John Shiffert: Orthotics


If you go to and type in “orthotic” you’ll come up with the following… “An orthopedic appliance designed to straighten or support a body part.”

That’s a good generic term for a variety of orthopedic devices. However, today’s subject is more specific, mainly the appliances designed to fit in your shoes. And while podiatric orthotics do indeed fit in your shoes, they straighten and support body parts from the lower back on down. Why is that? Well, to paraphrase an old song… “the backbone’s connected to the hip bone, the hip bone’s connected to the leg bone, the leg bone’s connected to the…” you get the picture.

In point of fact, orthotics are a vital component in the treatment of a host of ailments, injuries and physiological imbalances. As custom-designed and crafted medical devices, they are as far superior to the generic insoles, arch supports and inserts you see in sporting goods and shoe stores as a pair of optometrically-correct and fitted eyeglasses are to the cheapies you can get off-the-rack in a drug store.

Let’s repeat that – orthotics, the real deal — are a precisely-crafted biomechanical device that are specifically created for your feet. They are not a one-size-fits all commercial product that may or may not really fit the contours of your foot, or address your specific foot, ankle, knee, hip or back problems.

Orthotics are a firm, plastic, molded device with an equally state-of-the-art cover, created by a cast of your feet by a trained professional in our office. As a result, they are both specifically designed for the contours of your feet and for your medical needs. However, since we’ve already made reference to eyeglasses, it’s worth knowing that, like eyeglasses, orthotics may take some adjustments and/or getting used to, especially if you’ve never worn orthotics before.

“One “issue” that first-time orthotic wearers will often raise is, “I don’t like the idea of wearing something that hard/stiff/ridged in my shoes.” A reasonable thought, but, you’ll probably be surprised how good your orthotics feel, typically right from the start. That’s because, as we mentioned already, they are carefully cast to your feet, custom designed just for you. (This is also why you should never let someone else wear your orthotics, and, similarly, you should never wear someone else’s orthotics.)

Nonetheless, be prepared to be patient and allow us to provide instructions so that your orthotics will most effectively correct whatever imbalances or conditions with which you have been diagnosed. Even so, it is possible that it may take from one week to six weeks to become totally accustomed to your orthotics, especially if you have never worn orthotics previously.

Here are some tips for getting used to your orthotics:

  • Discuss with your doctor beforehand what types of shoes you should wear with your orthotics

  • Start wearing your orthotics in comfortable shoes with adequate room

  • Wear them until you feel fatigue or discomfort, then take them out of your shoes for an hour

  • Repeat this process

  • If you are still not comfortable with your orthotics, try wearing them for one hour a day, and increase your wearing time by one hour per day

  • If you experience discomfort in other parts of the body – knees, hips or back – after several hours wear, you should also cut back on your wearing time

  • If pain persists, call your doctor

  • Orthotics should be worn with socks during the break-in period

  • Walk, don’t run… in your orthotics that is, until they feel comfortable during normal walking activities

  • If your heel slips during your adjustment period, try other shoes and be sure the orthotics fit well in your shoes.

When in doubt, follow your doctor’s specific instructions, in addition to these guidelines.