Orthotics Are For All Ages
“Orthotics? Aren’t those for old people?”
Well, first off, age is only a number.
Orthotics are perhaps the single most versatile tools that a podiatrist has in his or her toolkit in order to help folks from all walks of life eliminate their pain, reduce their risk of injury, improve their biomechanics (and even athletic performance!), and live life to the absolute fullest.
They are for all ages. We’ve fit them for 5-year-olds, and we’ve fit them for centenarians. And if you’re currently suffering from foot pain—or even pain in the legs or back related to poor biomechanics or posture—there’s a great chance they can help you too.
Let’s get to the heart of the matter.
Giving Your Feet What They’ve Been Missing
There are tons of different diagnoses out there that can be managed or treated using orthotics—chronic heel pain, flat feet, gait abnormalities, arthritis, sports injuries, neuromas, wounds, and a bunch more.
But when you get right down to it, the fundamental problem in all of these cases is that your feet just aren’t quite doing what they should, or aren’t able to cushion the weight of your steps evenly and effectively.
Often, that’s due to structural issues with the way the feet themselves are shaped, or the way that the joints move. Other contributing factors might include being overweight (more weight = more pressure on the feet), or having very active jobs or hobbies.
What orthotics do, in simple terms, is give your feet the extra arch support, shock absorption, and motion and stability control that they’ve been missing.
If you think that orthotics are just “cushioned pads” for your feet, think again. Maybe that’s all you’ll get from a cheap pair of “arch supports” or “insoles” from the drugstore. But the orthotics that you can get from your podiatrist are capable of so much more.
Orthotics are made to fit a wide variety of foot shapes. They’re made from all kinds of materials—from soft foam to semi-rigid graphite to hard plastic. They’re designed to address a wide variety of painful conditions. That’s why they’re so versatile.
Why Would A Child Need Orthotics?
Obviously, it’s not just working-age folks and senior citizens who may develop foot flaws that can benefit from orthotic correction. Kids can have foot problems, too.
That being said, kids are often a special case.
An older adult, for example, might be more likely to develop the need for orthotics over time, after years of wear and tear have contributed to chronic pain or an acquired deformity (such as a bunion or hammertoes).
Kids, though, are usually (although certainly not always) too young to develop that kind of damage—though very active teen athletes and kids who are significantly overweight might experience the kinds of problems more common in adults.
When we prescribe orthotics for children, the most common reason is an inherited structural problem with their feet—and within that category, flat feet are the most likely culprit.
In actual fact, almost everyone is born with flat feet. It takes time for the arches to fully form and become rigid (rather than flattening when bearing weight). For most kids, this happens around ages 4-6.
However, some kids simply never develop a full arch, and as they further develop their walking and running skills, the lack of that support can lead to pain in their feet, ankles, knees, hips, and even lower back.
Keeping Up With Your Orthotics
Most parents don’t need a whole lot of explanation to understand why their child might need orthotics for a genetic foot issue.
In many ways, it’s a lot like getting a pair of glasses. In either case, your child has a body part that isn’t able to function at 100% on its own. But when wearing their glasses (or orthotics), function is restored and that body part can operate again without any issues.
There is one thing that makes orthotics a little trickier for kids though, and that’s the fact that their feet are still growing. While a solid pair of custom orthotics for an adult might last years if they are well maintained, kids can outgrow theirs fast.
So yes, in those first few years, you may need to come back into our office a couple of times per year so that we can examine, and possibly replace, your little one’s orthotics. Fortunately, we do carry a selection of low-cost prefabricated orthotics for children, and kids typically do quite well with them.
Will I Need Orthotics For the Rest of My Life?
Some kids and even some adults do outgrow their need for orthotics over time. Kids may just need more time for their feet and bodies to grow and develop properly. And if the orthotics were prescribed for a specific injury (rather than a structural foot flaw), they may no longer be needed after your pain goes away.
That all being said, chances are good that orthotics will continue to be required for the foreseeable future—no matter your current age. Just like glasses, orthotics don’t really fix your foot structure. They just enable them to operate without pain. If you have flat feet, those aren’t just going to go away after wearing orthotics for a few years.
But again, the glasses analogy is useful here. Did you know that almost three quarters of Americans wear some kind of corrective lenses for their vision? If you currently wear corrective lenses, you might remember a few days or weeks of awkwardness and discomfort when you first started wearing them. But after a while, they just become second nature—a normal, comfortable, part of life that you just don’t really have to think about.
So it goes with orthotics. It might be a little weird getting used to them, especially if they’ve altered your posture or walking gait. But soon they start to become normal and even comfortable. Swapping them in and out of shoes just becomes something you do. You don’t really think about it anymore.
And of course, your feet—and even your whole body—will feel a lot better thanks to your new posture and improved stability!
You can even find plenty of examples of elite athletes (LeBron James, Serena Williams, and others) who have worn custom orthotics during competition in order to help them perform their best and reduce their risk of injury.
Orthotics are for everyone, and are not going to hold you back—they’re going to help propel you forward, no matter what you want to do in life!
No Matter Your Age, Get the Care You Need
During your initial visit with Comprehensive Foot Centers, we’ll perform a thorough physical examination and take a close look at your foot structure and biomechanics. Of course, we’ll also discuss your symptoms with you, your medical history, and other information that would be relevant to a diagnosis and prescribing treatment.
From there, we can help you determine if orthotics is an appropriate treatment for your situation, and if so what kid—over-the-counter arch supports or custom orthotics.
While orthotics is an extremely versatile treatment that is appropriate for a wide variety of conditions, our job isn’t to “sell” you on one particular treatment or product. It’s to make sure you get the care you actually need for your condition and your lifestyle.
So if your feet are hurting, don’t wait any longer to make the call. Let’s get you the care you need. To schedule an appointment at any of our six convenient locations, just give us a call at (816) 455-1155. You can also request an appointment online.