Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What is an Orthotic?

Chances are you've heard of the word orthotic. If you're wondering exactly what a orthotic is, the dictionary isn't much help. Though an orthotic can be a brace or artificial limb, the word usually refers to an insert or insole a person wears in their shoe for extra support for their feet.

The orthotic is most often made of foam rubber, cork, plastic, leather or wool, even metal or some combination of these items. Orthotics/insoles cost as little as $30.00 to has high as $800.00. You can purchase a pair over the counter, at a shoe or athletic store, mail-order, or from a medical professional such as a physical therapist, chiropractor, podiatrist or pedorthist.

The over the counter pre-made types are self-explanatory. Custom orthotics are a different story and it is confusing to sort through the variety. There are several types of custom orthotics: pre-made then custom fitted, pre-made "blanks" that are heated and molded around the bottom of your foot, glued together components, or custom molded/custom made orthotics.

My specialty is the custom molded/custom made orthotic. There are four important parts to orthotics success.
  • The molding method of the orthotic (how the orthotic shape is determined).
  • The materials the orthotic is made of and the properties of those materials: shock absorption, flexibility, durability, etc.
  • Shoe fit and compatibility of the orthotic in the shoe.
  • The client's efforts to change gait and stance habits for the better.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Do You Need to Learn to Walk All Over Again?

If you're like most people you learned to walk somewhere between the ages of 1 to 3 and haven't thought much about it since. Sure, life can send you a curve ball and you may have hurt yourself and had difficulty walking at some time. But after you recovered you were back to normal. Any aches and pains that linger you may think of as inevitable signs of aging.

The good news is that you're younger than you think. Aches and pains may be a lot less inevitable than you think. Here's why: Most of us don't walk as well as we could. Walking seems simple enough. One foot in front of the other seems pretty obvious. But walking well isn't. How we walk is a lot less "natural" than we think. How we walk is influenced by both nature and nurture. Along with civilization came shoes and roads. The ever-changing surface of the earth under our feet is now most often a hard floor or sidewalk. Fashion dictates a shoe wardrobe that may be all wrong for your feet.

So how can you learn to walk well? How can you finally get comfortable on your feet? I'll cover the many answers to this question on this blog. For now, I have two tips for you:

1. Bend Your Knees - ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS keep your knees "soft". Don't straighten your leg mid-stride. Do this EVERY time you stand and through EVERY step you take.
2. Feet Straight -- Keeping your feet pointed straight forward when you stand and stride sets-up the alignment with the rest of your body. Think about driving a car with the wheels splayed out. It would cause a lot of unnecessary wear and tear. Keep your feet straight.

Randall Barna