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Behind the Scenes of Custom Foot Orthotics

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If you are experiencing foot or lower limb pain, your doctor may refer you to a Canadian Certified Pedorthist for custom foot orthotics to help support and align your feet and improve how they function. Like prescription eye glasses custom foot orthotics are made specifically for your unique needs. Although foot orthotics look like simple devices, one pair of custom orthotics can take a Pedorthist two to five hours to make. Here’s an overview of how foot orthotics are made.

To ensure your foot orthotics fit exactly, the Pedorthist will begin by making a cast of your feet. There are several ways a cast can be made including:

  • taking a 3D computer scan of your feet,
  • creating plaster slipper casts, or
  • using foam block impressions to make an imprint of your feet

Once the casts are complete the Pedorthist will make physical models of your feet. Many Pedorthists make the models with plaster while others use a digital method and then carve the models out of wood or plastic. After the models have been made, the Pedorthist will carefully smooth them or add additional material to their shape so the orthotics will hold your feet in the best possible position.

Next, the Pedorthist will heat the raw material of the orthotics’ shell in a convection oven so it is flexible. Depending on your foot type and condition, orthotics can be made out of dozens of different materials. However, plastic and foam are two of the most common materials. Once the shell material is flexible the Pedorthist will carefully layer it over the models of your feet and then vacuum press it to create an exact duplicate of your corrected foot shape.

Trimming excess material and grinding come next. During the grinding stage the width, depth and angle of the orthotics are set. Each orthotic is made within one millimeter precision so the grinding requires a lot of skill. Grinding is followed by a careful quality check. Then if a top cover is required it is placed on the orthotic and trimmed to fit for added comfort.

Although foot orthotics look like simple devices, they take a lot of time and skill to make. But the results are well worth it. Custom made foot orthotics can be the difference between sitting on the sidelines and being mobile and pain free.

By Ben Boyer, C. Ped Tech (C), C. Ped (C), Coquitlam, BC

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