Ankle and foot orthotics, known as AFOs, are custom-made inserts, shaped and contoured to fit inside a shoe and used to correct an irregular walking gait or provide cushioning. Orthotics come in a variety of different models and sizes, including both over the counter and customizable variants. Customizable ones should be prescribed through a podiatrist who specializes in customized footwear and orthotics design and management.
AFOs are often used by athletes including track and field runners, cyclists, professional dancers, ice skaters, and even golfers. They benefit a lot from custom made AFOs by preventing injuries from occurring and provide cushioning to keep pain levels down to a minimum. Ankle foot orthotics allow for the correct positioning of the feet and also act as shock absorbers to help keep pressure and stress off the foot and ankle. They can also relieve back pain and hip pain while restoring balance and improving an athlete’s performance.
The way they help alleviate pain is by controlling the movement of both your feet and ankles. They are custom designed by a podiatrist or orthopedic specialist to help treat foot problems such as flat feet, spurs, arthritis of the ankle or foot, ankle sprains, weakness, and drop foot, a condition in which the patient cannot raise their foot at the ankle joint.
With custom orthotics, a patient will go through a complete examination of the foot and ankle, followed by the ankle and foot being cast and fitted for the proper orthotic. Depending upon the final result of the tests, a stretching treatment is created with specific shoe fitting in mind. After they have been fitted to the shoes, adjustments can be made in order to get the perfect fit and completely fill out the shoe. Evaluations are then usually set up to monitor the patient in the coming weeks to see how they are adjusting.
AFOs are also available over the counter and are more common than custom fit ones. Athletes that have generally low aches and pains in the foot, ankle, or lower back area can use an over the counter version of these orthotics. Weight is still distributed evenly throughout the bottom of the foot thanks to the arch support they give, but when an injury or ailment occurs, it is usually not enough to try and remedy it with an over the counter version. In either case, a podiatrist will be able to offer the best advice and treatment when it comes to foot and ankle orthotics and handle all your foot care needs.
Athletes will often sustain sprained ankles; they are one of the most common injuries sports players receive. It is general knowledge that sprained ankles are painful and debilitating conditions that often keep players off their feet and away from activity. Once an ankle is sprained, the occurrence of re-injury is much more likely.
After sustaining a sprained ankle, the sports medicine doctor and physical therapist recommended the RICE method as a method to get back on one’s feet and get back into playing sports. RICE is an acronym that stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation—the four things one should do to recover from a sprained ankle. Along with the RICE method, an athlete should wear an ankle brace to help alleviate the pain and secure the ankle until it has fully healed. A brace will stabilize the ankle as well as prevent it from sustaining other more serious injuries. People often suffer from sprained ankles due to weak ligaments located in or near the ankle; because an ankle brace keeps the ligaments in the foot from experiencing excessive movement, injuries can be avoided.
Another common injury many athletes experience are foot and ankle fractures. Stress fractures in particular often occur when there is an increase in athletic training for an athlete. There are two types of stress fractures: stable and displaced. Stable stress fractures are marked by a lack of shifting in bone alignment, whereas displaced stress fractures are characterized by bones that are not properly aligned.
Stress fractures warrant an immediate trip to the hospital or doctor. Treatment for stress fractures often involves significant rest and refraining from taking part of the sport that caused the injury. Strenuous activities should also be avoided. Certain doctors or specialists have the ability to specifically determine what in an athlete’s training caused the stress fracture. If this can be pinpointed, the athlete can therefore adjust his or her training accordingly without having to worry about refraining from playing the sport.
Special attention must be paid to treatment for foot and ankle injuries such as sprained ankles and stress fractures. Athletes should be sure to rest before engaging in activity. With great care and attention to treatment comes a faster and more successful recovery.
Hammertoes are painful deformities that frequently form on the second, third, or fourth toe. The condition is often caused by an issue in foot mechanics: the person’s particular gait or the manner in which they walk, or shoes that do not comfortably fit the deformity. Hammertoes can be formed after wearing shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot or have excessively high heels. Shoes that are not properly sized will force the toes into a bent position for long periods of time, causing the muscles to shorten and toes to bend into the deformity of a hammertoe.
Hammertoe can also be caused by complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or a cerebral vascular accident. Pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformities, calluses, and corns are all symptoms of a hammertoe.
Someone who suspects they have the symptoms of a hammertoe should consult with a physician—particularly a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat complications of the foot and ankle. If the podiatrist discovers that the affected toes are still flexible, treatment for the hammertoe may simply involve exercise, physical therapy, and better-fitting shoes. Treatment for hammertoes typically involves controlling foot mechanics, such as walking, through the use of customized orthotics.
For more serious cases in which the toes have become inflexible and rigid, surgery may be suggested. During the operation, the toe would receive an incision to relieve pressure on the tendons. A re-alignment of the tendons may then be performed by removing small pieces of bone to straighten the toe. In some cases, the insertion of pins is needed to keep the bones in the proper position as the toe heals. The patient is usually allowed to return home on the same day as the surgery.
If surgery is performed to repair a hammertoe, following the postoperative directions of your doctor is pertinent. Directions may include several stretches, picking up marbles with your toes, or attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet. Wear shoes that have low heels and a wide amount of toe space to maintain comfort. Closed shoes and high heels should be avoided. Shoes with laces allow the wearer to adjust how fitted her or she may want the shoes to be and also allow for greater comfort. To provide adequate space for your toes, select shoes that have a minimum of one-half-inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe. This will also relieve pressure on your toes and prevent future hammertoes from forming.
Other preventative measures that can be taken include going shopping for new shoes in the middle of the day. Your feet are its smallest in the morning and swell as the day progresses; trying on and purchasing new shoes midday will give you the most reliable size. Be sure to check that the shoes you purchase are both the same size. If possible, ask the store to stretch out the shoes at its painful points to allow for optimum comfort.