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Everything You Need to Know About Custom Orthotics

If you search the internet for "custom orthotics", you’ll find countless articles out there. As a full-service orthotics lab, we here at Forward Motion can give a unique perspective into the industry of custom orthotics.

We gathered as much relevant information as possible into one place so that you can learn all you need to know about custom orthotics.

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The Importance of Feet

Have you ever thought about the important role your feet play in your daily life? We use our feet for long periods of time every day! Our feet are the foundation of our body.

As the limb that is farthest from our brain, people often forget to care for the feet as much as they should. Up to 87% of people have had painful feet at one point in their lives.

Each of your feet contains 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 120 muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. These all work together to support the weight of your body, act as shock absorbers, keep you balanced, and push you forward with each stride. –

On average, adults take 4000 - 6000 steps each day. The average person walks more than 100,000 miles in their lifetime. Having foot problems will make it hard to do the things that we need to do and go the places we want to go.

Impacts on the feet will travel up through your leg and into the rest of your body. If your feet are not properly absorbing and distributing this pressure, it will cause injuries in the lower body and torso. This is why it’s so important that feet get the proper care and arch support that they need.

Don’t let foot problems continue. If you experience issues brought on by foot pain and it’s hampering your health and quality of life, it’s time to get help!

What is a Custom Orthotic?

A custom orthotic is a device designed to align the foot and ankle into the most anatomically efficient position. They look like insoles, but that is where the similarities end. Custom orthotics are biomechanical medical appliances that are custom-made to correct your specific foot imbalance. They are individually fabricated over a three-dimensional model of your foot.

Orthotics are custom-tailored to each individual according to their symptoms. That means that a runner or athlete that experiences foot pain may receive a certain type of treatment, while an individual with joint pain or inflamed ligaments will receive different orthotics.

If the feet are not aligned properly, it can cause uneven weight distribution that will negatively affect other parts of the body.

When to Consider Orthotics

If you are one among thousands of individuals that regularly experience foot pain, you may want to consider custom orthotics. Orthotics are provided to relieve pain and stress and improve performance over time.

The mechanical properties of foot orthotics help to ensure the correct positioning of the bones in the feet, ankles, and knees. Foot orthotics can also reduce muscular fatigue and may help to promote more efficient muscle performance.

You might also consider foot orthotics if you simply have a job that requires you to be on your feet all day. Constant pressure on your feet and consistent tasks performed while standing on hard, uncomfortable surfaces can leave you with recurring pain that may also lead to more serious foot problems in the future.

How do Custom Orthotics Help?

Orthotics are often used to help people with various foot pain and lower limb conditions, such as plantar fasciitis, flat feet, high arches, and knee, hip, and lower back pain.

There are many types of orthotics that can also help those who suffer from back pain, pain in their hips, knees, and people dealing with arthritis-related pain. Foot pain can also result from other health issues, such as diabetes that orthotics can help with this as well.

Orthotics are not used exclusively to treat pain. Besides pain relief, custom orthotics can also help to:

  • Correct misalignments in the legs.

  • Improve overall balance

  • Increase proprioception (your body's ability to sense the ground)

  • Straighten the body’s posture

  • Enhance the foot’s natural elastic recoil

  • Aid with shock absorption

What do Orthotics Do?

Custom orthotics work on your feet much like glasses work on your eyes they reduce stress and strain on your body by bringing your feet back into proper alignment. The composite body of the custom orthotic helps to re-align the foot by redirecting and reducing certain motion that takes place during the gait cycle while also providing proper support to the arches.

Custom orthotics will often fit comfortably into your shoes, but occasionally, a slightly larger shoe might be required.

Correcting Alignment of the Body

Orthotics are typically designed to ensure that the bones, ligaments, and tendons in your feet and lower legs are positioned properly. This helps to ease pain and stress on the feet and can aid the function of the muscles.

The mechanical properties of foot orthotics help to ensure the correct positioning of the bones in the feet, ankles, and knees. Foot orthotics can also reduce muscular fatigue and may help to promote more efficient muscle performance. Like a house with an unstable foundation, misalignment of the feet will lead to chronic problems that travel upwards through the musculoskeletal system.

Almost everyone has at least some biomechanical abnormality of their foot. If the underlying pathology is not taken care of, you won’t have much success treating foot problems. Custom orthotics correct the root biomechanical problems by redistributing weight in the feet to make the feet more comfortable.

Bio-mechanical Correction

  • Orthotics will completely change the patient’s balance by putting their body into the correct position.

  • Helps to improve musculoskeletal alignment.

  • Increase patient’s proprioception and contact with the ground.

  • Better posture and overall alignment over the entire body.

  • Increase natural elastic recoil and shock absorption by putting the arch into an optimal position for and providing support for flat foot.

Prevent Injury

  • Many foot problems (like hammertoes and bunions) develop over a long period of time.

  • Orthotics will help you relax muscles and decrease the chances of bunions and hammertoes forming.

  • Can also prevent common pathologies like plantar fasciitis and neuromas from developing or keep their symptoms from getting even worse over time.

  • Many patients can get better with custom orthotics without the need for surgery.

  • Patients overcome foot pain and pathologies without surgery cost, trauma, and post-surgery recovery periods.

Custom orthoses are also used preventatively to keep long-term pathologies from having the chance to develop.

If the feet are not aligned properly, it can cause uneven weight distribution that will negatively affect other parts of the body.

Enhance Performance

Each foot endures up to 1.5 times the body's weight while walking, and 3-4 times the weight when running. Feet function as shock absorbers to lessen the cumulative force impact on the body over the course of a day.

People who are active in sports or exercise may find that custom orthotics help to increase endurance, strength, and performance abilities. Orthotics help spread out the contact forces when each foot hits the ground to reduce wear and damage to the skeleton and muscles.

Individuals who are overweight may find that orthotics relieve the additional stress of extra weight from the ligaments in their feet and legs. The use of orthotics can help some people to avoid or prolong having surgery.


As I got older and started getting involved in fitness, I started having problems with my feet. In particular, I had been training for a triathlon and a marathon and was having a lot of pain.

I went to see a sports medicine specialist who determined that my feet were very flat (little to no arch). I was custom fitted for a set of hard orthotics that I wear inside my shoes. To say these orthotics changed my life is no hyperbole! I was able to get stronger and fitter and ultimately crossed the finish line of my first triathlon and marathon.

Now I create fitness DVDs and teach fitness online. I wouldn't dream of teaching a class without my custom orthotics! They, along with good supportive shoes are my very most important piece of athletic equipment.

Orthotics Manufacturing

The process of manufacturing a custom orthotic is much more complicated than that of a mass-produced prefabricated orthotics. Unlike prefabricated orthotics, custom orthotics are made by hand to fit the needs and lifestyle of the individual patient.

Orthotic Materials

When it comes to custom orthotics, there are many layers of materials that come together to create a complete device. Every layer of the orthotic has a different function and each material has its own unique characteristics.

Orthotic Shell

This is the heart of the orthotic! The shell is the layer that sets custom orthotics apart from prefabricated. Shells are molded to the shape of the patient's foot, and provide the support or correction to improve foot health. This is where doctors can customize things like arch height, orthotic width, heel cup depth, and flanges.

Custom Orthotics vs Prefabs

Common Foot Problems addressed by Orthotics

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