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Orthotics: Where we came from and where we are going…

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Orthotics: Where we came from and where we are going…

Jane Lawler

For thousands of years craftsmen have attempted to undertake corrections or compensations for biomechanical irregularities of the lower limb. There is actual evidence of wool, felt and other natural substances being placed in ancient shoes to assist in the mechanical function of the foot to alleviate pain.

Today’s orthopaedic industry credits an Orthopaedist who, during 1905 in Boston, placed a metal support under fallen arches as the birth of the modern orthotic industry. Ever bought Scholl products from your local pharmacy? In 1910 Dr. William Scholl created numerous foot-care products based on those original devices, thankfully with much lighter materials!

There are many things that need to be considered when trying to emulate individual foot shape. Even the great Michelangelo would have had trouble trying to portray an accurate carving of a foot from a resting or standing model. This is because when we stand up, the foot changes shape – the bones in the forefoot splay, making the foot wider and the soft tissue spreads underneath the balls of the foot and the heel bone.

During walking (also called the gait cycle), the human foot displays an amazing picture of anatomy and mechanical engineering, having to go from being flexible to adapt to the ground surface at the beginning of the gait cycle, to being a more supportive and rigid lever during the pushing off phase to make it an efficient structure to propel us in a forward direction. This happens all within milliseconds! With 26 bones (plus 2 sesamoids), 33 joints and 103 ligaments making up the human foot it is the most incredible biomechanical structure in the body.

For many years, podiatrists have used methods involving plaster casting of the foot in order to obtain an accurate impression of the foot. This plaster cast would then be sent off to the specialist orthotic laboratory with a prescription to have the orthotics manufactured, much like you get glasses made when you go to the optometrist.

The amazing growth in technology has allowed this process to be transformed so that we are now able to take 3D digital scans of the foot, instead of the traditional plaster cast technique.

The Occipital scanner is an amazing infra-red 3D scanner that is attached to an ipad and individually carefully calibrated to give an accurate representation of the human foot in 3 dimensions to within an accuracy of 0.001 of a mm.

Our Podiatrists at Junction Foot and Ankle Group are using this technology with incredible results and our patients are loving their devices.

And because these devices are prescription made, we have the ability to select and prescribe your individual device that can be made very flexible and comfortable to individually match your requirements, activities and footwear. We are using state of the art materials which are lighter and more durable than the devices of the past.