By: Dede Flatley, M.S., PT/Brittany Gartner, PT, DPT/Jamey Fox, PT
Orthotics are plastic inserts placed in shoes to promote proper alignment and stability of the foot, ankle, and leg. They require a doctor’s prescription and are fit by a physical therapist or orthotist. Many can benefit from orthotics with or without having a specific medical diagnosis. The feet are the body’s foundation and, without proper alignment, can cause pain in joints above, including back and neck pain.
Orthotics come in many shapes and sizes. Orthotics range from something like a simple shoe insert to taller braces that go to the calf or above the knee. Your child’s medical team (doctor, PT, orthotist, etc.) can determine what kind of orthotics would most benefit your child’s posture and function.
There are many reasons for children to wear orthotics. The most important is to provide good biomechanics for the feet, then consequently the rest of the lower extremities. Orthotics should provide stable and pain-free alignment for users. While there are many different reasons orthotics may be prescribed, all of them focus on facilitating your child’s physical development and reducing the risk of future joint and extremity damage.
Obtaining proper alignment in your child’s feet will help the rest of their body line up appropriately. Proper alignment aids your child in developing motor skills, facilitates functional activities, and improves quality of life. Orthotics do not need to be worn 24/7. As a child wears orthotics, some muscles are supported for stability, while others develop strength. Giving a child some time out of their orthotics will let them use this newfound strength and flexibility to perform functional activities.
Children with Down Syndrome tend to have low tone throughout their bodies, so they might need orthotic inserts to help align their feet and give them a more stable base to learn how to stand and walk. Many of our children at the Little Light House with Down syndrome wear small orthotics that go just past the ankle to help support their soft, flexible flat feet. We see success stories all the time as our kids start to walk because they are supported by their orthotics.
There are many things to consider if your child uses orthotics. To ensure they are being used correctly at home and school, you can download our short guide to orthotics.
Guide to Orthotics