In our last blog, we talked a lot about our passion for biomechanics—and in particular, why bad biomechanics in your feet and ankles can result not only in significant foot pain, but also pain and injury throughout the rest of the body, too.
If you haven’t read it yet, check it out—there’s a lot of good information there.
This week, we wanted to expand a little bit on something we talked about in the “treatment” section of that blog: orthotics.
As we said then, orthotics and arch supports are by far the most versatile treatment tools we have at our disposal to set your body back into a proper biomechanical balance. But you might be asking yourself, “Why?”
Let’s talk a little bit how these devices work, why they’re so important, and why Sierra Foot & Ankle is the place to get them.
Giving Your Feet the Tools to Do the Job
Think about a healthy, normal foot for a second. Do you know what your arch is supposed to do?
Here’s the simple answer.
Your arch is sort of like a spring for your foot. When you put weight on your foot, that spring compresses in order to spread out the weight and impact force over a longer timeframe, which lessens the strain on your feet. Then, when you push off, some of that energy gets “released” by the spring to help propel you forward. Cool, right?
Well, the problem is that modern living, with all its hard and flat surfaces everywhere, has really overburdened our arches and caused a lot of people to wind up with pain and flat feet. At the same time, joints get pulled out of alignment, muscles have to overcompensate, and you wind up with pain all over—not just the feet or legs.
Now, here’s where orthotics come in. Let’s use another analogy: glasses and contacts. Most people can relate to this one—almost three quarters of Americans wear corrective lenses at least part of the time!
Why do we wear glasses? Most of the time, it’s because there’s something structurally out of balance between the size of your eyes and the curvature of their lenses. The “equipment” you were born with isn’t able to properly focus incoming light on the retina, resulting in blurry and unfocused vision.
But when you wear your glasses or contacts, the corrective lenses start bending the light already before it reaches your natural lens, so that by the time the light hits your retinas you can see a sharp, detailed image.
An important thing to realize here is that glasses do not actually make your eyes themselves any better at what they do. Take them off, and your vision goes back to being blurry. But by wearing them, even structurally flawed eyeballs can resolve just as sharp an image as structurally flawless ones.
You can think of orthotics in almost exactly the same way.
Probably your feet have a busted spring, so the arches aren’t absorbing shocks properly. Or maybe you have some issues with joints that are hyper-mobile or out of alignment. Either way, it’s causing you a lot of pain.
If the structural problem is particularly severe, we could talk about doing a reconstructive surgery to help restore function and alignment—sort of the equivalent of getting LASIK for eyes, except a lot more invasive. For the vast majority of people, though, orthotics are going to be safest, most reliable, and overall best option.
The right pair of orthotics or arch supports will give your structurally flawed or misaligned feet that extra bit of cushioning, support, alignment, stability and “spring” that they need to do their jobs correctly.
Just like glasses, they won’t permanently fix a flat arch or other biomechanical issue—although your natural foot mechanics probably will improve to some degree as the orthotics “re-train” your gait patterns and strengthen your supporting muscles, tendons, and ligaments. But also like glasses, wearing them will help even a very structurally flawed or misaligned foot to operate normally and efficiently.
Good, Better, Best—Finding the Right Orthotic For You
So, after hearing about what orthotics can do for your feet and your overall physical wellbeing, you might be tempted to just go out and buy some “cushioned insoles” off the rack at your local pharmacy.
Well … you could do that, but we really don’t recommend it. We’re not saying it’s impossible you could find a pair that works for you, but it’s more likely you’ll find one that is either low quality, not the right fit, or not the right tool for what your feet really need. And then you’d just be wasting your money.
Instead, you should come down to our office, and we’ll help you find (or help you to adjust) the perfect set.
So, which type of orthotics do you need? The truth is that there is an incredible variety of different styles, shapes, and materials to choose from, but to keep it simple we like to talk about them in terms of three easy categories: good, better, and best.
- Good. Some people truly only need an over-the-counter orthotic—no special customization required. This might be the case for you if you only have mild-to-moderate pain or biomechanical concerns. Come to our office, and we’ll make sure you get the right pair for your needs, and we’ll fit it properly for you, too.
- Better. Maybe your over-the-counter orthotics are close to providing you complete relief, but not quite there. In this case, we can adjust and customize the set of prefabricated orthotics you already have to better fit your needs. It’s not quite the same as “full” custom orthotics but is an inexpensive middle ground that may work just as well for people with moderate biomechanical problems.
- Best. If you truly need custom orthotics to properly position and support your feet, we’ll help you get a custom pair, built from the ground up, to fit your feet as exactly as possible.
Why You Should Choose Us to Fit Your Orthotics
So now you know that you shouldn’t just buy an orthotic off the shelf at the local pharmacy. But why should you choose Sierra Foot & Ankle instead of another podiatric clinic?
Some of these will be “review” for those of you who read our last blog, but they’re worth repeating.
- Advanced digital scanning. Most foot and ankle specialists use a foam box method or plaster molds to fit their custom orthotics. By contrast, we can offer a full computerized gait analysis, high-resolution digital scanning, and 3-D printing—the same type of technology being used by professional athletes to create their custom orthotics. This allows us to get the most precise data and measurements possible.
- On-site laboratory. The only reason we can even offer the “better” option in our “good, better, best” services at all is because we have our own orthotics lab. This is how we’re able to make same-day, same-appointment precision adjustments to both prefabricated and custom orthotics.
- A commitment to putting our patients first. Even though we have all these awesome tools at our disposal, we will never try to push something on you that you don’t need. If all you need is a simple over-the-counter orthotic, then that’s what we’re going to tell you, and help you acquire. The most important thing is making sure you have a treatment option that works for you and makes sense for your lifestyle.
If your feet are hurting—and perhaps even causing pain throughout your entire body—get the care you need from Sierra Foot & Ankle in Carson City. You can reach our office at (775) 783-8037 or leave us a message using our contact form online.