Ankle and foot orthotics, known as AFOs, are custom-made inserts, shaped and contoured to fit inside a shoe and used to correct an irregular walking gait or provide cushioning. Orthotics come in a variety of different models and sizes, including both over the counter and customizable variants. Customizable ones should be prescribed through a podiatrist who specializes in customized footwear and orthotics design and management.
AFOs are often used by athletes including track and field runners, cyclists, professional dancers, ice skaters, and even golfers. They benefit a lot from custom made AFOs by preventing injuries from occurring and provide cushioning to keep pain levels down to a minimum. Ankle foot orthotics allow for the correct positioning of the feet and also act as shock absorbers to help keep pressure and stress off the foot and ankle. They can also relieve back pain and hip pain while restoring balance and improving an athlete’s performance.
The way they help alleviate pain is by controlling the movement of both your feet and ankles. They are custom designed by a podiatrist or orthopedic specialist to help treat foot problems such as flat feet, spurs, arthritis of the ankle or foot, ankle sprains, weakness, and drop foot, a condition in which the patient cannot raise their foot at the ankle joint.
With custom orthotics, a patient will go through a complete examination of the foot and ankle, followed by the ankle and foot being cast and fitted for the proper orthotic. Depending upon the final result of the tests, a stretching treatment is created with specific shoe fitting in mind. After they have been fitted to the shoes, adjustments can be made in order to get the perfect fit and completely fill out the shoe. Evaluations are then usually set up to monitor the patient in the coming weeks to see how they are adjusting.
AFOs are also available over the counter and are more common than custom fit ones. Athletes that have generally low aches and pains in the foot, ankle, or lower back area can use an over the counter version of these orthotics. Weight is still distributed evenly throughout the bottom of the foot thanks to the arch support they give, but when an injury or ailment occurs, it is usually not enough to try and remedy it with an over the counter version. In either case, a podiatrist will be able to offer the best advice and treatment when it comes to foot and ankle orthotics and handle all your foot care needs.
For hundreds of years, women have been wearing various kinds of high-heels for mostly aesthetic reasons. Women who wear high-heels appear to be taller and to have longer and thinner legs, and the wearer’s gait and posture changes. Though high-heels have had an association with femininity and have kept them popular over the years, there are definite health problems caused by wearing them too frequently.
The motion of the ankle joints is limited when heels are worn. The ankle joint is very important to the body when it comes to walking. Because of their location, these joints have a great deal of weight put on them. Thus, it is very important to keep them as healthy as possible. The Achilles tendon is the main tendon in the ankle. Wearing high-heels too often, studies have shown, can cause the calf muscle and Achilles tendon to shorten and stiffen, which can cause problems when shoes without heels are worn.
By putting a great deal of pressure on the ball of the foot, by forcing the toes into a small toe box, high-heels can cause or may worsen many foot problems, such as corns, hammertoe, bunions, Morton’s neuroma and plantar fasciitis.
Not only does wearing very high-heels regularly have negative effects on the feet, the rest of the body can suffer as well. The knees, one of the most important joints in the entire body, can be affected by wearing high-heels. High-heels causes the knees to stay bent all the time. Also, it can cause them to bend slightly inward as well. Doctors believe that women can suffer from osteoarthritis later in life because of constantly walking like this. By limiting the natural motion of the foot during walking, high-heels also cause an increased in stress on the knees.
Similarly, the back may also be affected by high-heels because it causes the back to go out of alignment. If high-heels are worn constantly, the spine’s ability to absorb shock can cause continued back pain. They can compress the vertebrae of the lower back, and can overuse the back muscles.
However, this is not to say that high-heels can never be worn. If worn occasionally, they will not cause serious problems. They should not be worn every day in order to avoid the long-term physical health problems of the feet, knees, ankles, and back like mentioned above.
During your lifetime, you will probably walk about 75,000 miles, which is quite a lot of stress to put on your feet. As you get older, the 26 bones and 30 joints in your body will lose flexibility and elasticity, and your foot’s natural shock absorbers will wear down too. Having arthritis added to this mix only makes matters worse because your joints will become distorted and inflame, which is why arthritic foot care needs to be something you think about every day.
When dealing with arthritis, having additional foot complications, such as bunions, hammertoes, or neuroma, can be a serious detriment. To avoid these, buying well-fitting shoes with a lower heel and good support are a must. Arthritis causes you to lose your arch, so having shoes with good arch support is also highly recommended.
Aside from getting good arch support, the shoes need to fit comfortably and properly as well. A good place to start is by leaving a finger width between the back of the shoe and your foot to gauge proper size. It is also helpful to have a square or rounded toe box in the front to provide even more comfort. Another thing to look for is a rubber sole that can provide a cushion and absorb shock as you walk. This adds flexibility to the ball of your foot when you push off your heel to walk.
Exercise is another key aspect of arthritic foot care, not only strengthening and stretching your muscles and joints, but helping to prevent further injury and pain as well. Stretching the Achilles tendon for example, the tendon located in the back of your heel, will give you added mobility and reduce pain due to stress. Another thing you can do is massage your feet, kneading the ball of your foot as well as your toes from top to bottom.
Stretching the Achilles tendon is a simple exercise that you can do at home anytime. Lean against the wall with your palms flat against the surface while placing one foot forward, towards the wall, and one foot behind you. Bend your forward knee towards the wall while keeping your back knee locked straight, and make sure both your heels are completely touching the ground at all times. This will stretch your Achilles tendon and calf muscles as well, and you will feel the stretch almost immediately. You can also stretch your toes in a couple ways. One involves taking a rubber band and wrapping it around both your big toes while your heels remain together, then pull them apart to stretch your big toe. You can also place a rubber band around all the toes of one of your feet and then try to separate each individual toe, stretching them all.
A final step you can take to help your arthritis is taking non-steroid, non-inflammatory drugs or topical medicines with capsaicin. Unfortunately there is no complete way to remove all of your arthritic pain, but following some of this advice can go a long way in staying as pain free as possible.
Ankle sprains can be a serious injury that should be given immediate attention and care, despite not being as severe as a broken ankle. An ankle sprain can lead to a significant amount of pain, as well as limited mobility. They are often characterized by swelling and discoloration of the skin, which occurs when the ligaments are stretched beyond their limits.
The simple act of walking can sometimes cause a sprain, which makes them a very common injury for anyone. They occur when the ankle twists in an awkward way or rolls over itself, causing a pop or snap in the tendons around the ankle. Some people are more at risk than others, including athletes who continually push their bodies to the limits and also people who have previously suffered accidents to the feet, ankles, or lower legs.
Most of the time, an ankle sprain is not severe enough to warrant rushing to the hospital. There are many at-home treatment options available to you, including propping the leg up above your head to reduce blood flow and inflammation, applying ice packs to the affected area as needed, taking over the counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medication, using an ACE bandage to wrap and support the injured ankle, and most importantly, remaining off your feet until the ankle has fully healed.
Despite this, an ankle sprain can turn into a severe injury that might require hospitalization. If the ankle ligaments or muscles are damaged from a tear or rip, that is one sign that the sprain is severe enough to warrant going to the hospital and possibly having surgery done. Even after the surgery, the recovery process can be long, involving rehabilitation sessions administered by a podiatrist to get your ankle back to full health.
The severity of your sprain might become apparent if you are unable to stand or walk, non-stop pain is occurring over a prolonged period of time, swelling is much more severe than initially present, or if you start to experience tingling or numbness. These signs might show that your ankle sprain might actually be a broken ankle, an injury that requires immediate medical attention.
While not completely avoidable, ankle sprains can be curbed with some preventative treatment measures. These include wearing appropriate fitting shoes that not only provide a comfortable fit, but also ankle support. It is also recommended to stretch before doing any kind of physical activity, as this will help lower your body’s chance for an injury.
A new treatment option which combines ultrasound waves and steroid injections was found to be effective in patients suffering from plantar fasciitis, according to a groundbreaking study from the University of Genoa in Italy.
The plantar fascia is a connective tissue in the heel that stretches the bottom length of your foot. Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of this connective band, causing heel pain and overall discomfort while walking or standing. Although the condition is completely treatable, traditional methods can take up to a year to start being effective.
These conventional treatments include arch support, night splints, certain exercises, and overall rest and staying off your feet. The previous effective method for curing plantar fasciitis was shockwave therapy, in which sound waves are directed to the area where the pain is being experienced, often the heel. Despite the success of shockwave therapy, it could be considered somewhat slow, requires several sessions before any results are noticed, and is comparably expensive. However, even shockwave therapy does not cure the pain caused by plantar fasciitis in every patient.
The study, conducted by Luca M. Sconfienza, M.D., examined the effects of a new technique that combined ultrasound-guided methods, similar to shockwave therapy, with a steroid injection directly the plantar fascia. Because of the added steroid injection, the method becomes a one-time outpatient procedure involving a small amount of local anesthesia, in which a needle punctures the affected area and causes a small amount of bleeding that aids in the heeling of the fascia. This technique is referred to as dry-needling.
Dr. Sconfienza determined that 42 of the 44 patients involved in the new procedure had their symptoms, including pain, disappear entirely within three weeks. “This therapy is quicker, easier, less painful, and less expensive than shockwave therapy,” Dr. Sconfienza stated. “In cases of mild plantar fasciitis, patients should first try non-invasive solutions before any other treatments. But when pain becomes annoying and affects the activities of daily living, dry-needling with steroid injection is a viable option.”
Athlete’s foot is an extremely contagious infection caused by a fungus that results in itching, burning, dry, and flaking feet. The fungus that causes athletes foot is known as tinea pedis and thrives in moist, dark areas such as shower floors, gyms, socks and shoes, commons areas, public changing areas, bathrooms, dormitory style houses, locker rooms, and public swimming pools. Athlete’s foot is difficult to treat as well because of the highly contagious and recurrent nature of the fungus.
Tinea is the same fungus that causes ringworm, and is spread by direct contact with an infected body part, contaminated clothing, or by touching other objects and body parts that have been exposed to the fungus. Because the feet are an ideal place for tinea to grow, thrive, and spread, this is the most commonly affected area, but it is known to grow in other places. However, for obvious reasons, the term athlete’s foot describes tinea that grows strictly on the feet.The most commonly infected body parts are the hands, groin, and scalp, as well as obviously the feet. Around 70% of the population suffer from tinea infections at some point in their lives, however not all of these cases are athlete’s foot. Just like any other ailment, some people are more likely to get it than others, such as people with a history of tinea infections or other skin infections, both recurring and non-recurring ones. On top of this, the extent to which a person experiences regrowth and recurrent tinea infections varies from person to person.
Sometimes people will not even know that they are infected with tinea or that they have athlete’s foot because of a lack of symptoms. However, most experience mild to moderate flaking, itching, redness, and burning. However, some of the more severe symptoms include cracking and bleeding skin, intense itching and burning, pain while walking or standing, and even blistering.
Because of the recurring nature of the tinea fungus and the athlete’s foot it causes, the best way to treat this condition is with prevention. While it is hard to completely avoid, you can take some preventative measures such as wearing flip flops or sandals in locker rooms and public showers to reduce contact with the floor. It also helps to keep clean, dry feet while allowing them to breathe. Using powders to keep your feet dry is a good idea, as well as keeping your feet exposed to light and cool air, as these are not desirable conditions for tinea to grow. If you do happen to get athlete’s foot, treating it with topical medicated creams, ointments or sprays will not only help eliminate it but also prevent it from coming back.
A broken ankle is different from an ankle sprain, which occurs when the ligaments are ripped or torn but no bones have been broken. However, a sprain can still be very severe, causing bruising in the foot and an inability to hold your own weight, much like a broken ankle would. If you cannot stand on your own weight and suspect that you have a broken ankle, the first thing to do would be to get an immediate x-ray to determine the severity of the break.
A common way to break your ankle is to roll over onto it with enough pressure to break the bones, usually done while engaging in exercise, sports, or some other physical activity. Another common cause is a fall or jump from a large height.
Broken ankles can cause severe pain, but immediate relief can come from elevating the feet above your head to reduce blood flow to the injured area. You can also apply ice packs to the ankles to help reduce the swelling, redness, inflammation, and pain. After these initial steps, getting a cast on and staying off your feet as much as possible will aid in the recovery of the broken ankle, because the less movement and stress the ankle has to endure, the more complete it will heal. A doctor can determine if surgery is needed in order to heal correctly. In these cases, an operation may be the only option to ensure the ability to walk properly again, followed by physical therapy and rehabilitation.
It is highly important to determine if surgery is needed early on, because a broken ankle can become much more severe than you realize. If not professionally treated, the broken ankle will inhibit your walking, daily functioning, and produce a large amount of pain, so the quicker you act, the better.
To treat problems of the foot, ankle or lower leg, a podiatrist may prescribe physical therapy, drugs, perform surgery, or set fractures. Individuals may also be recommended to wear corrective shoe inserts, custom-made shoes, plaster casts and strappings in order to correct deformities.
When trying to gather information on a patient problem, a scanner or force plate may be used in order to design orthotics. During this procedure, patients are told to walk across a plate that is connected to a computer; the computer then takes a scan of the foot and indicates weight distribution and pressure points. The computer readouts will give the podiatrist information to help them determine the correct treatment plans.
Diagnosis is also provided through laboratory tests and x-rays. Through the foot, the first signs of serious problems such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis can show up. For example, individuals that have diabetes may frequently have problems such as infections and foot ulcers because they experience poor circulation in the foot area. A podiatrist can then have consultations with patients when symptoms arise and referrals will be made to specialists that handle the greater health problems.
Some podiatrists have their own solo small private practices or clinics where they have a small staff and administrative personnel but many work within group practices. They usually spend time performing surgery in ambulatory surgical centers or hospitals or visiting patients in nursing homes. They typically spend between 30 to 60 hours of week working. Some podiatrists specialize in public health, orthopedics, surgery, or primary care. Some other fields include specialties in geriatrics, dermatology, pediatrics, diabetic foot care and sports medicine.
Some podiatrist specialists complete extra training in the area of foot and ankle reconstruction that result from the effects of physical trauma or diabetes. There are also surgeons that perform surgery of a cosmetic nature to correct bunions and hammertoes.