Ankle and foot orthotics, known as AFOs, are custom-made inserts. They are shaped and contoured to fit inside a shoe and used to correct an irregular walking gait or provide cushioning. Orthotics come in a variety of different models and sizes, including over the counter and customizable variants. Customizable ones should be prescribed through a podiatrist who specializes in customized footwear and orthotics design and management.
AFOs are often used by athletes including track and field runners, cyclists, professional dancers, ice skaters, and even golfers. They benefit a lot from custom made AFOs by preventing injuries from occurring and providing cushioning to keep pain levels down to a minimum. Ankle foot orthotics allows for the correct positioning of the feet. Orthotics also act as shock absorbers to help keep pressure and stress off the foot and ankle. They can also relieve back pain and hip pain while restoring balance and improving an athlete’s performance.
Orthotics help alleviate pain by controlling the movement of both your feet and ankles. They are custom designed by a podiatrist to help treat foot problems. These problems include flat feet, spurs, arthritis of the ankle or foot, ankle sprains, weakness, and drop foot, a condition in which the patient cannot raise their foot at the ankle joint.
With custom orthotics, a patient will go through a complete examination of the foot and ankle. This is followed by the ankle and foot being cast and fitted for the proper orthotic. Depending upon the final result of the tests, a stretching treatment is created with the specific shoe fitting in mind. After a patient has been fitted to the shoes, adjustments can be made in order to get the perfect fit. Evaluations are then usually set up to monitor the patient in the coming weeks to see how they are adjusting.
AFOs are also available over the counter and are more common than custom fit ones. Athletes that have generally low aches and pains in the foot, ankle, or lower back area can use an over the counter version of these orthotics. Weight is distributed evenly throughout the bottom of the foot thanks to the arch support they give. However, when an injury or ailment occurs, it is usually not enough to try and remedy it with an over the counter version. In either case, a podiatrist will be able to offer the best advice and treatment when it comes to foot and ankle orthotics.
During your lifetime, you will probably walk about 75,000 miles, which is quite a lot of stress to put on your feet. As you get older, the 26 bones and 30 joints in each of your feet will lose flexibility and elasticity. Your foot’s natural shock absorbers will wear down as well. Having arthritis added to this mix only makes matters worse. Your joints will become distorted and inflamed, which is why arthritic foot care needs to be something to think about every day.
When dealing with arthritis, having additional foot complications, such as bunions, hammertoes, or neuroma, can be a serious detriment. To avoid these, buy well-fitting shoes with a lower heel and good support. Arthritis causes you to lose your arch, so having shoes with good arch support is also highly recommended.
Aside from getting good arch support, the shoes need to fit comfortably and properly as well. A good place to start is by leaving a finger width between the back of the shoe and your foot to gauge proper size. It is also helpful to have a square or rounded toe box in the front to provide even more comfort. Another thing to look for is a rubber sole that can provide a cushion and absorb shock as you walk. This adds flexibility to the ball of your foot when you push off your heel to walk.
Exercise is another key aspect of arthritic foot care. Exercise not only strengthens and stretches your muscles and joints, but helps to prevent further injury and pain as well. Stretching the Achilles tendon, the tendon located in the back of your heel, will give you added mobility and reduce pain due to stress. Another thing you can do is massage your feet, kneading the ball of your foot as well as your toes from top to bottom.
Stretching the Achilles tendon is a simple exercise that you can do at home anytime. Lean against the wall with your palms flat against the surface while placing one foot forward, towards the wall, and one foot behind you. Bend your forward knee towards the wall while keeping your back knee locked straight, and make sure both your heels are completely touching the ground at all times. This will stretch your Achilles tendon and calf muscles as well. You will feel the stretch almost immediately. You can also stretch your toes in a couple ways. One involves taking a rubber band and wrapping it around both your big toes while your heels remain together. Then, pull them apart to stretch your big toe. You can also place a rubber band around all the toes of one of your feet. Then, try to separate each individual toe, stretching them all.
A final step you can take to help your arthritis is taking non-steroid, non-inflammatory drugs or topical medicines with capsaicin. Unfortunately, there is no complete way to remove all of your arthritic pain. However, following some of this advice can go a long way in staying as pain-free as possible.