator for Freedom Physical Therapy Services. He is a manual therapist who graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy.