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What are Plantar Fasciitis Orthotics?

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  • Written By: Allison Richard
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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Plantar fasciitis is a condition characterized by pain in the heel, generally caused by small tears in the plantar fascia, the structure that runs along the back of the heel and the bottom of the foot. One means of treatment for this condition is the use of plantar fasciitis orthotics. These are soft inserts worn in the shoe to cushion the heel and absorb some of the shock when walking or doing other activities.

Often brought on by weight-bearing activities, plantar fasciitis can also be caused for anatomical reasons, such as low arches. The pain is most often felt as soon as the foot hits the floor and is generally worst first thing in the morning, as the foot has not been flexed throughout the night while sleeping, making the fascia tight. The condition often heals on its own, but can take from several months to a year to do so.

Plantar fasciitis orthotics add cushioning to the foot, so most inserts help alleviate some of the pain by protecting the foot when walking. These orthotics are generally made from polyvinyl chloride, silicone, leather, polyethylene foams like Plastazote®, or thermoplastics. Plantar fasciitis orthotics come in two forms, and the type used is generally chosen based on the severity of the condition.

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If the condition is mild, general plantar fasciitis orthotics can be purchased at a pharmacy without a prescription. These orthotics will be generic in size and therefore may not fit perfectly to the foot. If the condition is more severe, a podiatrist can create a custom orthotic by taking a plaster cast of the patient's foot and using that to design a specific orthotic that will mold to the foot and compensate for any anatomical causes contributing to the planter fasciitis. The custom fit can allow these orthotics to aid in the healing process. Custom plantar fasciitis orthotics are generally quite expensive, however.

Other treatment options that can be used in addition to the plantar fasciitis orthotics include wearing shoes with good arch support and stretching the calf muscle and arches of the foot. Stretching the calf muscle can be done simply by flexing the foot. An effective way to stretch the arches is to sit in a chair and place a tennis ball underneath the foot. The tennis ball should be rolled back and forth along the bottom of the foot, from the ball of the toes to the heel. Before embarking on any treatment options, patients should always see a doctor to get a specific diagnosis.

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