Explaining Custom Orthotics: Accommodative vs. Functional

With a name like “custom” orthotic, it’s probably not a surprise that there’s a lot of variety out there. The phrase custom orthotic simply refers to any adjustable shoe insert that is specially manufactured using a mold or scan of your foot. They might be made from hard plastic or graphite as well as soft padded materials, and they can cover just your heel, just your toes, your entire sole, and more.

 Custom made

Still, despite the panoply of shapes and styles, most orthotics out there can be broadly sorted into one of two overarching categories: accommodative orthotics and functional orthotics.

True to their name, accommodative orthotics accommodate. In other words, they’re made to help cushion, support, and compensate for a painful condition caused by pressure or stress. They’re usually made from softer materials and can help with problems like high arches, bunions, hammertoes, neuromas, diabetic foot ulcers, calluses, or really just about any structural problem where the main goal is to deflect weight and pressure away from a particular trouble spot and disperse it more evenly across the foot.

When your foot or ankle problem is more related to motion—say, how far your feet roll inward after impact—a functional orthotic is typically the right choice. Your feet go through a fairly complicated process when you walk or run (known as the gait cycle), and if your ankles or feet aren’t properly aligned throughout that process you may wind up with injuries or other problems. A functional orthotic helps control abnormal motion, keeping your feet where they should be throughout the gait cycle and helping you avoid issues such as shin splints or tendinitis, among others.

While it’s true that when your feet are hurting, there’s probably an orthotic that can help you, it’s also true that the wrong orthotic can actually make your problems worse. If you’re suffering, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Keith McSpadden at North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute. There may be a custom orthotic, or in some cases a high-quality prefabricated insert, that can really help. You can reach out to us via our online contact form, or give us a call at 512-593-2949.

Posted on February 9, 2016 .