Are Orthoses bad for my feet? Let’s debunk some of the claims!
Short Answer: no, if used correctly.
There is a lot of information out on the internet at the moment as to whether orthotics (orthoses) weaken our muscles and will cause you all sorts of issues. There’s also a lot of information out there saying that they are magical devices that just slip into your shoes and will immediately resolve your back pain, knee arthritis and correct your ‘alignment’.
I am going to debunk some of the claims on the internet for you using the most current evidence we have available.
Orthoses will fix all my problems…
No. Orthoses are not going to fix all your problems. We use orthoses in conjunction with other therapies to get you back to full function and being pain free. They are incredibly important tool in load management of the feet and legs.
We all need to walk, stand, work etc so changing load for the lower limb can be really difficult. This is where Orthoses really shine. We podiatrists understand mechanics and use our assessment and knowledge to unload injured anatomy and give you the tools to manage your body into the future!
We will never prescribe you with orthoses alone, we will incorporate a strength and conditioning program, manual therapies, education and advice into your treatment plan. If orthoses are used as a sole treatment, evidence shows that treatment outcomes are poor- they are not the SILVER BULLET!
Orthoses weaken the muscles in my feet and make me reliant on them…
At the current time, there are five studies available to us with evidence on this. One of the studies found there to be a decrease in strength of foot muscles, all other 4 either found nil change in strength, or an increase in strength! With orthoses, your foot muscles still work just as hard as they did without, we are re-distributing the load through your foot. Orthoses do not necessarily put the foot into a different position nor make the foot function in a perfect position. They work to alter timing patterns of gait and the magnitude of the ground reaction forces acting on your foot. If orthoses weakened our foot muscles over time, people wearing foot orthoses would likely become crippled. Recent evidence has actually shown an increase in the activation of intrinsic muscles!
Orthoses are a life sentence…
In some circumstances yes, in some circumstances no. If your orthoses are prescribed to accommodate your foot deformities i.e. arthritis/systemic conditions, then yes, orthoses will be an ongoing treatment for you. If we are able to get you through full rehabilitation and back to 110%, orthoses are considered a short term intervention and can be used sparingly in future (for example; in your training shoes).
As mentioned above, orthoses can be one important part of our rehabilitation plan for you.
Orthoses are an absolute weapon in load management– a VERY important part of your rehab program! If we reduce the load occurring where you are getting the pain, we are able to use this to our advantage to get you back to doing what you love doing sooner! And that’s an absolute WIN for you and for us!
Written By Gabby Mence
Gabby graduated from the University of Newcastle with a desire to help people fulfil an active and healthy lifestyle. Gabby has always been involved in sports herself, so would love to get you back on your feet through management and prevention of sporting injuries.
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