Ask Your Physical Therapist: Determining need for custom foot orthotics

Ask Your Physical Therapist: Determining need for custom foot orthotics

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Are custom food orthotics worth the cost?

The short answer is yes, but in order to answer the question properly, one needs to have an understanding of what custom foot orthotics actually are.

A custom foot orthotic is a rigid, semi-rigid or semi-flexible base that is specifically the exact shape of individual’s foot. The custom foot orthotic is made by a physical therapist by casting your feet in a neutral position with plaster casting or by having you walk across and stand on a force plate.

The readings from standing on and walking across the force plate are transferred to a computer system, and from there, they are 3-D printed and fit to your shoes.

The purpose of custom orthotics is to support your arch and distribute pressure evenly throughout your feet. This helps to relieve heel, arch, ankle, ball of foot, knee, back and Achilles pain.

But back to the original question, it’s also important to understand the following points:

  • Custom orthotics will not be effective if you have soft tissue tightness and pain that has not been addressed.
  • In order for custom orthotics to be effective, you must be wearing the correct shoe for your specific foot type, as well as the proper size shoe (most people are wearing a shoe that is too small for them).
  • Many people, who are in need of custom orthotics also need physical therapy first to address tightness, weakness and pain. This way, the pain will be reduced enough to allow the foot to tolerate placing an orthotic in the shoe without causing a pain flare-up.

The one thing that may be coming abundantly clear to you by this point is that you need guidance through this process since there are quite a few variables that need to play out correctly in order that you achieve custom foot orthotic success.

The physical therapists at Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy are the only physical therapists in central Pennsylvania who specialize in treatment of the foot/ankle, as well as in the fabrication and fitting of custom foot orthotics and properly fitting shoes for your specific foot type.

Perhaps you have been having nagging heel, arch, ball of the foot, ankle, knee or low back pain and are wondering if custom foot orthotics would help you resolve your pain so you can get back to pain-free activities you love.

In addition, you may already have custom foot orthotics or over-the-counter orthotics that did/do not work for you. There is usually a reason the orthotic is not working for you, as mentioned earlier in this column. If this is the case, our physical therapists can solve your issue.

By law, you can self refer to Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy (unless you have Medicare, at which point you will need to see your doctor for a script first before you can see us). Call today at 717-245-0400 to schedule your free screen.

Please email me at if you have any questions regarding neck or arm pain or any other orthopedic ailment, and I would be happy to answer your questions.

Steve Miller is the owner of Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy and can be reached by email at His column will appear bi-monthly in the Thrive section of the Sentinel and on


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