As we get older the connective tissue in our feet stretch out which leads to flat feet or another way to put it "fallen arches". The arches in your feet support your body weight and in a way act as a shock absorber. There are 2 arches in each foot, the longitudinal arch and the metatarsal arch.
The longitudinal arch is the arch that runs from the ball of the feet to the heel and is what most people consider the arch of the feet.
The metatarsal arch runs along the balls of your feet from your big toe to your little toe.
As you start losing the arches in your feet certain conditions can develop:
- plantar fasciitis
- foot pain
- medial knee pain
- low back pain
I wear orthotics myself and I look for 5 features described below to determine if the orthotic is worthy to be under my feet .
The 5 features to look for in a orthotic
1. A supportive heal cup
A supportive heal cup will keep your foot positioned correctly in the orthotic. The heal cup looks like raised edges surrounding your heel.
2. Good support for the longitudinal arch
This sounds obvious but there are many orthotics that although they may support the longitudinal arch they are not high enough to place your foot in a neutral position. The best way to determine if you have good arch support is to have a professional observe you while wearing your orthotics.
3. Good support for the metatarsal arch
This feature is many times nonexistent on many orthotics. Again the best way to determine if you have good metatarsal arch support is to have a professional observe you while wearing your orthotics.
4. Semi rigid orthotic
This feature is a little like the story of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears where you want the orthotic to be "just right". A hard orthotic has great support and will last a very long time unfortunately you may find it very difficult to ever get used to them. A soft orthotic may support you at the beginning but after a while it loses its support. I recommend the semi rigid orthotics that have good support and will last for years and they are easy to get accustomed to.
I know I am going to get nasty letters from podiatrists and other doctors who feel that a custom orthotic is the best way to go and they will charge you a pretty penny to create custom orthotics for you.
For the vast majority of cases I see for patients with conditions arising from fallen arches like plantar fasciitis, knee pain and low back pain a custom orthotic is not necessary. A good orthotic with the 5 features I describe will be your "best bang for the buck".