Orthotics are often prescribed for many foot, ankle, and lower limb injuries. They are designed to correct the way you walk and stand. However, they are not a one size fits all approach and therefore need to be prescribed accurately and to each individual case.
Some people fear that orthotics may weaken the muscles in their feet and legs, especially if they have been given misleading advice from someone who is not a foot expert.
We often use the analogy: Do glasses weaken your eyes? Do hearing aids weaken your ears? Do supportive bras make your chest muscles weaker?
The simple answer is NO, they all work to benefit the body while they are on however if they are required and are not “on” you may strain the muscles.
For example, trying to see without your glasses can cause the muscles in your eyes to strain. This is the same with orthotics, they work while they are on but if you have poor foot posture you may strain the muscles in your legs and feet when you are not wearing your orthotics.
Why Orthotics Do Not Weaken Your Feet:
- Orthotics are designed to correct poor foot posture, improving the way you walk and stand. They allow us to change the way your muscles work, allowing them to do their job properly.
- Orthotics can also be used in athletes to improve performance by allowing the muscles to activate and work more efficiently.
- They evenly distribute load and pressures under the soles of the feet to reduce pain, strain, and injury.
- Mild discomfort and fatigue in the lower limbs and feet, lasting up to 2 months is normal and expected. In fact, a recent study by Ahmad et. Al (2019) found that this muscle tenderness can be attributed to muscle fatigue, meaning that the muscle is actually working.
- Orthotics actually strengthen many of the foot intrinsic muscles and leg muscles in the foot as they are now able to work correctly without excessive strain.
- Barnamehei et. Al (2019) found there was more muscle activation using orthotics compared to walking barefoot.
- We always accompany orthotic therapy with stretching, strengthening, and proprioceptive exercises to compliment the support of orthotics.
Ahmad, U. H., Ab Rahman, M. H., Sin, L. Y., Maidin, N. A., & Anuar, N. F. B. W. (2019). Development on Orthotics Insole for Flat Feet Focusing on Sport Usage Evaluated by Electromyography. International Journal of Integrated Engineering, 11(4).
Barnamehei, H., Alimadad, M., Alizadeh, S., Mofrad, S. Z., & Bagheri, F. (2018). Electromyographic activity of selective lower extremity muscle comparison between ankle-foot orthosis and barefoot gait. In 2018 25th National and 3rd International Iranian Conference on Biomedical Engineering (ICBME) (pp. 1-4). IEEE.