Best foot forward: Orthotics

Are you aware that each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles and tendons? Did you know that a quarter of the bones in our body are in our feet and during your life they will carry you an average of four times around the globe. The human foot is a marvel of engineering combining both mechanical complexity with structural strength and deals with enormous pressure while still providing flexibility and resilience. When one or more parts of the foot do not work properly however, they need some help or the body will compensate further up the kinetic chain in the only way it can, by crying out in pain.

The human foot was originally designed to walk on soft, natural surfaces like earth, grass, sand etc. We now walk on hard flat surfaces like concrete pavements that force our feet to flatten and twist. Also, modern shoes are more often dictated by fashion than comfort and little thought has been given to the natural movement of the feet during the walking process.Foot orthotics are specifically designed inserts which help restore the natural position of the foot and prevent damaging compensation in other joints, muscles and ligaments thus reducing or eliminating pain. When analysing the feet for orthotics, it is important to consider all the factors that may be contributing to symptoms, such as muscle tightness or joint flexibility and this is where a biomechanical specialist is necessary.

Insoles that can be purchased “over-the-counter” should not be confused with prescription made orthotics, and often contribute to more problems than they solve. The secret to making orthotics that give you exactly the right bio-mechanical correction is to take accurate measurements of the way you walk and it takes the power of the 21st Century computer to make orthotics this perfect. A special mat with 960 electronic sensor points is connected to a computer and as you walk across it, the mat scans your feet in motion, at 30 times per second. This takes incredibly precise measurements of the way your feet touch the ground and how you distribute your body weight, producing instant 2D and 3D graphic images of your feet which can be transferred straight to the orthotic manufacturer. Their sophisticated diagnostic software prepares a comprehensive and detailed gait analysis report which is then used to make thin, lightweight and very unobtrusive custom made orthotics.

Estelle Mitchell, widely considered as Spain’s leading specialist on the biomechanics of the foot, makes the point that “At some point, 75% of the population will suffer from foot-related problems which often results in pain or discomfort in the feet, ankles, knees, hips or back and yet just 2% will ask their doctor about it. Many people think they have to live with it, or hope it will just go away. It will not go away and will generally get worse!  Prescriptive orthotics treat the underlying cause of the pain thus preventing future occurrences of the condition. Pain is not a necessity!”

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This post is also available in: Spanish

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