Why do orthotics work?

Orthotics are commonly prescribed for painful conditions like plantar fasciitis and users swear by them, however scientists still don’t know exactly how they work.

A recent study published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, suggests that the reason for this lies in the fact that scientists have been measuring the wrong thing by examining only rear foot motion by putting markers on the heel and studying the rear-foot.

This new study was the first orthotics study to use a multi-segment foot model, according to researcher Reed Ferber, PhD of the University of Calgary Faculty of Kinesiology, who said “We modelled the plantar fascia and measured strain, with and without orthotics.”

He explained, “What we found was that an over the counter orthotic reduced plantar fascia strain by 34%. This is the first paper to suggest a potential mechanism by which orthotics work.”

“This is obviously a significant reduction and I think it’s going to help improve treatment,” Ferber says. “Right now, a doctor would look at a person’s foot and conclude it’s normal foot that would not do well with a pair of orthotics.”

“Now we have evidence that they actually would benefit because we know those orthotics are not just designed to control heel motion, they also reduce strain on the plantar fascia,” Ferber explains.

“The study should also educate the public a little more about the benefits of orthotics and suggests that an inexpensive pair of over the counter orthotics could potentially be as effective as a pair costing ten times more.”

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