Saturday, June 30, 2018

Foot Orthoses: Where have all the arch supports gone?

I suppose most of us can remember the old arch supports. Those wonderful steel things granny wore in her shoes to help her with her dreaded fallen arches.

“Nothing worse, when your arches, fall!"

Fall they do, although it is not something that usually occurs overnight but the symptoms are frequently reported as acute. In truth the condition is waiting to happen and caused by prolonged strain on the architecture of the foot. This may be associated with a general disease process or just plain fatigue, as in repetitive stress injury. Many foot challenged complain of sudden pain and often attribute this to the day their arches fell.

The principle of the arch support was to reinforce the architecture of the foot by providing a bridge to the long arch on the inside of the foot. There are many forms of arch supports, the most common type is found in ladies’ shoes in the form of a reinforced arch section.

Historically, arch supports originated in Germany and were used to help military personnel who Goose stepped . The Stechmarsch was a quaint form of marching.

During the thirties, emphasis on the physical culture throughout the Western World meant couch potatoes were doing silly things with their bodies such as all types of marathons from roller skating to dancing. Foot strain became an epidemic and the arch support the panacea made a household name thanks to clever marketing of Chicago based company called Dr Scholl.

They took every opportunity to encourage and sponsor marathon events throughout the US. These were incredibly popular and everyone became involved. A common symptom was exhaustion and painful feet. Reoccurrence of these symptoms have been reported with many subsequent dance crazes such as Disco Foot (in the 70s), Raver’s Foot in the chemical age and more recently Hip Hop.

The arch theory is now passé because we understand a little better how the mechanics of the foot and leg work supporting the arch alone is no longer considered the best way to deal with foot instability. Pedal biomechanics has become an extremely sophisticated means of analysing walking. A science in its own right, the discipline has a specific lexicon and the humble arch support has now been replaced with the sophisticated foot orthosis, abbreviated to FO. (orthosis - singular; and orthoses plural). "Ortho" means to straighten, and foot orthoses rely on ground reaction and material resistance to wedge, tilt or lift the foot to maintain middle range joint motion in the gravitational foot joints. No self-respecting sport's person today, would be without their foot orthoses and many young people have these devices fitted into their shoes to help legs and feet develop in tandem. The precise mechanism by which foot orthoses work is not yet clearly understood, but the feedback from consumers is compelling. Foot physicians make clever use of foot orthoses by matching the presenting symptoms with individual foot mechanics which results in pain alleviation pain caused by inefficient body posture. Foot orthoses come in a wide spectrum as a visit to your local pharmacy and sport's store will reveal. Usually you get what you pay for and often longevity of the device is related to cost. Bespoke (made to measure) devices can be expensive and the evidence is over the counter foot orthoses, which are cheaper, are as effective. But conditions do apply, and in the event of persistent symptoms you are advised to consult your health care practitioner.

(Video FeetAceDot.Com Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 30/06/2018

1 comment:

Mr David Holland said...

Very nice summary of where we are today with orthoses.