You might think the reason I’m so excited is a little strange, but here it is: I just got a brand new pair of custom orthotics for my terribly flat feet and (the best part)… they actually do the job!!!! First, take a look at my puny arch at rest, then while standing. OUCH!
Let me give you a little history to know where I am coming from. I partially tore a tendon in my right foot in 2004. It’s the Anterior tibial tendon, a tendon web actually, that helps lift the inner arch.
At that time I had to immobilize my foot with a brace for 9 months to allow the foot to heal. Then it was physical therapy to strengthen my foot and orthotics were fitted that I was required to wear in all of my shoes, all the time. You also need to know something else about me; I LOVE TO EXERCISE.
I feel so funky when I don’t, some people think I’m addicted!
At first, when I was a fat kid and later adult, I only exercised to keep my weight off, but over the years, my m.o. for exercise is no longer weight loss or maintenance (even though I know it helps). Now, it’s my primary stress buster. When I was told I couldn’t do anything but bike or weight lift for those 9 months my foot was in a brace, I was beside myself; maybe it was a light, undiagnosed depression.
So when an orthotist fitted my first set of inserts in 2004, I experienced the joy of working with a real pro. I went back to the exercise that I loved so much (I just don’t run or jump anymore). Okay, now fast forward to 2012. Early last year my first orthotics, having served me valiantly since 2004 finally broke down, having lost substantial support. The pain returned when I stood for any length of time, throttling down both the duration and intensity of exercise (and any type of standing work) I could do on my feet. Thank God I could still swim, though (that illustrates the power of ‘exercise diversity’, a topic for another post). Now here is the interesting part.
I bought new orthotics on two separate occasions from “foot specialists in the field” between 2007-2012, because I knew my first orthotics were losing their mojo. Those orthotics each cost me the same amount that my initial “buddies” (show me a person with foot pain relieved by their orthotics and I’ll show you some bffs!) cost me $300.00. The only problem with both pairs is that they didn’t work at all and my feet were breaking down with both new sets! I did not go back to my initial orthotist, because I had moved and tried to find someone locally. Moral of that story: All licensed professionals are not created equal.
So early this week I went to yet another orthotist that I was referred to by a wise orthopedic surgeon at our local hospital (Dr. Kathy Weaver). This orthotist (Steve Albert) did it right from the start (I know now what right is because I’ve been through the right and wrong of custom orthotics). He had me SIT DOWN when creating my foot cast in the impression foam blocks and applied two different types of pressure, one light pressure for my heel impressions but a more forceful impression of my toe areas. Aha! The idea was to create the DESIRED, FUNCTIONAL form of my foot for the supports to be based on. This was all grounded in the prescription written by Dr. Weaver specifying the areas that needed the most support.
The result was no surprise: flat orthotics, with very little support. They might as well have given me cardboard, it would have offered me about as much.
I thought it was so important to tell others about this, knowing I am not the only person who has been through this frustrating experience. I’m sure I’m not the only patient who’s received orthotics that were essentially worthless. I can’t tell you how elated I am that I can now do the exercise that I love, along with my necessary standing work like mowing the lawn or cleaning the house (maybe I shouldn’t be so happy about that).
So bottom line… first go to a foot-savvy orthopedic surgeon that can diagnose the core problem and prescribe the correct orthotic for you. Then, go to the orthotist that she or he refers you to because they will likely send you to an orthotist that leaves a “great impression”!