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A Step in the Right Direction 
A Step in the Right DirectionAre your feet causing aches and pains in your legs and back? Do your shoes wear out quickly or unevenly? Since abnormal foot function causes pain in the leg, knee, hip and back as well as create imbalance issues, foot orthotics can help relieve stress on joints higher up and help body alignment.

Physical therapists at St. Francis Rehab & Sports Medicine are trained to evaluate a person’s gait and balance to determine the best treatment to reduce pain and correct foot and body imbalance.

"We assess gait, foot posture, and range of motion," explains Jason Haer, PT, OCS and lead Physical Therapist, "along with listening to subjective complaints to determine the proper type of orthotic. One example is a patient who had undergone several surgeries to his leg, resulting in one leg shorter than the other, causing a leg length difference, and a flat foot posture. He was having much pain and discomfort from his foot and ankle up the leg to his knee. He was a construction worker, doing a lot of standing on hard surfaces and ladders, and liked to play city league sports. Regular shoes were neither giving him enough support nor keeping his foot and ankle in the right position when he was on his feet. I was able to take an impression of his foot and orthotics were fabricated to improve his foot posture."

Feet have a direct impact on the rest of the body. Like the foundation of a house, feet support the weight of everything above them. When a small problem develops, subtle changes could occur in the way a person walks that causes a painful chain reaction in posture and body mechanics.

"Usually a family physician or orthopedic surgeon orders an evaluation for possible orthotics," Haer explained. "Once the evaluation indicates the need for orthotics, we take an impression of the patient’s foot and then send it to an orthotics laboratory."

From a sitting or non-weight-bearing position, a mold of the foot is made by pressing each individual foot into casting foam. The foam replica is sent to a laboratory for fabrication. Upon return (from two to four weeks), the patient is fitted with the new insole by a physical therapist to assure proper fit.

"Many problems can be fixed with proper foot support," Haer said. "Different insoles can be ordered for different shoes. It’s important to keep in mind the type of shoe and the type of activities."

Custom insoles can be fabricated to treat a variety of conditions and situations. They are useful for people who are required to stand on hard surfaces for extended periods of time. Athletes use them to optimize performance and enhance comfort. People with arthritic or diabetic foot conditions use them for comfort and protection.

According to Haer, custom fit orthotics do provide the best support. "Over-the-counter products don’t last as long as custom orthotics and are not as effective," he said.

For more information on custom orthotics or other services available at St. Francis Rehab & Sports Medicine, call (660) 562-7908.

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