Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Confused about orthotics? Racks of over-the-counter arch supports, gel pads, or Dr. Scholl’s kiosks at Walmart…. everyone is calling their devices “orthotics”. Here is the truth about getting what you pay for:

Leonardo DaVinci called the foot a “masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” The foot functions in 3 different planes (anatomical directions) from heel strike to push-off. It has built-in mechanisms to dampen shock, adapt to the terrain, and propel you forward. Your feet do this repeatedly for an average 115,000 miles in a lifetime. In order to accomplish this there are 26 bones and 20 muscles in each foot.

The science of human locomotion is called Biomechanics. In the foot, biomechanics deals with relationships… how the rearfoot and heel relate to the ground at impact, how the rearfoot relates to the forefoot during the step, and then how the forefoot reacts to the ground at push-off. It’s actually pretty amazing stuff, from a scientific point of view. For the person doing the walking or running, however, faulty biomechanics can mean the difference between comfort and pain. In sports, it can lead to muscle fatigue, inefficiency and poor performance. Faulty foot mechanics can also pre-dispose you to certain foot problems such as bunions, hammertoes, or heel and arch pain.

Orthotics are shoe inserts fabricated from 3D models of your feet. They adjust for structural and postural abnormalities in the foot in order to improve function. You might say they’re like eyeglasses for the feet!

Before considering orthotics, a thorough biomechanical exam performed by a trained specialist is imperative. Podiatrists have years of training in biomechanics and are considered the experts in this field.

There are three basic foot types: rigid, semi-rigid and flexible; there are also combinations of the three. Orthotics must be made specifically for your foot type. In order for an orthotic to function properly, it has to control the foot in all three planes from heel strike to toe-off. Only by correcting faulty forefoot and rearfoot relationships in gait, can we allow the muscle engines of the foot to fire strongly and efficiently. STANDING STILL ON A DR. SCHOLL’S KIOSK AND LOOKING AT YOUR FOOTPRINT CANNOT ANALYZE RELATIONSHIPS, CLASSIFY FOOT TYPE, OR DIAGNOSE YOUR PROBLEM.

Yes, some people can find relief in simply supporting the arch or cushioning the foot with gel. Orthotics are different than arch supports. Only orthotics can correct faulty biomechanics and offer treatment protocols that are foot type specific. Orthotics can be preventative as well as performance enhancing, and for many, provide a lifetime of function and comfort.

For more information, visit us at