Custom Orthotics

How We Prescribe Custom Orthotics

The old fashioned way of prescribing custom orthotics started with taking a mold of your foot in a foam box. The impression of your foot then has plaster poured into it, which leads to molding a thick piece of plastic around the shape of your foot. 

Our method for prescribing orthotics starts with a functional scan of how your feet move and bear weight when you walk. The scan involves walking across a plate with 4000 tiny sensors in it, these sensors measure pressure and timing in minute detail. This motion capture doesn’t only show us the source of pain in almost every instance. It is so intuitive that our patients can usually spot the reason for their pain once they look at it themselves 

Getting this in depth, ‘functional’ view of what the feet are doing forms the basis of our custom orthotic prescription. We believe in correcting the ‘movement’ of the foot as opposed to the shape of the foot because we believe that most pain comes from the way in which we move. 

Why We Prescribe Custom Orthotics

Being unable to meet our basic need for sleeping, sitting, walking & exercising comfortably because of pain in the back, hips, ankles, knees, and feet can be frustrating at best and very scary at worst.

The topics of pain, injury, and physical limitation ultimately come down to our desire for the freedom and happiness that come with the ability to lead an active life.

Orthotics is a tool that has helped millions of people move past exactly the type of stubborn pains that tend to chip away at the fun, freedom, and choice that make life enjoyable.

An average active person takes in excess of 3 million steps per year. Modern humans do all this on extremely flat, hard surfaces like concrete, tarmac and paving stones. We believe that hard, flat surfaces are as stressful to the body’s joints and connective tissues as sugar is to our teeth.

Orthotics are a way of protecting us from this lifelong strain. The Increased support for the foot that orthotics provide often brings greater ease and freedom to our movements in the long term. The benefits are often felt not only in the feet, ankles, and knees but even in the back and hips. Supporting orthotic prescription with correct stability and balance exercises is also very important for good long-term outcomes!!!

Who Needs Custom Orthotics?

Knowing whether you actually need custom orthotics or not is an essential step for those of us who wish to resolve stubborn lower body pains. Read our overview of major conditions that may improve with custom orthotic prescription. 

Custom Orthotics FAQ

Most people who try both custom orthotics and shop bought insoles agree, the custom version is significantly more effective in the long term. The most common finding is that shop bought insoles help a bit, and custom orthotics help a lot.

The truth is that if your problems are extremely mild and your shop bought insoles are extremely high quality,  you might find that they present an optimal price vs benefit ratio. If you have had a reasonable amount of pain though,  this pay not prove to be the case. Custom orthotics generally last a lot longer, enable a greater no. of shoe choices and provide greater support for the foot.

Most likely explanation is that you have scar tissue in the soft tissues of your foot or some of the small bones in your foot are locked and not releasing.

Try and wear your custom orthotics all the time if you can. Wearing your custom orthotics protects your feet from unnaturally hard surfaces like concrete and paving,  and provides natural arch support. If you are outdoors in bare feet like at the beach you definitely don’t need them then.

If you buy high quality custom orthotics they should last you 5 years or more. Off the shelf shoe insoles generally don’t last anywhere near as long. Be mindful of the fact that your orthotics / insoles need to support your body weight moving at speed many thousands of times per day. If your orthotics look a bit sad they almost certainly won’t be achieving this goal.

Having your custom orthotics recovered every couple of years is advisable and feels good. This comes at a cost of about $50-70 depending on materials and any further modifications that might be needed.  

Orthotics are not like braces for your teeth unfortunately. They merely offer ongoing natural support to your foot and arch,  and protect you from paving slabs, they don’t permanently correct bone alignment. 

If you decide to live off the grid and spend the rest of your life in bare feet living on natural ground,  you should definitely throw your orthotics away, you won’t need them. If however you plan to spend the rest of your life in an urban environment walking on concrete, paving & tarmac your feet will always need support and protection.

If you are on beach or paddock go bare foot, it’s really really good for you. If you are just relaxing at home bare feet is good too. If however you are out and about  on hard ground like tarmac, or busy running around at home on concrete floors, you’ll be better off wearing your orthotics. Most people who wear orthotics figure this out for themselves over time. 

All that being said, if you have had plantar fasciitis, foot pain, ankle pain, knee pain, hip pain or back pain that relates to your feet concrete flooring is a calculated risk. This is the same as Snickers bars being a calculated risk if you have had tooth decay, it’s really up to you. 

If you go to the right clinic for your custom orthotics you will be able to have those orthotics prescribed in such a way that they will fit into almost any shoe. The secret to this is customisation, ultra strong yet thin and flexible orthotics that are designed in the right way can fit in just about any shoe. 

When we exercise, the amount of weight and force that land on your orthotics is many times what it is when you are merely sitting, standing and walking. Having a much stronger orthotic for times of more intense activity makes for the necessary level of correction. 

When you are wearing casual or worn shoes things are different  however. You will probably feel much better in a smaller more flexible orthotic that offers slightly less correction but a good deal more comfort. 

There is a wide range of response rates in people who start to wear orthotics for pain relief. Some find that changes happen so slowly that they are only obvious when they cast their mind back a year or more, to their previous pain levels. Other patients find that their pain reduces in a matter of days once they have orthotics fitted. Orthotics are definitely a form of therapy for the long haul as opposed to a ‘quick fix’. 

The way you walk and bear weight is made up of habits, muscle health, nervous system health & bone architecture. The ‘habit portion’ of your walking pattern is only 1 factor, and as it happens one that is stubborn as all hell to shift. It is however possible to meaningfully change your gait for the better if you are seriously committed. 

Feldenkrais technique is a sophisticated system that teaches effective movement patterns and helps you to ‘unlearn’ unhealthy patterns. Feldenkrais can create change on the level of ‘habit’ for sure, if you are willing to put in the time. For the rest of us, who don’t have time for a new hobby; a combination of custom orthotics and specific strength exercises will bring the kind of benefits we are usually looking for. 

It is often uncomfortable at first when you start wearing custom orthotics. Sometimes adjusting to custom orthotics can cause temporary muscle pain. 

Other times adjusting to custom orthotics can irritate scar tissue (especially in the sole of the foot ). It can also cause foot bones to lock.  If you have scar tissue that is being irritated by your orthotics, you will need a practitioner who can help you through the process of adjusting to your orthotics. 

There is only reason your should have to throw out half of your footwear when you start to wear custom orthotics in your shoes. If all your footwear was already unduly tight. The majority of shoes survive the transition to orthotics as long as they allowed a bit of ‘wiggle room’ in the space department. 

Once upon a time orthotics were without exception big uncomfortable things that people ended up throwing in a drawer more often than not. Advances in materials, design, manufacture and philosophy have meant that these days custom orthotics are a different kind of beast. Modern orthotics are intentionally small, comfortable and flexible compared to their ancestors. 

Modern orthotics hug your foot in a flexible and supportive manner, this is no different to what a soft paddock or some wet sand does when you walk on them. Humans evolved  to walk on flexible, soft natural surfaces that hug the foot and absorb shock; orthotics mimic those natural surfaces. Some say that it is a lifetime stomping on hard flat surfaces like concrete and paving slabs that weakens us. 

The cost of custom orthotics is somewhere between $600 & $800 nzd. It’s never fun spending money on boring things like orthotics, bed mattresses and healthcare. If you are one of those people who truly needs orthotics, it will be some of the best bang for buck in your entire lifetime budget. 

3-4 weeks is standard practice  delivery time for a pair of custom orthotics. 

Primarily custom orthotics are made of high tech plastics that can sustain a human stomping on them 3-6 million times per year without breaking. In addition custom orthotics have top covers and padding  made from materials like leather, foam and vinyl. 

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