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Orthotics - Useful or Useless???

Injuries to our feet are very common these days. ⁠ So many people are getting diagnosed with heel pain, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis and many more syndromes and injuries.

The common direction we are pointed to, is to go see a podiatrist and get them to assess our feet. Nine times out of ten, you will leave the appointment being told you need some kind of support for your feet and most likely orthotics. Now in some rare circumstances, orthotics are a useful tool in getting you out of pain, but it should only be used as a very short term tool.

Orthotics can be used to help subside some pain in order to help you perform exercises for you feet, to help mobilise and strengthen them. But the problem we see a lot today is that clients are given orthotics (costing anywhere between $500-$1000) and told to just keep wearing them. I have come across cases where people have been wearing them for 20+ years. So they have basically be wearing a "crutch" in their shoes for a very long period of time, so now the tissues of the feet, ankle, calf, legs have adapted to these new positions and built "strength" around them.

Now, they may be out of pain in their feet but the change in their natural position and postures will most likely be causing other parts of the body to compensate for this. e.g. knee pain, back pain. They then go see a therapist to assess this new pain, spending a lot of money and never realise that it is the orthotics causing it all.

It is not as simple as just getting rid of your orthotics, because the feet have been "supported" for so long, they now need a careful transition back to a natural position.

The best thing anyone can do is assess the shoes they are wearing, not just the ones they wear to the gym, but the ones they spend the majority of their days in - work shoes! These are most likely the reason why you had to go see the podiatrist in the first place. Modern day shoes do not help our feet in anyway, except from keeping them safe from elements like hot/cold, rough terrain and sharp objects. The original reason we started wearing shoes was to protect us from these elements but still allowed us to perform basic human functions.

Shoes today are more about fashion over function - heel raise, arch support, narrow toe box, small, tight, rigid and pointy. Our feet are magnificent pieces of machinery and are confined to stiff, rigid coffin, the moment we wrap them up in modern day shoes.

A big role of the feet is to help us sense what we are stepping on. the feet send signals to our brains in relation to....⁠ ⁠⁠ 🔸Balance⁠ 🔸Posture⁠ 🔸Strength⁠ 🔸Proprioception⁠ These are all vital in telling the body how we should be walking over varying terrains and which muscles should be activating.⁠ We are basically putting a blindfold over our feet as we walk. Think about how we protect our eyes from the sun.......we wear sunglasses to protect them, we do not wear blindfolds as we will lose our sense of sight. Now when we cover our feet with a big, thick cushioned sole, we are basically putting a blindfold on them. A minimalist, more barefoot style of shoe, acts more like a pair of sunnies, allowing your feet to still feel and react to the ground whilst still given you protection from the ground.

Now say you injure your you then go and wear a back brace for the next 1, 5 even 10 + years???⁠ Of course you don' rehab the back, you strengthen it, stretch it, mobilise it etc etc etc⁠ This exact process can be done with feet as well. Our tissue on our feet are no different to other parts of the body. ⁠ There are hundreds of different exercise to help restore correct movement patterns and structures without the need for useless orthotics.

Magic Mick

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