If you suffer from consistent heel pain, you are no doubt interested in a consistent solution. Waking up every day with dread at the thought of your feet hitting the floor, or knowing that work day you’ll have to spend on your feet is going to make you pay afterward, is just not a great way to go through life.
There are a number of treatment options for heel pain, and the effectiveness of each is dependent upon the specific causes behind a painful heel condition, as well as the patient’s individual situation and needs.
One option that has proven effective for many heel pain patients is custom orthotics. But, just like many other forms of treatment, they will not be the best choice for everyone.
We will be discussing what makes custom orthotics work and how that applies to some heel pain patients over others. But before we do, it’s important to make one thing clear: If you have been suffering from chronic heel pain, there is something that can help you decrease or entirely eliminate your discomfort. It might be orthotics. It might be something else. But whatever it is, you shouldn’t delay in seeking a professional evaluation and treatment!
What Do Custom Orthotics Do?
Custom orthotic inserts can offer several different functions, depending on their type and prescription. They can:
- Provide additional cushioning in areas that are in need of it.
- Stabilize the foot against excessive motion (such as overpronation, the foot rolling too far inward while moving).
- Guide the structure of the foot and ankle toward a more correct and efficient alignment.
Custom orthotics can be prescribed in various shapes and compositions to accomplish these goals. Inserts made for cushioning and support will tend to be made of softer materials, while those made more for alignment and motion control tend to be firmer.
What Does This Have to Do with Heel Pain?
Many causes of heel pain center upon excess strain or pressure placed on a certain part of the foot. Plantar fasciitis, for example, can occur when too much strain on the plantar fascia along the underside of the foot causes microtears and inflammation in the tissue.
It is possible to cause this damage through sheer overuse (such as running constantly without giving your body enough recovery days). It is also possible, however, that an abnormality in the structure of your foot is leading to excess stress being placed upon the plantar fascia (or another area) as you move.
Flat feet are a common example of this, as the lack of arch on the foot can place significant strain in certain areas. This can place you at much higher risk for an overuse injury or other painful conditions.
Custom orthotics can be designed in such a way that areas facing excess stress can receive additional cushioning and shock absorption. They can also help align the foot in ways where weight is more evenly distributed across the foot—as it should be—and provide injured areas a better opportunity to recover and avoid future injury.
In other words, custom orthotics can help keep your feet in conditions where heel pain is less likely to manifest or intensify. With use, and perhaps with additional treatments including stretching and conditioning, heel pain can be significantly reduced or altogether eliminated.
Are Custom Orthotics a Permanent Solution?
While custom orthotics can provide corrective guidance and motion control to the feet, they will not correct the structure of the foot itself over time. You should not expect flat feet or other conditions to disappear after enough time in orthotics.
Also, while orthotics tend to be refurbished and adjusted over time, you should not expect to just “not need them anymore” one day. In many cases, only surgery may correct a structural problem, and more conservative treatments are always preferred if they are effective!
All that said, orthotics can be an important key in preventing already existing structural conditions from worsening, and that is an essential effect to have over time.
Is the “Custom” Part Important?
We know that there are inserts sold in stores and pharmacies, often next to machines you can step on. In the vast majority of cases, though, these “one size fits all” options are not going to provide as much support and relief as a custom-made pair.
Custom orthotics are literally prescribed for each patient’s feet, providing an exact shape and specific amounts of cushioning as needed. In our office, we use an advanced computer scanning system to capture the precise form of the foot, as well as conduct a thorough physical evaluation of your biomechanics (i.e. how you walk). This provides much more in-depth information than stepping on a pad.
Are Custom Orthotics What You Need?
If a structural imbalance in your feet is contributing to your heel pain, then custom orthotics may be able to counter that element effectively.
Sometimes custom orthotics may be the only element of a heel pain treatment plan. Physical therapy, changes in footwear, changes in workout routines, anti-inflammatory medications and even laser therapy might also be part of an ideal plan to help you recover and avoid further problems as quickly and effectively as possible. Or custom orthotics might not be anywhere to be found in our recommendations.
That’s because no two cases of heel pain are exactly alike. Each may require different approaches to treatment depending upon what exactly is at the source of the pain.
And that’s why we’re here! If heel pain has been persistently plaguing you and nothing has made it better, don’t keep waiting. Contact our Enid office at (580) 237-3338 and take the first steps toward finding the relief you deserve!
And if you would like to learn more about heel pain causes and treatments, you should request our free guide: Heel Pain 101. It contains plenty more information and tips to finding comfort!