The media has attacked the use of orthotics
Media shouts out “Expensive orthotics no better than a sham”. Yes orthotic therapy took a bit of a bashing in the media when new studies came out suggesting that they may not be as good as they say. Does this have some truth behind it or more media misinformation?
Researchers clarified that expert podiatrists do not use orthotics alone when treating a condition and it is often in combination with other therapies. All studies have to be pulled apart so that we can learn from them and possibly change our ways. Orthotic therapy should continue to be studied to find out when it is appropriate and when it is not. Sadly some clinicians over prescribe orthotics and give orthotics a bad name. So is this study going to be the end of orthotic therapy?
So do you need orthotics?
The main fault with these studies is that they don’t customise the orthotics being studied so it is not a true reflection of what an expert podiatrist does in the real world. Yes there is a good chance that many people will not need orthotics but some still may benefit and shouldn’t be disadvantaged by media hype and poorly designed studies. New studies will look at how an expert podiatrist would use orthotics in real world situations and we will get a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. We will have to wait to see the results of these studies before we throw out the baby (orthotics) with the bath water.
What do you do now about orthotics?
I believe that orthotics are a useful tool if prescribed for the right condition from an expert podiatrist. When orthotic therapy may be of benefit it is often worth trying off-the-shelf orthotics that have been customised by an expert podiatrist to reduce the cost. Your podiatrist should give you treatment options other than orthotics to compare the benefits.
What we do know
- Many foot and ankle conditions get better with time
- Orthotics are useful to reduce load and stress on tissues
- For orthotics to work they need to be worn for a reasonable amount of time
- Orthotics are often over-prescribed
- Custom orthotics should not be the first or only treatment
- Off-the shelf orthotics (customised) are a cost effective option
- If unsure about the benefit of orthotics, ask for more information
- If you are still unsure get a second opinion