The foot, ankle and lower limb work together with the rest of the body in an extremely complex manner and adapt to different sports accordingly. Sports orthotics are customised and made bespoke for an individual, they can help reduce pain, fatigue and improve biomechanics and therefore reduce the risk injury and maximise performance.
To learn just how complex most people will be able to try this test- with shorts on standing with bare feet, stand with your feet parallel to one another about 12” apart. Roll both your feet onto their outside edges of the foot with your arches up and off the ground. You’ll notice that the shaft of your leg rotates outward and when you gently flex your knees they will track outward. Roll your feet all the way to their inside edges, your legs will rotate inward and when you flex your knees you’ll notice that your knees track inward. If you roll your feet to a position somewhere between fully inward and outward you’ll find a location that when you flex your knees they will track straight ahead, as they are intended to do.
In a “normal” walking stride the outside rear corner of the heel strikes the ground first, the foot comes down onto the 5th (little toe) metatarsal head, rolls to the 1st (big toe) metatarsal head then strides off the big toe. During a natural gait the foot moves from a “rolled out” position to a “rolled in” position. If the foot is allowed to roll inward too far (because of poor support) the shaft of the leg will rotate inward too far, the knee will track inward and pain may develop on the inside of the knee (among other places).
Proper functional foot orthotics will not only make your feet more comfortable and improve any foot and ankle symptoms, it will help your knees track properly which saves your knees, it limits the rotation of your lower leg which keeps the pelvis from tipping and the back from misaligning amongst other things. They are an assistive device to improve proper foot and lower limb mechanics, which improves your overall function during sport.
It is vital to know a person’s gait pattern, whether a person is suffering from pain, excessive pronation, other motion abnormalities or just wants to be proactive in their lower limb health. Any structural or motion abnormalities can cause significant tension and forces to your muscles, joints and ligaments.
A thorough history and biomechanical assessment is undertaken by your podiatrist in order to determine whether you would benefit from orthotics, and what amendments are needed to improve and assist you during your sporting event. They work hand-in-hand with strength, function and mobility exercises provided by your podiatrist to maintain optimum mechanics.
Some examples of sport specific customised functional orthotic modifications are:
- Runners and joggers wear orthotics to absorb shock at heel contact, provide control and set up the forefoot for push-off.
- Sprinters wear orthotics to control the movement of the forefoot.
- Cyclists have a limited need for orthotics and wear them primarily to control the internal and external rotation of the lower leg.
- Skiers wear orthotics to stabilize the foot in neutral and inhibit mortion within the ski boot.
- Tennis players wear orthotics to provide lateral support, decrease shear factors , absorb shock (especially in the fore foot) and allow subtalar joint motion.
- Basketball and Netball players wear orthotics to control the ankle and forefoot during jumping, twisting and running.”