With a densely packed lakefront, some of the most walkable neighborhoods in America, and a proudly blue collar identity, Chicago denizens spend a lot of time on their feet. While we wouldn’t trade it for anything, there’s an unfortunate side effect: the ceaseless hard, flat pavement and floors of everyday living aren’t necessarily the best companion for our feet.
Feet come in many shapes and sizes, and walking gaits vary in terms of stride length, the degree the feet and ankles roll at impact, and more. Some feet are better at cushioning and evenly distributing the force of standing and walking, but some aren’t quite as effective. When feet with structural flaws or gait abnormalities hit the pavement, they can wear down quickly, leading to pain, injury, and in time even deformities like bunions or hammertoes. In such situations, custom orthotics are often the best solution to help you regain active, pain-free living.
How Orthotics Work
A good way to think about orthotics is that they’re like eyeglasses or contacts for your feet. Glasses, of course, don’t actually make your eyes work any better. But when you put on a pair with the correct prescription, they bend the incoming light so that your eyes are able to see things just as sharply as someone with perfect vision.
Feet are the same. With a few exceptions, you’re basically stuck with whatever feet you inherited, whether they work efficiently or not. But when you put on the correct pair of orthotics, the inserts step in to provide the extra shock absorption, arch support, weight distribution, and even joint and motion stability your feet need. As with glasses, orthotics don’t “fix” your feet, but they allow them to function normally and without pain.
What Kinds of Conditions Can Be Treated by Orthotics?
Not everybody with foot pain will necessarily need orthotics. However, those with structural or biomechanical flaws in their feet or gait can often derive significant benefits from orthotics, especially if they have active hobbies or work on their feet. Orthotics are a very versatile treatment method that can be effective for a wide variety of conditions, including heel pain, arch pain, ankle instability, sports injuries, deformities like bunions and hammertoes, and even as a preventative tool for ulcers and other diabetic foot complications. Because they put your feet in better alignment—and feet are the foundation of the body—they may also relieve pain throughout the legs, knees, hips, and back, too.
Custom vs. Prefabricated: What’s the Difference?
You’ve probably seen, heard about, or maybe even used cushioned insoles that can be bought online or at pharmacies or grocery stores. Although they belong to the same category of treatment, this isn’t really what we mean when we talk about custom orthotics.
Unlike off-the-shelf alternatives, custom orthotics are specially made in a laboratory just for you. When you visit our office, we’ll place your feet in the proper position and create custom molds that will form the shell of your new orthotics. Because they are made this way—rather than mass-produced to fit a handful of common foot types—they can provide a much higher level of relief and can be used to treat a wider variety of conditions. They are also much more durable than simple inserts and may be at least partially covered by insurance, which means the price difference between custom orthotics and store inserts isn’t as large as it might seem in the long run.
That said, our goal is always to provide the best care to our patients, as simply as possible. We won’t recommend anything if you don’t need it. When you visit our office, we’ll carefully evaluate your feet to determine whether a custom orthotic would be best, or if a prefabricated insert would be sufficient for your case. Then, we’ll make sure you get the correct device so that it helps you, rather than hurts you.
Comprehensive Foot Care in Garfield Ridge
From custom orthotics to physical therapy and other forms of conservative and surgical care, Dr. Daniel J. Walters serves Chicagoland residents with comprehensive foot and ankle care and family service. Our team understands how healthy, pain-free feet are a critical component of active, happy lifestyles. This is particularly true for emergency services personnel, which is why we offer a 10% discount to all police, fire, and EMT workers.
To set an appointment and see how we can help you with your foot pain, give us a call at (773) 586-0050. The best times to reach us are Mondays between 10:45 and 4:45, or Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:45 to 1:15 and again from 4:30 to 7.