Ever since the dawn of podiatry in the 18th century, podiatrists have been using in-shoe appliances to treat walking pains. According to the Journal of the American Podiatric Association, custom orthotics, or medical-grade foot insoles, started out in 1845 as layers of leather inserted into the shoe according to the foot shape they were meant to correct. In 1874 additions were made to the outer sole as well, and by 1988 steel plates have also been used to force the foot into the correct position.
Sound unpleasant? You’d be glad to hear that custom orthotics nowadays are much more comfortable. Only in the last 1950s did the modern custom orthotic, or medical-grade insole, come into being. Dr Merton L. Root became the father of the modern custom orthotic between 1958 and 1959, after conducting hundreds of biomechanical assessments on his patients to work out how to design an in-shoe device which would help them best.
Made with a wide variety of lightweight yet durable materials, modern-day custom orthotics are comfortable and slimmer, improving their fit and function. Modern clinics and labs have also adopted more automated processes for fitting, reducing the chance for human error.
Custom orthotics are designed using specialized software and later manufactured using CAD/CAM technology by a robotic arm. Recently, 3D-printed custom orthotics have also become available – however, this process still requires fine-tuning to ensure that they are as functional as their predecessors.
Custom orthotics are used to treat a wide variety of foot, leg, knee and lower back problems by correcting posture and walking. From correcting flat feet to compensating for leg length discrepancy, and even helping to take the edge off arthritis, custom orthotics may be pricey, but they pay for themselves in the long run. Many lower limb conditions are caused by anatomical flaws with the patient’s feet, and using orthotics can help to attack the problem at the root.
Custom orthotics are much cheaper compared to surgery, but only effective when they’re prescribed correctly. Because they’re custom-made, custom orthotics are only as good as your clinical examination and diagnosis. Basically, if the person prescribing the custom orthotic didn’t examine you in detail, the treatment is likely to fail as the orthotic wouldn’t be optimized to treat your specific problem.
Everybody’s body is different, so items like custom orthotics can never be one-size-fits-all. For example, in the case of flat feet, the exact degree to which the talus (the bone which determines the angle of your foot’s arch) is collapsed varies from person to person. A custom orthotic made to correct flat feet would thus need to be specially made to correct your arch’s angle by a certain degree – no more, and no less.
The foot scanning equipment used by salesmen, shopkeepers, or stall vendors to help create custom insoles may be able to solve discomfort caused by thin soles, at least, but they should not be used as replacements for medical-grade custom orthotics. Custom orthotics are medical devices which require a detailed physical examination performed by an experienced podiatrist.
Here at Family Podiatry Centre, we’re regional leaders in the field of custom orthotics – in fact, our director Dr Mark Reyneker was the first to introduce CAD/CAM manufactured custom orthotics as treatment devices in Southeast Asia. Your feet are safe in our hands. Book a consultation with us today to get your orthotics made!