When it comes to our society’s overall state of health, the focus will invariably be on our aging population and the inevitable ailments that come with getting older.
Therefore, problems with the function of our feet may automatically be attributed to the fact that more of us are hobbling into the twilight of our lives.
Yet, it’s not that simple. It can be easily argued that feet take the biggest pounding of any of our appendages and approximately 70 per cent of us will experience some sort of foot problem in our lives. That goes for people of all ages; not just the elderly.
Hasinah Shaqiq, the Chiropodist at Foot Clinic and Orthotics, located in Caledon & Kleinburg, confirms that these woes stretch over the generations.
“Younger people always choose fashion over support and realize later in life that they wore bad shoes,” says Hasinah. “I would say, in my practice, I see about 20-percent children, 40-percent middle-aged and 40-percent seniors.”
As rugged as the foot is, it is also a complex structure with many parts; which increases the chances of things going wrong.
The foot is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles, and numerous tendons. As well, there are more nerve endings per square centimeter in the foot than any other part of the body.
The biomechanics required to keep us strolling along are extremely complex, as well. With so many intricate parts, the mechanism of the foot is bound to experience a wide array of glitches.
Fortunately, the technology of orthotics is progressing at a strong pace and is playing a key role in keeping us properly mobile.
The term “orthotics” applies to any device inserted into a shoe; ranging from relatively simple over the counter insoles to custom-made shoe inserts that are used to correct or support an abnormal or irregular walking pattern.
Commonly referred to as arch supports, over-the-counter orthotics may help people with mild symptoms. They cannot, however, correct the wide range of symptoms that prescribed foot orthotics can, since they are not custom made to fit an individual’s unique foot structure and symptom.
Hasinah estimates that over-the-counter products can only fix about ten per cent of foot problems. Custom orthotics are needed for the rest. “An over-the-counter insole has to be generic enough that you can wear and I can wear,” she points out. “So, it’s more of an arch filler, whereas custom orthotics address all foot pathologies and gait abnormalities as they are made with more specific features necessary to address the foot ailment”.
Orthotic devices come in many shapes, sizes, and materials and fall into three main categories; those designed to change foot function, those that are primarily protective in nature, and those that combine functional control and protection.
There are rigid, semi-rigid and soft orthotics.
Rigid and semi-rigid orthotics are often composed of such firm materials as plastic or carbon fiber and are constructed from a 3D scan or plaster cast obtained by the Chiropodist / Podiatrist. They tend to control motion in the two major foot joints that lie directly below the ankle joint and can improve or eliminate strains, aches, and pains in the legs, thighs, and lower back.
Soft orthotics are usually intended to absorb shock, increase balance, and take pressure off uncomfortable or sore spots. They have proven to be effective in assisting diabetic, arthritic, and/or deformed feet. Soft orthotics are typically made up of soft, cushioned materials so that they can be worn against the sole of the foot, extending from the heel past the ball of the foot, including the toes.
Orthotics prescribed for younger people and/or athletes often fall under the rigid and semi-rigid category.Typically made up of layers of soft material, then reinforced with more rigid materials. Semi-rigid orthotics can improve the balance of those participating in sports, as well as mitigate aches and pains.
In children, orthotics are often prescribed for the treatment of flat feet, heel pain, bunion pain and most commonly for in-toeing or out-toeing disorders and knee pain.
The Caledon and Kleinburg Foot Clinics possess the tools and expertise to determine whether a custom orthotic is needed. If so, they construct the orthotics by deploying a three-dimensional scan or a plaster-of-Paris cast of the feet.
Another way to address many foot ailments is with the use of lasers. Laser technology has established itself as an effective treatment for many foot ailments.
At the Caledon and Kleinburg Foot Clinics, laser therapy has become the most popular and safe modality in the treatment of foot pain and nail fungus. The quick and painless laser treatments have proven extremely effective. Laser therapy can also be used to treat warts, corns and other lesions.
It goes without saying, though, that the efficiency of any treatment could be compromised if the practitioners are not on top of their patient’s specific problems.
Hasinah recommends people make regular visits to a foot clinic to be seen by a Chiropodist or Podiatrist. “I think it would be very crucial to address nails, skin and gait changes regularly. Our bodies are very dynamic and the slight changes to our bodies (ie. weight changes, falls, trauma, injuries, footwear, systemic conditions) can all affect how our feet function and hence how we function as a whole.”
All in all, there is an abundance of therapeutic and orthotic wherewithal to ensure that we all, regardless of age, can march to the beat of a healthy drummer.
Written by: Dan Pelton