About Orthotics and Their History




About Orthotics

Orthotics as a Treatment: What Is an Orthotic?

‘Orthotic’ is the name given to any device that supports or alters the function of the body by affixing externally to it (ISO). They’ve been used for over 2000 years to alleviate pain and symptoms. The term is used as an abbreviation for the medical term ‘Functional Foot Orthotic’. The best way to think of an orthotic is like a ‘personally tailored piece of ground’ allowing your foot to roll over the world in the best way for you. It will improve the communication between your foot, your leg, your knee, and your hips and back, protecting your weakest link and helping you walk and run pain- free.

What Is an Insole?

An insole is a liner inside your shoe and is made of cushioning materials. Insoles are used to improve the comfort of your shoe, as well as to reduce odour, improve the fit of your shoe, or insulate your foot from the cold. Even if they have a little ‘arch support’ they are not a medical device. Insoles can be moulded to the shape of your foot to improve the comfort. See our section on shoe insert types for a full explanation of why this may not be helping your pain.

Tissue Deformation Graph

What Is, or Isn’t, an Arch Support?

Your foot has three arches, one on the inside, one on the outside, and one at the ball of the foot. These arches need to move as part of your walking step. The movements of the three arches provide shock absorption, also called attenuation, and allow your leg and back to work in an energy efficient way. The worst possible way to ‘support’ an arch is from underneath! Basic engineering principles tell us that pushing up on the underside of an arch destabilises rather than supports it, as it’s the downward gravitational force that holds the arch’s integrity. Instead, to truly support an arch, stronger supporting struts should be built, improving the way load moves across the arch. In this way, a load will increase the arch’s structural integrity.

However, we appreciate that it makes some intuitive sense to fill the arch of the foot and that it can certainly provide some additional comfort, but there can be no additional support to the function of your foot without first and foremost addressing why the arch is no longer stable.

Do Orthotics Align the Foot?

If you were to align the foot to the leg and hold it stiffly there, you would have no ‘suspension’ and many more problems would be created.
Although it is appealing to think that ‘lining up the foot’ with the leg and ground will sort out all your pain, this is a massive over-simplification. The foot is designed to absorb the forces which your body generates as it hits the ground by rolling in (also know as ‘pronating’). To do this, the foot must move out of alignment with the shin and ground, and then move back (also know as supinating). This process acts as a spring to absorb and return the energy created by you hitting the ground. If you were to align the foot to the leg and hold it stiffly there, you would have no ‘suspension’ and many more problems would be created. We help many people with under-pronation (high arches) as we do with over-pronation (flat feet).

So What Should an Orthotic Be?

An orthotic should work with your foot and your ankle, knee, hips and back to alter the movements of your foot as it naturally rolls across the ground. Working in this way your foot has adequate suspension and is supported with every step. At BxClinic, we have worked hard to create our complete range of orthotics to support the complex nature of the relationship between the interaction of your feet with the ground, and your body. These have been conscientiously selected, and are always lovingly created and painstakingly engineered, to give you optimum support, comfort and function, while helping you walk, run and enjoy your life pain-free. Rather than having one supplier, or using one type of orthotic to address all our patients’ conditions, we draw from an extensive pool of orthotics options to prescribe a very precise solution, treating you as an individual.

Adequate suspension for the foot and support with every step

Our Approach to Orthotics

Orthotics are a tool we use to help the synchronisation and overall movements of your legs, pelvis and back. We work to understand why your foot is having to roll in (pronate), or why your foot isn’t rolling in enough (supinate). There’s no one, perfect model of walking and moving, and so we need to understand whether your movement is a good thing for you or not, and whether your foot is working to help your ankle and knee, your hip and pelvis and your spine. An orthotic is used to re-time the movements of your foot, and change the effect of those movements on your leg. This may be a permanent requirement for you, or you may only need orthotics for a short time while you recover from injury or carry out stretches and strengthening exercises to allow your joints to work better. Everyone’s different, and that’s just one of the reasons for our initial assessment appointment.

Re-time the movements of your foot and change the effect of those movements on your leg