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Do Orthotics Weaken The Feet?

Do Orthotics Weaken The Feet?

Posted 21 Jul
Foot orthotics are highly praised by both our podiatrists and our patients because of the unique and specific way they work to relieve painful symptoms, allow damaged tissues to repair without being strained and overused, and even prevent future injury when they continue to be worn during exercise.

Yet, there are theories lurking that orthotics may actually weaken the feet during their use, meaning that people must devote time to strengthening their feet following their treatment. As our Brisbane podiatrists are dedicated to using evidence-based treatments that promote foot health and put our patients first, as well as providing helpful, accurate and insightful information, we thought we’d look into this theory and formally set the record straight. 


First: How Did This Theory Come To Be?

We actually dedicated a fair bit of time researching the roots of this theory, who is promoting it, and what they are saying. Our findings were that those that back this theory are using the analogy of orthotics being much like a plaster cast - ‘casting’ your foot, keeping it one place, and not really being used, calling in the ‘use it or lose it’ saying. Interestingly, casting any part of your body and immobilising it for prolonged periods does lead to weakness, something that we help many patients manage after they have surgery or are placed in a moon boot.


Many of the people validating the theory have a keen interest in minimalist (barefoot) running, also comparing a shoe to a cast that disturbs natural movement. Given the effects of casting, we understand why this may seem logical when you don’t have all of the information, or understand that orthotics couldn’t be further from casts.


So, Do Orthotics Really Weaken The Feet?

The simple, clear and evidence-based answer is no. The flaw in the theory above is that orthotics still allow - and require - that your feet and its muscles continue to activate and engage with every step. By definition, these kinds of orthotics are ‘functional’, and the only areas that have tension eased are the painful, damaged areas that need support to heal and repair. Without this support, it’s much more likely that you’ll actually experience weakening as you’re more likely to use your feet less due to the pain, and if you do use them normally, you may risk worsening your injury.


Think of orthotics like how glasses support your eyes to see - your eyes are still very much being used, the glasses simply let them function more effectively. Analogies aside, looking at research that investigates foot strength after orthotics, multiple studies actually show an increase in foot or leg strength with foot orthotics, not decreased strength., This may be due to orthotics allowing people to move with greater confidence and comfort. Regardless, there are no published studies that show that wearing orthotics leads to reduced foot strength, something that we’d expect to be a common finding if it were true. In fact, other treatment modalities of the foot and ankle such as cortisone injections are proven to weaken tendons with repeated use and even lead to spontaneous tendon rupture. Evidence of side effects for treatments that have been around for decades are usually readily available - if they exist.


Once You Have Orthotics, Do You Always Have To Wear Them?

Once your treatment is complete and you are pain-free, you do not need to be constantly wearing your foot orthotics. Many of our patients choose to wear them when exercising, during work hours, or long periods of standing, because their orthotics help keep their feet comfortable and moving efficiently, and may actually help them prevent their injury from recurring in the future by the custom way they support specific tissues.


Benefits Of Custom Foot Orthotics

The custom foot orthotics that our podiatrists prescribe are very different from the one-style-fits all cushioning insoles available for purchase from the pharmacy. Our orthotics are designed uniquely for your feet following a comprehensive foot and ankle assessment, gait analysis, a 3D scan of your feet, and more. This means that you can reap extensive benefits from your orthotics for your foot health, including:



How Are Orthotics Made At The Feet People?

Our podiatrists make orthotics using a comprehensive and fine-tuned process that combines our knowledge, skills and experience with fantastic and innovative technologies - from 3D scanning and computer modelling to 3D printing and more. To learn more about how our orthotics are made, see here.


If you’re experiencing any foot pain or problems, or are wondering how orthotics can help you live a more comfortable life, our podiatrists are here to help. We invite you to come in for a consultation to discuss your concerns and your goals. We’ll go through everything step-by-step, answering all of your questions, and can help advise you if orthotics could help you, and what you could expect from wearing them. Orthotics are not suitable for all conditions and goals, but they do bring significant value to the lives and health of many of our patients.


To get started, book your appointment with our podiatrists in our Brisbane CBD or Newmarket clinics online here or call us on 1300 993 338.


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