The Benefits of Custom Made Orthotics For Flat Feet
When we are considering the benefits of custom orthotics and generic insoles for flat feet it is worthwhile reflecting on just how many people wear them. It is hard to say exactly how many people wear custom orthotics. In 2016 however the American foot orthotic market was estimated at 1.2 billion US Dollars which gives us some idea of the sheer number of people wearing orthotics in the developed world. In terms of whether orthotics are useful devices this may be a case of ‘no smoke without fire’ given that this market for orthotics has not been carved out by billion dollar marketing budgets, but largely by word of mouth.
Podiatry does not market itself as a profession. Chiropractors, physiotherapists and osteopaths who prescribe custom orthotics do not advertise or market themselves in any significant way. A handful of large companies like Scholl do have a recognisable brand and market share but they aren’t powerful enough to truly drive demand. The demand for both generic ‘off the shelf’ insoles for flat feet and custom made orthotics for flat feet is driven by the fact that people know they work.
We were designed for a life spent outdoors with our bare feet in the dirt. We were not designed for a life spent on extremely hard flat surfaces and feet bound up in fashionable footwear. This contrast is a major cause of strain on the body, orthotics are an imperfect but powerful way in which we can move closer to the type of ‘environment’ our feet were designed to interact with. This is because they hug contour of the foot, as natural surfaces almost always do. A knowledge of these facts is not what draws most people to wear orthotics however, they wear them most commonly in the hopes of having less pain.
There are numerous reasons that people may be drawn to trying orthotics. We cannot know what % of the 1.2 billion spend is taken up by custom orthotics prescribed for people with flat feet, but it is likely to be a significant portion of the market. Let’s look at some of the benefits that may drive this demand for custom orthotics for those with flat feet.
What Do Custom Orthotics Do For Flat Feet ?
The basic physical concepts behind custom orthotics for flat feet are indicated by the following bullet points –
- Custom Orthotics prevent the arch from flattening out under load in people with flat feet. This can reduce build up of scar tissue in the arch and helps sustain alignment of the bones of the entire leg.
- Custom Orthotics trigger some ‘biofeedback’ in the nerve endings of the arch in people with flat feet. The has the potential to support healthy muscle activity throughout the entire lower limb.
- Custom Orthotics prevent compression of the long bones in the foot that occurs when the arches of flat feet ‘drop’ during weight bearing. This less compression over time may mean less wear & tear and less deformities occurring in the bones and for tissues of the foot.
- Custom Orthotics prevent the internal twisting of the knee joint and the hip joint that occurs when flat feet ‘drop’ during weight bearing. This helps maintain healthy, natural weight bearing in the knee joint.
- Custom Orthotics provide support to and reduce stress in the plantar fascia of those with flat feet. This aims to prevent degenerative change and pain from developing in the plantar fascia.
- Custom Orthotics provide shock absorption for flat feet that protect them against the unnatural stress of concrete. This enables far more natural levels of stress in the human foot during day to day weight bearing.
- Custom Orthotics mimic the kind of ‘ground contour’ that people with flat feet naturally walked on before we all moved into urban environments which are extremely flat. This benefits alignment and reduces strain through the issues of the entire leg and foot.
What are the Actual Symptom Benefits of Custom Orthotics For People With Flat Feet ?
The most commonly reported benefits of custom orthotics for people with flat feet are as follows…
- Relief from foot pain & plantar fasciitis symptoms in people with flat feet.
- Relief from heel spur pain in people with flat feet.
- Reduction in frequency and severity of ankle sprains in people with flat feet.
- Relief from ankle pain in people with flat feet.
- Relief from shin splints symptoms in people with flat feet.
- Reduction in osgood schlatters disease symptoms in people with flat feet.
- Relief from Severs disease symptoms in people with flat feet.
- Reduction in knee pain symptoms in people with flat feet.
- Improved balance is people with flat feet .
- Increased running speed and efficiency in people with flat feet .
- Reduced osteoarthritis symptoms in people with flat feet.
- Reduced hip bursitis and knee bursitis symptoms in people with flat feet.
- Improved glute activation when training in people with flat feet.
- Reduced hip pain symptoms in people with flat feet.
- Reduced lower back pain in people with flat feet.
- Reduced IT band pain in people with flat feet.
Some of these effects have yet to be proven by extensive scientific research, and some others have, if you are only into what has been conclusive ‘proven’ in some instances you may need to step outside your comfort zone. From my perspective, we were consuming cod liver oil as a health supplement generations before anyone even had the first notion what am omega3 fat was… and we were reaping the benefits of doing so without the support of any scientific data. Presumably the reason for this was that we had observed first hand the difference cod liver oil made to one another.. this ability to observe first hand benefits in myself and countless others is what gives me the confidence to recommend custom orthotics to my friends, family and patients.
So there we have outlined the common benefits people report when wearing custom orthotics for flat feet. For those who find the greatest benefits wearing orthotics for their flat feet these relatively simple devices can be quite life changing. It is a normal part of the day to day professional life of those who prescribe them to hear that they have completely transformed patients quality of life.
Anything that may help us with the ability to enjoy the freedom and happiness that comes from a normal and active pain free life is worth considering. There are worse things than not being able to stand, walk and run without pain… but not many to be honest !