There are some websites claiming: “We make soft, flexible orthotics that promote the natural motion of the foot”. I suggest most of these can be classed as “placebo-thotics” and you’ve just wasted several hundred dollars on something as ineffective at fixing your problem as an off-the-shelf device from the chemist, or over the internet. We have a bucket full of these in our office from patients which we have had to replace with something more effective, as they weren’t able to support the patient’s foot properly and the patient had little improvement in symptoms or function as a consequence.
The important thing is that the stiffness of the shell needed is relative to your weight and your activity.
We frequently see orthotics coming in with an arch that can be flattened with a few kilograms of thumb pressure. Imagine how effective that is for any walker (one to two times body weight on foot impact) or runner (three to four times body weight on impact). An average running patient with hypermobile feet weighing between 60 and 80 kgs is placing 180 to 320kgs of force through each foot at impact. So, if your soft orthotics are helping, you can probably modify your running technique and you probably don’t need orthotics at all, or maybe just an off the shelf device.
The other major cause of a lot of secondary problems is having a LEG LENGTH DISCREPANCY. This is missed by most health professionals, as I have experienced firsthand. My own 13mm short left leg was missed by three experienced physiotherapists, two podiatrists and two sports physicians as a teenage distance runner.
We will run through a series of checks to see whether you may have an actual difference (as opposed to a functional one from a twisted pelvis or one lower arch), and then organise to refer you a proper accurate leg length measurement. Sadly, many patients with a long history of foot, Achilles, calf, knee, hip or back/neck problems have had their leg length difference missed.
At Sydney Sports Podiatry, we use in our opinion the best and most technical orthotic laboratory in Australia (Orthotech in Melbourne), and have one of the highest re-order rates in Australia and hence we frequently hear: “Yes, it’s really helped so can I have a second pair please”. Let’s face it: No one wants a second pair if it isn’t working…