Common Problems with Foot Orthotics
By Daniel Rinella
Today we’ll be talking about some common problems with relevant to foot orthotics. I’m not trying to denounce the foot orthotic concept, but frankly, you can’t afford to have issues with foot orthotics. Foot orthotics and shoes go hand-in-hand (or should I say foot in shoes?).
First, let’s think about the tightness of your shoes. It’s a bigger deal than you may think! First, let’s think about the tightness of your shoes. It’s a bigger deal than you may think! Your shoe should neither be too tight nor too loose. Too-tight shoes can create quite a bit of pain, but too-loose shoes are a common problem as well. Oftentimes, a patient will come in for pain or discomfort while wearing those curly “no-tie” shoelaces that may look nice but offer little snugness to the shoe. Those patients end up having slipping issues inside the shoe. So, when buying shoes, be sure to consider the snugness and fit as well as the style. A lot of shoes look great from the outside, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll fit on your foot comfortably. In this post, I’ll go into more detail about purchasing shoes: different kinds and styles, price points, their benefits, and where you can purchase a pair for yourself online. So keep reading!
Now, I can’t say that every shoe is made to accommodate foot orthotics. Some are suitable, and some are not. One of the ways that I help people is by having them take out the insole of the shoe, look at it next to your foot, and see if they roughly match. If possible, place your orthotic inside a shoe before purchasing and note how it goes in, if it sits at the right angle, and if you can easily position it within the shoe. You can always ask your orthotist for advice on placement as well. Besides, I greatly recommend shoes with zippers. Zippers are a big deal in foot orthotics. Zippers on shoes allow for accommodation of something other than just your foot. That’s a godsend when you need to incorporate something else into your shoe! They also allow you to more easily adjust the angle or position of your orthotic without having to take off the entire shoe.
So, we’ve talked about the way shoelaces and different styles of shoes can affect your foot orthotic. Now, I want to let you know that I cannot tell you the perfect angle for your orthotic. It all depends on what feels best for yourself! My goal is just to guide you away from positioning it wrongly. Shoelaces, style, and wrongly-positioned orthotics are the three most common problems I see in practice. Now, there are a lot of mistakes to be made in picking out a shoe, so let’s discuss what may work best for you and your lifestyle.
There are more or less two kinds of shoes: soft, padded shoes and rigid shoes. Neither type is better or worse, but they are better suited for different lifestyles. For example, if you are an avid runner, I recommend buying soft and padded shoes to provide greater shock absorption. If you are receiving a lot of force every time your foot hits the ground, it can cause a great amount of discomfort. At my office, we prefer to wear shoes with a good amount of padding; Specifically, I like to wear tri-lam shoes which sport three cushioned layers with a firmer base layer to provide support.
Another benefit of these tri-lam shoes is that you can continue to add or subtract layers to add or take away arch support. As someone with arch issues, this is a great boon but may provide too high and arch or too much pressure to a person with flatter feet. You know your feet, you know your arches: use your best judgment. Another benefit to the tri-lams is that they are easily replaceable. This allows for a lot of change and a lot of trial and error, which we all know is just the way it is with foot orthotics. You’ll feel the shock absorption fade over time but again, they’re easy to replace.
Now, I recognize that some people may not consider soft and padded shoes to be too fashionable, and may value fashion more than the health of their feet. I’m not saying you’re like that! But we all know someone who is. These people will be looking for stiffer, more rigid shoes, like dress shoes or other stylish pairs. These do lend themselves well to the rigid, streamlined look of the foot orthotic, and would be good for a person with, say, plantar fasciitis. And I do recognize that some situations simply call for dress shoes! But, consider your own needs.
Will you be walking for long periods in these shoes, or will you be fairly inactive? Will there be room for your orthotic? Will you need to shock absorption that only a padded shoe can provide? Before buying the shoes, are you able to try them on and notice if it leaves any pink or red marks on your skin? A salesman or layman may tell you the one-eighth inch of padding is enough for you, and it may for a while, but it’ll bottom out real fast. Consult with your orthotist and podiatrist for a solution that will allow you to wear your rigid shoes unbothered.
Now I figure this should go without saying, but if your shoes give you a tortuous sore, immediately consult your podiatrist and orthotist. Thankfully, issues like that are few and far between in my experience. But they are always a possibility and must be treated professionally.
I hope this piece helps you and teaches you just a few common issues that arise when dealing with foot orthotics and different kinds of shoes. I hope I’ve taught you the importance of shock absorption, shoelaces, style, softness, and rigidness, but most importantly, knowing your own needs to regard your foot orthotics. Thank you for reading.