I Can’t Stand My Orthotic Foot Supports– What Can I Do?

Almost every day people show up in my office with orthotics they just can’t wear. Some of these were made by doctors who claim that they are experts in making orthotics, and I often wonder how they would feel if they could see their patient showing up complaining about their work. From experience, I know that I have made my share of orthotics the people can’t wear. In fact, we offer 100% money back guarantee on orthotics because I know no matter how experienced or how much skill we put into making them, sometimes they just don’t work.

Austin Foot Doctor modifies orthotics for a custom fit.
Austin Foot Doctor modifies orthotics for a custom fit.

There are a couple things that I have learned from 30 years’ experience about the problems people have with orthotics.  If someone has a very rigid hard foot they usually cannot tolerate a hard orthotic –in fact, many adults have difficulty tolerating hard orthotics. It is also difficult for many people to run with a hard orthotic. Having said that, there are enough exceptions to those rules to make me sound like a liar, but as I said those are generalizations. If you have a tight Achilles tendon, which is the tendon of the major muscle complex in the back of your legs which propels you forward, that is a major cause of not being able to tolerate an orthotic. A tight Achilles tendon is also something you can do something about. Stretching your Achilles tendon may make an orthotic much more tolerable. Likewise, increasing the heel height of your shoe – which has the effect of loosening the Achilles tendon -will also often make an orthotic much easier to tolerate.

Some orthotics can be adjusted with a heat gun and some skill, and we do a lot of that. Even if after adjustment the orthotic doesn’t completely correct your problem it’s usually better to have something than nothing right?

Then there are those people with a completely flat foot. Their foot is like a pancake. They got an orthotic to try to support their foot but the orthotic presses up in the arch and it feels like they are walking on a rock or something. A high arch in the orthotic doesn’t fit their flat foot, but if the orthotic is made to fit their foot it will have no arch and won’t do anything. For this type of foot I make a totally flat insole which is angulated in such a way as to shim their foot. The device is basically flat so it does not press up on the arch but it rather tilts the whole foot. I have not seen one of these manufactured so I just make them in my office lab as they are needed. People with extremely flat feet usually have a very difficult time walking and they are incredibly appreciative of a simple device that allows them to walk with some comfort.

The making of orthotic foot supports I believe is as much an art as a science. If you work with a doctor who has an interest in this facet of foot care the results can be amazing!  If you want to know more about orthotics, visit our online library of foot problems.