Orhotics are medical devices that are placed into your existing shoes (or you can have them made specifically for a new pair of shoes). They are used to support your feet and correct any improper gait (walking) patterns we have developed. By fixing someone's improper biomechanics in their feet / knees and hips, orthotics can be used to treat many different conditions including: plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, knee pain, low back pain and flat feet. They can also be used to reduce fatigue for people who are standing for long periods of time on hard surfaces (construction / factory workers).
So let's say you or your doctor have decided that you would benefit from a pair of orthotics. Who should you see and how do you know they are trained to properly assess your feet and fit you for orthotics? It's important to go to someone who has been educated to assess your post and gait biomechanics. You have options including Chiropractors, Podiatrists, Chiropodists, Orthotists or Pedorthists. When being examined they should be assessing the movements in your feet / ankles, knees, hips and even low back. They should assess your arch height to determine if you have low, high or normal arches. The way you walk should be assessed to determine if you roll in (pronate) or roll out (supinate). While it's much more common to see pronators it's important to do a full examination to determine each person's individual need and to make sure you do not miss anything. Once you have been assessed and your orthotics are made, they should be dispensed by the health practitioner to make sure they fit into your shoes properly and if not to make any necessary changes. The number one reason people say that their orthotics did not help them was because they took them out of their shoes because they were uncomfortable. Orhotics can only work to help people if they fit properly and are comfortable.
Orthotics can be extremely beneficial for people and the difference between daily foot and lower leg pain and no pain. But it's important to make sure what you are wearing is going to help by having a regulated health practitioner examine and correctly fit you for your pair of truly custom orthotics. Without this you may be using orthotics or insoles that are not improving your foot function or potentially even making it worse by exaggerating improper foot / ankle biomechanics.