History of Orthotics

People have been wearing shoes since the dawn of time to make lifeís hard road more bearable. Early shoe designs dating back thousands of years suggest that appearance has always been as important as comfort--if not more important. The shoe was initially considered a status symbol.

As shoes became more accessible to the general population, people demanded better comfort. Originally there was no such thing as a left or right shoe (this idea didn't catch on until the 1800s.) Early innkeepers recognized that most weary travelers complained of foot pain. The first insoles were made by innkeepers from matted animal hair retrieved from the local barn (later called felt).

Over time shoemakers, or cobblers, modified the innkeepers' foot pads and began to add leather materials to the insides of shoes to create a better, more comfortable fit. Hence, the first arch supports were born. Early arch supports were made by laminating layers of leather strips together, molding them to shoe lasts, and then shaping the arch support by hand. These arch supports helped create a new level of comfort. The only problem was that arch supports were often bulky and heavy.

By the early 1900s electricity and bench grinders made cutting and laminating leather much faster and therefore more affordable for the general population. In addition, lighter and softer materials were combined with leather blanks to create an additional level of comfort.

The next major enhancement came in the 1960s when a new generation of thermoplastics was introduced to the marketplace. Thermoplastics mold to a form, such as a replica of your foot, when hot. Once cooled, the material retains the molded shape of the form. Thermoplastics, such as polypropylene, are lightweight especially in comparison to leather and foam materials. More importantly, thermoplastics provide a strong, durable, and thin orthotic that can support the foot and body while fitting into modern style shoes. As a further plus, polypropylene is recyclable.

The introduction of thermoplastic materials led to new theories about how to make arch supports. Instead of using a shoe last to make the device, medical professionals began using a mold or cast of a personís foot, thereby creating a true orthotic. The medical definition of an orthotic is a brace that supports a specific body structure. More importantly, scientific principles were (and continue to be) applied to the footís structure and to foot orthotics to develop foot supports that can actually control the function of feet, legs, hips, back, and neck.

Since the 1960s, the art of custom orthotic making has been continually enhanced so that today it is possible to build an device that can help correct foot deformities (such as bunions, flat feet, etc.) that cause typical aches and pains in the feet, legs, hips, back, and neck--the types of aches and pains people in all cultures and all parts of the world experience.

Medically prescribed custom orthotics can be compared to eyeglasses: eye glasses do not change your body, but instead assist you in performing at a higher level. If you donít wear them, they are not helping you. The same applies to custom orthotics. If you need them, they can greatly enhance your general comfort and well-being.

FootOrthotics™ provide a full range of products for the consumer, from inexpensive insoles to totally custom foot orthotics made to perform under very specific conditions, such as snow skiing.

Please e-mail us with your questions.

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All information on this site © 2011 Joshua Kaye, DPM.