There’s quite a lot being written in the press of late about new 3D-printed insoles and shoes, and I wanted to just share a few thoughts on the seemingly amazing new possibilities for footcare that this new age will herald. This will be split into a few posts.
In writing a little about how we see the future of orthotics, it really feels like a very big can of worms is about to be set free on my keyboard. Within my peer group I’m considered to be the tech one, and can openly admit to having waited in line at an Apple store, both on its opening day, and when a new iPad model launched. I say this as some kind of disclaimer, as I may not be able to be seen as completely impartial in this post!
Nothing Is Ever Perfect
The problem is that in our yearning for new technology, new products, new electronics, new washing powder, new anything, so often there’s a compromise to be made. How many of us have been left disappointed that the latest and greatest vacuum cleaner just doesn’t work as we had expected, or that our shiny new phone seems to cut out unexpectedly if held in a certain way?!
Technology is flawed and everything wears out. With that premise in mind I’d like to take a look at some of the possible futures that may be beckoning to our feet soon, and I’ll attempt to understand what problems they’ve been designed to address, as all may not be as it seems.
There are four arches within the foot, and simply placing material under to support them isn’t a smart thing to do.If you’ve read our history of orthotics page, you’ll have seen that we used to used heavy braces to hold feet in place, and even Scholl’s Foot-Easer was designed with the premise that the foot needed to be held in a certain position. We’ve discussed our thoughts regarding an orthotic as an arch support elsewhere, so I won’t needlessly restate our position, suffice to say that there are four arches within the foot, and simply placing material under to support them isn’t a smart thing to do.
When looking at new technology we at BxClinic always feel it’s worth considering what problem it’s going to solve, rather than what can we do. We don’t subscribe to the “build it and they will come” school of thought.
It’s our belief that orthotics, when skilfully prescribed and manufactured, provide a tailored piece of ground for the wearer to walk upon. That piece of ground attenuates, slows down, or accelerates the wearer as they move across the ground, disseminating forces appropriately so that they can be as efficient as possible. It’s a complex science, delivered with oodles of experience, flare, and creativity. Few understand biomechanics, and fewer still use its principles when prescribing orthotics. Yet today there are more than 60 different manufacturers of prefabricated orthotics (that orthotics that can be bought as ‘off-the-shelf’ items) and some 200 labs producing more custom-made devices.
Today there are more than 60 different manufacturers of prefabricated orthotics (that orthotics that can be bought as ‘off-the-shelf’ items) and some 200 labs producing more custom-made devices.
In part 2 I’ll talk about our concerns of the over-simplification of the production of medical orthotics.