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How to Break in Your Custom Foot Orthotics: Pedorthic Tips & Tricks

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Custom foot orthotics are fabricated to meet everyone’s unique structural and biomechanical needs. The old saying holds true in that often one needs to “break something in” before feeling completely comfortable or satisfied with a product/device.

What does it actually mean to break-in” your new custom foot orthotics?

In the Pedorthic profession one of the most common questions we hear is “how long will it take to get used to these orthotics”. Unfortunately, this is never a straightforward answer as everyone adapts on their own time. For most, your feet, knees, hips and back have been functioning in a specific movement pattern for years. The human body often needs time to adjust to its “new” alignment.

Therefore as a Pedorthist, it is best practice to educate all patients on the process of breaking in their custom foot orthotics. This not only enhances patient compliance; it increases the chances of relieving your pain and meeting overall treatment plan goals!

What does it feel like to break-in your new custom foot orthotics?

When you get a new pair of orthotics the sensations can be surprising. For some, your new custom foot orthotics may feel unusual at first, as though you are standing on a hard, round ball and applying a lot of pressure to the various arches of your feet. Perhaps you feel a little bit taller? Perhaps your feet feels more congested in the shoe than usual? For others, they may feel fantastic right away like you are walking on clouds or could run a marathon. Remember, whether they feel strange under your feet or if you feel great right away, it is still recommended to break-in the orthotics.

What are some break-in tips and tricks?

1) Start slow!

Wear your custom foot orthotics for a few hours on the dispense day; gradually increase the wear time by 1-2 hours daily over the first week. This is very important as you want to prevent any unnecessary discomfort or injury. It is important to remember not to be discouraged if you do not get used to them right away. It can take up to a month before you feel completely comfortable wearing your custom foot orthotics for a full day.

2) Know your body.

If you are feeling any new pains in your toes, ankles, knees, lower back, or your hips take the orthotics out and start fresh the next day and reduce the wear time. Overuse of the custom foot orthotics may result in discomfort through the arch or small blisters. Keep an eye out for red spots as they are an early sign of friction that could lead to a blister.

4) Dont forget about your footwear!

It is best to start wearing custom foot orthotics with new or relatively new shoes. If there are any previous wear patterns this may reduce the functional effectiveness of the orthotic.

Properly fitting footwear is essential for the orthotic to work correctly. Look for shoes with appropriate width and depth. As a rule of thumb, the deeper the better. Try them in multiple pairs of your shoes. During this process, you will likely find that you find greater comfort in one shoe brand/style than another.  Keep this in mind when shoe shopping in the future!

If the shoe allows for it, always open up the shoe so that it is easier to don. This will prevent socks from bunching, protect the collar of the shoe (as the orthotic takes up more space than the traditional sock liner) and keep the integrity of the top cover.

3) Break them in before rigorous physical activity.

Do not partake in any rigorous physical activity until you have broken the custom foot orthotics in completely. This means that you are wearing the orthotics for a full week with no discomfort.  If you are playing a sport, always try the orthotics out for a few practices before introducing them to a game situation. If you experience muscle soreness and joint discomfort, these are signs that you have worn your orthotics too much, too soon.

5) Adjustments are normal;  Reach out to your Pedorthist!

It is normal to feel new pressure points and slight discomfort as your body is adapting to the orthotic. If you are having difficulty adjusting to the new orthotics after 3-4 weeks’ time reach out to your Pedorthist and they will be happy to make any changes. Adjustments are normal as everyone adapts differently to varying support levels. Do not attempt to adjust the orthotics yourself (even if you have a garage full of useful tools!). Be patient with the break-in period and the results will be lasting as you move forward in day-to-day comfort.

Chelsea Mathews, C. Ped (C)

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