Among the most effective treatments for heel pain is the use of custom-made orthotics, which are foot supports worn in shoes and designed to alleviate pain by supporting natural foot movement.
Many individuals suffer from pain in the heel, knee and lower back and may not realize their pain can be caused by poor foot function. Orthotics provide a non-surgical way to realign the foot and ankle bones to their neutral positions and decrease abnormal motion and pressure.
Tina Adkins, an orthotic technician, has been working with orthotics in Ankle and Foot Care’s diagnostic center in Boardman for over 13 years. She and her colleagues work closely with physicians in a regular process for fitting patients with custom-made orthotics.
A physician will decide if an orthotic device is necessary for a patient. After Tina receives the patient’s prescription, she starts the fitting process, which is a 45-minute evaluation with the patient.
First, the patient walks in front of her so she can see if there is any noticeable abnormal movement of the feet, such as rolling inward or outward. (Sometimes the scan doesn’t pick up what the eye can see, she explains.)
Next, the patient walks on a mat that performs a scan of the feet and creates a graph on Tina’s laptop. The graph shows pressure points in certain parts of the foot, as well as other abnormalities. Tina can then design the fit for the custom orthotics right from her computer.
The orthotics arrive within a couple of weeks and the patient goes in for a final fitting with a physician or licensed orthotist. He/she leaves the appointment with the foot scan and the custom-designed orthotic device. If patients do not feel 50 percent better within 3-4 weeks, they are told to come back into the lab so technicians can readjust the orthotics.
Patients can choose among many different kinds of orthotics designed specifically for athletic shoes, work boots, dress shoes or everyday shoes. One of the newest designs, referred to as the “cobra,” is shaped like a snake with the heel cut out, so that it can fit into a high heel shoe.
Orthotics can also come with heat-resistant material that decreases sweating or silver that decreases smell.
“We have orthotics for everyone,” Tina says, as she explains the difference between orthotics for soccer, football, golf and even hockey. “There are even orthotics that are waterproof.”
Tina sees about eight patients a day, all with different kinds of pain, but plantar fasciitis and heel pain tend to be the most common.
If you have serious pain or discomfort, schedule an appointment with a foot and ankle physician. He or she will examine your feet and ankles and suggest activity or treatment to improve comfort and function, including custom-made orthotics if appropriate.