Custom Orthotics—a Functional Look at Your Foundation
The “Barefoot Movement” brought about, in part, by the popular book “Born To Run” by Christopher MacDougall and the Paleo/Cross-Fit genres has been sweeping the circles of athletes and weekend warriors alike over the last decade. As the theory goes, we are designed to be endurance runners and training barefoot (in particular, running as our hunting predecessors did) acts to strengthen the muscles of our feet and ankles, which actually helps to decrease injuries.
As a result of this movement/theory, we have seen a shift in athletic footwear move from highly supportive and corrective shoes to much more minimal designs with less of an attempt to correct foot stability issues.
For a small percentage of the population, this is a good shift and barefoot running is a fantastic form of developing strength and endurance while minimizing injuries (with proper adaptation of running form). For most of the population, however, this lack of footwear/support does not work as well. One of the main reasons for this is that most of the population is not spending as much time developing the strength and stability needed to attain endurance runner status. With the advent of technology and the 40+ hour work week, we are no longer spending our days running from predators—we are sitting in chairs that cause atrophy in our endurance muscles and other muscular imbalances from head to toe. This is the reality--most people are not spending 15-20+ hours a week developing their fitness. Therefore, some form of foot support is required during the active, weight-bearing periods in order to enhance the biomechanics for our entire skeleton. This can be achieved through proper footwear and in some cases, stabilizing custom orthotics.
Custom orthotics act to correct and/or support an unstable foundation. When constructing a building, great care is taken to provide a solid, level foundation, right? Over time, the Earth can shift and that foundation is susceptible to cracking, moving, and becoming unlevel. This same theory can be applied to our foundation--our feet! As we learn to walk in the early stages of life, there are many factors that play a role in the development of our “foundation”. Some of these include: genetics, the specific and individual anatomy of the bones in the feet and ankles, our first footwear (or lack thereof), and the myriad experiences we encounter that cause us to fall on our tailbone from time to time. It is this latter, recurring factor which is postulated to eventually contribute to the development of what is known as the “short leg syndrome”.
Repeated falling onto the pelvis can lead to issues with alignment of the bones that make up the pelvis. Many years of uncorrected pelvic rotation can create differences in the lengths of our legs and an uneven pelvis. This discrepancy must then be made up for at some level of the body in order to maintain a level head for keeping things in proper sight. Such adaptations often include a rolling in of the feet (also called pronation), rotation at the knees or hips, rotation/tilting of the pelvis and/or shoulders, and lastly, a tilt of the head.
For some people, this pelvic rotation/short leg adaptation syndrome may never cause any major problems. For others, it may end up contributing to low back pain, hip pain, knee or foot pain, or a list of many other aches/pains in the body which are not often attributed to this biomechanical conundrum of pelvic rotation and excessive foot pronation.
One of the ways to address rotation of the pelvis is with Chiropractic adjustments. Often times this will help to level the pelvis and restore proper function to the spine, pelvis, and nervous system. There are some instances, however, when the rotation in the pelvis and leg length discrepancy continue to come back, time and time again. In these instances, it is helpful to look deeper at the foundation (the feet) in order to determine if a custom orthotic will help contribute to longer lasting changes in the structures above (knees, hips, shoulders, etc.).
When it comes to assessing your foundation, here are some of the things we look for in order to determine whether or not you may benefit from supporting your foundation with custom functional orthotics:
-Foot pronation and weight distribution across the foot and between sides
-Wear patterns on shoes and/or calluses on feet
-Rotation at the knees and hips
-Pelvic rotation and/or tilting
-Muscle imbalances from side to side
-Location of pain and response to any prior treatments
We do this both by completing a 3-Dimensional Foot Scan and a thorough physical exam. In some cases, you may do just fine with a course of Chiropractic treatment and some functional strengthening exercises. Sometimes, however, your body’s adaptations and prior experiences may require a greater level of support from a pair of custom orthotics. In this case, we will send your individual foot scans and clinical information to the Foot Levelers' lab where they will construct a pair of orthotics specifically designed to support all 3 arches in your feet.
Foot Levelers’ custom orthotics differ from those that you may find at your local drug store or even running store in 2 main and very important ways:
1) They are specific to the biomechanical changes occurring at your feet.
2) They support all 3 of the arches in your feet, as opposed to just the medial longitudinal arch, which most orthotics are limited in supporting.
Another positive aspect of Foot Levelers’ custom functional orthotics is that they are NOT RIGID. It is important to maintain as much of your natural foot/ankle mobility as possible (barring any instability). Rigid orthotics do not allow for this natural motion, which usually ends up causing one or any number of compensations somewhere else in the body.
These orthotics are easy to insert and remove so that you can use them with multiple pairs of shoes. You can also get 3/4 lengths to put in your dress shoes! Additional options include flip flops and other sandals with the custom orthotics built into the soles.
If you or someone you know suffers from foot/ankle, knee, hip, or low back pain, call us today to receive your FREE* foot scan to see if you might benefit from a greater level of foundational support.
*Foot Scan is free and New Patient consult is only $99 with mention of this ad!
About the Author
Dr. Jennifer Morrow is a Chiropractor and Massage Therapist with a background in Kinesiology and rehabilitation. She is owner of Gorge Chiropractic at TrueMed Institute in Hood River, OR. You can connect with her on Facebook and Google+.