Ankle foot orthotics are shoe inserts that offer support to control the placement and movement of the ankle, correct deformities, and compensate for weakness. These inserts are used to stabilize the foot and ankle and provide toe clearance during the swing phase of gate.
Athletes often suffer foot problems because their feet are not being supported within the shoe. Ankle and foot orthotics are custom made inserts that alleviate stress on the foot. However custom orthotics should be prescribed by a podiatrist who specializes in customized footwear and orthotics design. These inserts are used by athletes for different reasons. Runners use orthotics to absorb shock at heel contact and to set up the forefoot for push-off. Basketball players wear them to control their forefeet while jumping and running.
The two main types of orthotics are over-the-counter orthotics and custom-made orthotics. To be eligible for custom orthotics, an examination of the foot and ankle will need to be completed. Afterward, both the foot and ankle will need to be casted and fitted for the proper orthotic. When the fitting process is complete, adjustments can be made to make sure everything fits perfectly.
Over the counter orthotics tend to be more popular than custom fit ones. Athletes who have less severe aches and pains in the foot, ankle or lower back area can use the over-the-counter version of orthotics. Unfortunately, over-the-counter orthotics tend to not work in treating severe injuries or ailments. Whenever you suspect you may need an ankle foot orthotic, you should consult with your podiatrist to determine which type of orthotic is right for you.
Ankles are joints that connect bones in the feet with bones in the lower leg. They are comprised of bones, ligaments, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves. The ankle joint allows the foot to move side-to-side, as well as up-and-down.
Ankle pain can be caused by a variety of conditions, but is most commonly due to soft tissue injuries such as ankle sprains and strains.
An ankle sprain occurs when one or more of the strong ligaments that support and stabilize the ankle become overly stretched or even torn if the ankle rolls, turns, or twists awkwardly. Depending on the grade of sprain (mild-moderate-severe), there will be varying degrees of pain, swelling, and restricted range of motion, along with tenderness, bruising, and ankle instability. There may even be an audible popping noise at the moment of injury.
Ankle strains can sometimes produce similar symptoms of pain, swelling, and loss of motion, however, they are due to overly stretched muscles and tendons—not ligaments. Ankle strains may also cause muscle cramps in the feet, calves and shins.
Ankle fractures are another common source of ankle pain and occur one or more of the three bones in the ankle become fractured (broken). These breaks can be stress fractures (due to repetitive stress) or traumatic fractures (due to an acute injury). Depending on where and how severe the fracture is, symptoms can include pain and swelling that can sometimes spread up to the knee, bruising or discoloration, and an inability to bear weight. A visible deformity or exposed bone may occur in severe fractures.
Various forms of arthritis may also cause ankle pain. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes the immune system to attack healthy joints, like the ankle joint, by mistake, causing stiffness and swelling in both ankles. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage covering the ends of bones wears down, causing the bones to rub against each other. This results in pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion in the ankle. Gout is a form of arthritis where excess amounts of uric acid in the bloodstream crystallize and build up on joints, causing severe pain and swelling. Reactive arthritis causes joint pain and swelling in the ankle in response to an infection in another part of the body.
Other forms of ankle pain include bursitis (an inflammation of a cushioning bursa sac between tendons and bone), scleroderma (a thickening of connective tissues), chronic ankle instability (caused by improperly healed ankle sprains), Achilles tendon injuries, flat feet, or an infection in the ankle.
The plantar fascia is a connective tissue in the heel that stretches across the bottom length of your foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the connective tissue becomes inflamed, causing heel pain and discomfort during physical activity. Although the condition is completely treatable, traditional methods can take up to a year to start becoming effective.
Plantar fasciitis is caused by a number of everyday activities, so understanding the condition is important for managing and treating it. One of the most common causes of plantar fasciitis is excessive running, especially with improper fitting or non-supportive shoes. Too much exercise can lead to the plantar fascia being overworked and overstretched, which can cause tears in the tissue. Along with improper fitting shoes, pronation, the rolling of the feet inward, is a common cause of plantar fasciitis. If not treated properly, the plantar fascia becomes overstretched and starts to tear, causing inflammation.
Despite the common causes of plantar fasciitis, there are many different treatment options. For less severe cases, conservative home remedies include taking anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate pain, applying ice packs to the bottom of your foot and heel, slowly stretching and exercising your feet to re-strengthen the tissue, and using orthotic devices are all ways to help manage your plantar fasciitis.
For more severe cases, shockwave therapy has become a common solution for plantar fasciitis. Shockwave therapy can effectively break up the tissue on the bottom of your foot which facilitates healing and regeneration. This fights the chronic pain caused by plantar fasciitis. Even if this doesn’t work, surgery is always a final option. Surgery on the tissue itself can be done to permanently correct the issue and stop the inflammation and pain in your heels.
No matter what the case may be, consulting your podiatrist is the first and best step to recovery. Even the slightest amount of heel pain could be the first stage of plantar fasciitis. Untreated symptoms can lead to the tearing and overstretching of tissue. Because the tearing of tissue can be compounded if it remains ignored, it can evolve into a severe case. The solution is early detection and early treatment. Talk to your podiatrist about the possibilities of plantar fasciitis if you’re experiencing heel pain.
In 2014, the American Podiatric Medical Association surveyed 1,000 American adults and found that half of all respondents lived with foot pain. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid foot problems such as following a daily footcare routine and wearing proper footwear at work.
If you have a job that requires you to be on your feet, it is best that you do not wear flat sole shoes. Your heel should be slightly elevated (less than 2 inches, but at least ¼-inch) if you are going to be standing for a prolonged period. You should also make sure that the shoes you wear are not too small. Tight shoes may cut off circulation to your feet, which will result in pain and blisters. It is always best to purchase fitted shoes later in the day, because the feet tend to swell as the day progresses. It may also be helpful to buy shoes a half size larger if you plan on wearing custom orthotics or arch supports.
Your muscles may become stiff when you are constantly standing up. It is important to take breaks every hour to stretch and relax. One tip is to perform calf raises, because this exercise will help improve your circulation. To perform this stretch, you first need to stand on the edge of a step with your abdominal muscles pulled inward. You then need to grip the step with the balls of your feet with your heels hanging over the edge. Next, try to raise your heels above the step by a few inches while standing on your tiptoes; hold this pose for a second. You should then lower your heels back even to the platform. These calf raises should be done ten times for full effectiveness.
You should also take care of your feet while you are at home. One of the best ways to prepare your feet for a long day of work is to soak them in ice water. Doing so for 20 minutes will help fight the swelling and inflammation that results from being on your feet at work.
Nevertheless, if you are experiencing pain in your feet, you should seek help from your podiatrist. Your doctor will help treat any ailments you may have in addition to helping you prevent any other ailments from developing in the future.