What conditions are orthotics used to treat is a question we often get asked by clients seeking help to alleviate foot pain and discomfort. The research surrounding custom orthotics is expansive. Many conditions have been studied, primarily looking at pain in the lower extremities.
The good news is that evidence suggests that a custom orthotics can be very effective in reducing pain associated with common foot and ankle injuries. And, in our professional experience, we have seen positive results in the treatment of varying conditions.
A custom orthotic is designed to properly align your foot and ankle to the most optimal and efficient position for walking. While many orthotics or insoles can be bought in store without a prescription, custom orthotics are individually designed and manufactured to treat a person’s unique foot imbalances.
At Propel Physiotherapy, we use cutting edge technology – like 3D imaging – to customize an orthotic that meets each person’s needs. All of our registered physiotherapists have training and experience in assessing and identifying conditions requiring the use of a custom orthotic.
Orthotics for Common Foot and Ankle Injuries
So to answer the often asked question of what conditions are orthotics used to treat, here are a few of the common foot and ankle injuries we treat regularly at Propel Physiotherapy.
For the treatment of pes cavus (high arches), adults who wore custom orthotics had a reduction of foot pain after three months of use, compared to a similar group wearing fake orthosis. Orthotics are often used to support both high and low arches.
The same review looked at the use of custom orthotics in people under 60 years of age with painful hallux valgus (a turning in of the big toe often accompanied by bunions). In this review it was found that custom orthotics decrease foot pain after six months of use compared to no treatment.
A prevalent condition where the use of customs orthotics is often seen is in plantar fasciitis. In a literature review summarizing the findings of six random controlled trials, the evidence highlights that both functional foot orthosis and corticosteroid injections can both effectively lead to a decrease in pain in those with plantar fasciitis. Custom orthotics have the added benefit of a daily use, and painless application.
At Propel Physiotherapy, we often use a combination of ice, anti-inflammatory medications and proper shoes with a custom shoe orthotic, in the short term; as well as exercise and shockwave therapy as long-term, effective treatment for plantar fasciitis.
Another well-researched area is the use of custom orthotics for the treatment of overuse injuries to the lower extremity. In the journal, Foot and Ankle International, a systematic review of 22 research articles found that the use of custom orthotics can directly prevent the occurrence of these overuse injuries including anterior knee pain, and heel and toe pain. Orthotics can prevent excessive movement at the foot, allowing for more normal and pain-free walking.
There is a broad body of research investigating the use of orthotics with varying conditions such as low back pain to postural stability. The best approach is to consult a specialist who can analyze and determine your needs.
The physiotherapists at Propel Physiotherapy are experts in the analysis of walking and biomechanics. If orthotics are determined to be beneficial to the client, we are able to design and dispense custom orthotics on-site to meet your individual needs.
 Hawke F, Burns J, Radford JA, du Toit V. Custom-made foot orthoses for the treatment of foot pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 3. 2
 Uden, H, Boesch, E, Kumar, S. Plantar fasciitis – to jab or to support? A systematic review of the current best evidence. Journal of Multidiscip Healthc. 2011;4:155-64.
 Natalie Collins, B.Phty. (Hons 1), Leanne Bisset, B.Phty., M.Phty (Sports and Musculoskeletal), Thomas McPoil, P.T., A.T.C., Ph.D, Bill Vicenzino, B.Phty., Grad. Dip. Sports Phty., M.Sc., Ph.D. Foot Orthoses in Lower Limb Overuse Conditions: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Foot and Ankle International. March 2007.