The role of an orthotic is essentially to change the nature of the contact your foot has with the ground. When your foot has lost the ability to properly adapt to the landscape, an orthotic changes the landscape to accommodate your foot. I do tell my clients there is a time and place for orthotics: namely, when they provide a dramatic decrease in pain that allows a person to return to normal daily activity, eliminate pain medications, etc. Sadly, the vast majority of orthotics do not fall into that category.
Rather, orthotics tend to be blindly implemented as a panacea for a variety of symptoms, before even attempting to improve the function of the foot. Again, orthotics can alleviate pain. And when you sprain your ankle, you alleviate the pain by walking on crutches. But you don’t walk on crutches for the rest of your life. If you did, you’d be trading ankle pain for shoulder and neck pain, and you’d be sacrificing a lot on the performance front. Instead, you work hard to rehabilitate your ankle, restoring it to full function and strength. So, if orthotics seem to provide some benefit, shouldn’t you consider that as an indication that your foot isn’t functioning properly and would benefit from rehabilitation?
Often, proper foot rehabilitation can take a lot of time and effort. But it’s always worth it. Not a day goes by when I fail to make a direct connection between a client’s pain pattern and some type of foot dysfunction. But just as often, dramatic improvements in foot function can come rapidly. The above client’s primary complaint was pain under the ball of the big toe that was progressively getting worse. In both photos, the hip and ankle are held in neutral to ensure the visual changes are in fact stemming from changes in the foot. In the first photo, you can see the base of the big toe is significantly lower than the rest of the foot. When that foot strikes the ground, which joint do you think is taking the brunt of the impact? In the second photo, you see a much more even forefoot, with the big toe and little toe at the same level. The best part? The below photos were taken 30 minutes apart, after therapy combining PDTR®, ART®, and AiM™.
The client’s pain disappeared, and she reported feeling like her foot was working properly for the first time in years.