The 9 Steps That Any Person Considering Buying Foot Orthotics MUST Take Before They Enter Their Credit Card PIN!…
Step 1 – “Know The Reason”…There
MUST Always Be A Reason AND A Goal For
If you don’t know the precise reason WHY you’re wanting to wear orthotics, then no matter what type of orthotics you choose, or who you buy them off, they’re unlikely to work for you and you will be left unhappy at the end. One of the main reasons for an unhappy client who’s bought orthotics is that they, and their Physio or chiropractor, weren’t clear of the SPECIFIC reason for wearing them.
In other words there was no end goal.
Such as to ease back pain, to stop ankle pain, to reduce Achilles tendon pain or lower the damage being done to knee joints that are wearing because of playing lots of golf or walking and even running on hard surfaces. Often people will kid themselves that wearing a foot orthotic however accurate it is, how ever made for you it is, will conquer anything…everything…something.
It’s my experience that it doesn’t and that is the number one failing that any person can make when thinking of buying orthotics.
Step 2 – Be Careful Who You Buy Them From
You wont need me to tell you that there are “good guys” and “bad guys” out there. And although not nice to think of it, the same is true of the health industry. Problem is when in comes to something like wearing orthotics, it’s your health that is at stake if you choose to buy from the “bad guys”.
And it’s often the case that most healthcare professionals are not inherently “bad” people, they’re just not always accurate with the advice that they dispense. And when it comes to buying orthotics, that’s going to cost you BIG if you choose someone who only gave ‘half bat’ advice. I’ve seen it first hand when I worked in private hospitals, that some physios just didn’t know what they were doing or why they were recommending orthotics.
More often than not, I’d see physios “recommending” orthotics not because of any intended financial gain (for them or the hospital), but purely because they didn’t know what else to do.
They’d exhaust all of their other options. And if their patient wasn’t getting any better with their other methods, they’d bring out the orthotics “card”. As if that would cure all and would often be the physios own attempt to cover up their lack of knowledge.
For the record: If your physio or chiropractor recommends orthotics having exhausted all other routes, he’s tried loads of sessions and given you every exercise and then tries to convince you the reason your problem won’t go away is because your foot is out of sync and you need orthotics, then RUN out of their office as fast as possible.
Step 3 – Choose Orthotics With A Lifetime Guarantee
One of the things that stops some people dead in their tracks when they’re thinking of buying orthotics that are custom made, is the cost.
But it’s not really the cost. It’s the “what if I pay all this money and they either break, or they stop working” that they’re really worried about. In other words they don’t want to pay out and then feel “ripped off ”. And I totally get that. But there is a way round this issue. And not a lot of people know this, but if you opt for PRESCRIPTION Orthotics, which are made using a 3d laser scanner, from a reputable supplier, who is likely to be still around for a few years to come, then it’s impossible for this to be an obstacle.
And here’s why:
Prescription Foot Orthotics DO come with a lifetime guarantee that the ones you buy won’t crack or break, or even stop working. The only thing you should ever have to pay for is a new padding on the top to keep them comfy. And that should cost you no more than £40-50 ($65-70) every 2-3 years or so. That’s just to keep them feeling soft. Some people never need to do this. But in reality, you’d have to pay for new insoles for shoes if they went thin or flat so it’s the same thing and just keeps them comfortable.
Step 4 – Avoid The Old Fashioned Stand On
Foot Plates And Only Choose Prescription
Another type of foot orthotic that you should “watch out” for and preferably avoid is known as “customised” rather than the real “custom” (prescription) ones. The name makes it confusing but these orthotics can be difficult to distinguish from proper custom foot orthotics (prescription) and, unfortunately, are sometimes marketed or sold as authentic custom foot orthotics (prescription).
They are often the product of a computerised system where the patient is asked to walk across a force plate which then shows pressure distribution on a computer display. Typically, the orthotic is made by adding extra components to a pre-manufactured insole. Sadly, patients are often told that these are custom – and charged a custom orthotic price.
So how can you tell the difference between customised orthotics and authentic (prescription) custom foot orthotics? If you are receiving authentic custom orthotic devices, a three-dimensional image of your foot will be taken. Walking or standing on a force plate can be used to evaluate some aspects of foot function, but a force plate CANNOT capture the 3-dimensional impressions of your feet that are necessary for best outcomes. Remember, if there is no 3d impression, it can’t be a custom orthotic.
If in ANY doubt, just ask for “prescription orthotics”.
Step 5 – Get A Full Body Analysis That
Checks All The Other Joints Too
What a lot of people fail to take into account when they’re buying foot orthotics is that they’re about to make a BIG change (to their body). And it’s going to happen in a fast way. And whenever that sort of “big” change happens, you’ve got to be aware of the knock on effect that will inevitably occur.
Let me explain it like this: If I make a change to the landscape for which the foundations of my house are resting on, then it’s going impact the first floor, second floor and even the position of the roof of my house.
So before I went ahead and started digging around underneath my house, because I wouldn’t want the whole lot to come crashing down, I’d need to thoroughly check that everything “up top” (above the foundations) was ready and able to cope with the change I was about to make.
And is it any different with your body? Absolutely NOT. If you’re making changes to the position of your feet, then it will change the position of everything above it. And that’s often the goal. But if you get it wrong, or make a change to something that didn’t need changing or wasn’t ready for the change, then orthotics are just going to make the situation a 100x worse.
And it baffles me that some people will chose to buy orthotics from so called “foot experts” when most of the time the problems that they’ve got are actually else where on their body. How would a “foot specialist” be able to confidently recognise and diagnose a problem with a bad back? Or a knee problem? Of course they will “feel around” but they’re often in the dark looking.
So not only do you need a full check of EVERY joint and part of your body that you’re likely to be changing, it must first be done by someone who does that for a living i.e. a Physio or a chiropractor. This should be done by hand, should include a full review of your medical history, current symptoms and previous injuries.
And when that full body check is done, the expert you’ve chosen should be matching all of that information up with what the 3-d laser scanner is saying, as well as YOUR END GOAL and only then, deciding if you’re a right fit for orthotics and that you will benefit from wearing them.
Step 6 – Avoid The Temptation For
“Off The Shelf ” Products
Off-the-shelf orthotics (often called arch supports) are usually found in retail stores like Boots or local pharmacies, sport stores, shoe stores and online stores. They are NON-custom devices designed to provide gentle support to the arch of the foot and help spread weight more evenly along the bottom of the foot. They are sometimes called “prefabricated orthotics.”
There are many different arch supports on the market. Like everything else, some are better than others. And one brand might work well for your feet while another brand works well for your friend’s feet. “Quality” off-the-shelf orthotics usually cost £50.00 – £75.00 ($75-$100) but the problem with these types of inserts for shoes is two fold.
First, they don’t have a very long “shelf life”. So the chances are that you’ll be replacing them “hand over fist” so to speak and in the end it’s going to cost way more than the price of buying prescription. But worse than that: They’re not made for you. So there’s no guarantee they’ll fit and if they don’t fit they’re unlikely to work. If they’re off the shelf that means you and me could buy the same pair. And therefore (at least) one of us has to be wearing a pair that doesn’t fit properly.
So you now know that doing it this way means they’re unlikely to fit. That means they won’t work (like you hope) and you already know that they won’t/can’t last. So if you want orthotics that ARE going to have the desired effect (achieving your goal), will fit (you : and only you), that will last (your lifetime), then this step must be adhered too.
Step 7 – Choose “Hard” Orthotics
Some over-the-counter orthotics and ones made from “stand on” foot plates are made from soft materials that go flat as soon as you step on them. These are the ones you want to avoid. Instead, go with ones that are made from plastic polymer or a hard plastic, as these are more rigid and offer greater support underfoot.
Another option is going with a moldable insole that blends the best of both over the counter and custom-fit orthotics. These allow you to mold the precise shape of your foot using heat treatment. The problem with moldable orthotics, however, is that if you don’t get a proper imprint, your insoles will be virtually useless.
This step is important because there’s the temptation to think that the soft type will be more comfortable. And sure, they will be, at first. But after a while they lose the ability to hold your body in place, like they’re designed too. Thus, they’re not going to work nor are they going to last.
With the hard option, if you “wear them in” in the correct manner like I’m about to explain, then you will get used to the “firmness” and be thankful in the long run that you c hose this option.
Step 8 – Follow Up Every Two Years
One of the most important parts of orthotics that fit, work and last is the appropriate follow-up. If you have a problem with your orthotic fit, function, comfort, your physio or chiropractor must be able to diagnose and correct these concerns. Your body may change naturally over this time and other concerns may arise that may or may not be as simple as a slight correction to the orthotic.
But either way you’ll know by asking the question every two years. It’s unlikely that the orthotic will have changed shape or position, more likely is that YOU will have and one or two minor alterations will need to happen to the orthotic. But if you buy prescription, and that is needed, you shouldn’t be out of pocket for doing that.
And besides, if you’ve got a good relationship with your physio or chiropractor and you’re health conscious enough to be popping by now and again for a “top up” on your health – you can have that chat with him or her any time you visit.
Step 9 – Ease In Gently
Many Physios and Chiropractors skip over this bit.
It’s as if once they’ve done the “deal” or sale, they’re not interested anymore. And I’ve heard from some people who’ve bought orthotics and stopped wearing them after 3 weeks because they thought they were making their problems worse, who years later realised that nobody had told them exactly how to wear them or break them in. And that initially some problems are expected.
But one of the key factors to your new orthotics working and lasting is your breaking in period. And this can last anything up to 3-4 weeks. From this far I can’t give you specifics, because each person is different but as a general rule I usually advise my patients that they should just start with wearing their new orthotics once per day for a maximum of two hours in the first week.
Then up into 4 hours in the second week, 6 hours in the third week and then by week four, as much as 8 hours per day. That’s a “breaking in” period that is realistic and sensible. And avoids any unwanted and nasty pains as a result of the obvious changes you’re making.
If your feet are uncomfortable, remove the orthotics for about half an hour, then re-insert. The golf ball exercise is a simple way to speed the adaptation process. Sit with a golf ball under your bare foot. Roll the ball with as much pressure as is comfortable from the front of your foot to the back, and along the arches and outer edges. Do this for up to five minutes per foot, twice a day, to speed adaptation. If discomfort persists beyond two to four weeks, let us know and we will rectify the problem.
Your own Physio or Chiropractor should work with you to ensure that your orthotics are comfortable and are relieving your symptoms.
Conclusion And Recap:
So there you have it, 9 steps that if you follow faithfully will leave you with a pair of orthotics that FIT, WORK AND LAST And Most definitely WILL NOT Fail inside 3 months.
Here’s a quick recap of each:
1.) Know the reason – remember there absolutely MUST be an end goal you’re hoping to achieve
2.) Check the credibility, history and background of the person you’re buying from. If there’s a problem, are they still going to be there when you need to talk to them?
3.) Choose prescription orthotics and ask about the lifetime guarantee that SHOULD come with them
4.) Do not “stand on” a footplate. There must be a 3-d scan involved to guarantee that your orthotics are made perfectly to match your feet
5.) There must be a “full body analysis” and check up. If all that they’re doing is checking your feet, you’re going to be left disappointed and they’re not the kind of “specialists” you should be dealing with
6.) Avoid buying off the shelf – they’re made for everyone but in reality help no one
7.) Always chose a hard orthotic over soft – the latter may feel more comfortable at first, but the harder product you will get used to and will last much longer
8.) Go and talk about your body and health every two years – it’s more likely you will change than your orthotics
9.) Ease in gently – there must be a very sequential easing in phase. Start with 2 hours per day and then build on that
For More information please visit www.paulgoughphysio.com/custom-orthotics-inserts
Or call and speak to a Physio about the possibility of you wearing Prescription Foot Orthoitcs that WILL fit, work and last (your lifetime). Use 01429 866771.
Specialist Physio Clinics : Darlington – Durham – Guisborough – Hartlepool
Tel: 01429 866771
You might know Paul as an expert Columnist who writes weekly health articles for TWO of the North East's biggest daily Newspapers, The Northern Echo And The Hartlepool Mail, he is a regular Speaker at Industry Seminars around the globe and a Radio Personality, often heard on the BBC. Paul has been an expert guest on dozens of Radio shows and regularly interviewed in newspapers, magazines and trade journals all over the world, including the Guardian.
Paul’s background included working extensively in the Premier League with a Top Professional Football Team, and since quitting his job in Professional Football in 2007, his Physio Practice has become the fastest growing in the UK and biggest in the North East. So successful, that companies like BUPA, ASDA, The Vela Group And Coast & Country, repeatedly retain his Physio company's services to keep healthy their own staff and workforce. Paul Gough Physio Rooms is now a large multi-physio, multi clinic speciality practice in Darlington, Durham, Guisborough and Hartlepool.
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