Custom orthotics, also known as foot orthoses, are inserts designed to provide support and correct foot imbalances. While they offer numerous benefits like pain relief, improved balance, and better posture, many people wonder if they should expect initial discomfort.
This blog addresses the common concern of whether custom orthotics hurt at first, providing insights into the break-in period and offering tips to minimise discomfort.
Why Do Custom Orthotics Feel Different?
Unlike off-the-shelf inserts, custom orthotics are molded to the unique contours of your feet, providing targeted support and correcting biomechanical imbalances. This new alignment can initially feel different, causing mild pressure or discomfort in specific areas.
Here are some reasons why your feet might feel different when you first wear custom orthotics:
- Arch support: Custom orthotics provide support for your arches, which may feel unfamiliar if you have flat feet or high arches.
- Heel support: Orthotics can elevate the heel, which can cause a change in your gait and lead to temporary calf muscle soreness.
- Pressure points: Some areas of your feet may experience increased pressure due to the targeted support provided by the orthotics.
- Material: The material of the orthotic can also play a role. Certain materials might feel firmer or less flexible, requiring an adjustment period.
Factors Affecting Discomfort
Here are some factors that can influence the level of discomfort you experience:
- Severity of your foot condition: The more severe the condition, the greater the discomfort you might feel initially as your feet adjust to the corrective support.
- Material of the orthotic: Certain materials, like hard plastics, might feel more uncomfortable than softer materials like EVA foam.
- Age: Younger individuals tend to adapt to changes more quickly than older individuals.
- Activity level: Individuals with a more active lifestyle might experience more discomfort initially compared to those with a more sedentary lifestyle. Learn more about how long should you wear your orthotics here.
Understanding the Break-In Period
It’s natural to experience some mild discomfort during the initial break-in period of your custom orthotics. This is because your feet are adjusting to the new support and alignment they provide. Your feet are accustomed to their existing biomechanics, and introducing a change requires adaptation.
Here are some reasons why you might experience mild discomfort during the break-in period:
- Muscle and tendon adaptation: Your muscles and tendons need time to adjust to the new support and alignment provided by the orthotics.
- Pressure redistribution: The orthotics will distribute pressure differently than your feet are accustomed to, which can initially feel strange.
- Increased arch support: Orthotics with arch support can initially feel uncomfortable for individuals who have flat feet or low arches.
How Much Discomfort is Normal?
The degree of initial discomfort varies depending on the individual and their specific foot condition. Some people might experience no discomfort at all, while others might experience mild soreness or pressure points.
In general, the discomfort should be mild and resolve within a few days or weeks. If you experience severe pain, blistering, or other significant discomfort, it’s important to consult your podiatrist to ensure the orthotics are properly fitted and adjusted.
Tips to Minimise Discomfort
Here are some tips to minimise discomfort during the break-in period of your custom orthotics:
- Start slowly: Wear your orthotics for short periods initially and gradually increase the wearing time as your feet adapt.
- Choose the right shoes: Wear supportive shoes with good cushioning to help absorb shock and reduce pressure on your feet.
- Take breaks: If you experience discomfort, take your orthotics out and rest your feet.
- Apply ice: Applying ice to your feet for 10-15 minutes can help reduce inflammation and discomfort.
- Stretch your feet: Stretching your feet regularly can help to improve flexibility and reduce discomfort.
- Talk to your podiatrist: If you’re concerned about the discomfort you’re experiencing, consult your podiatrist. They can assess your feet and make adjustments to your orthotics as needed.
When to Worry about Pain
While some initial discomfort is normal during the break-in period, persistent or severe pain is not. If you experience any of the following, consult your podiatrist:
- Sharp or unbearable pain
- Tingling or numbness
- Blisters or skin irritation
- Increased redness or swelling
- Difficulty walking or standing
These symptoms could indicate a problem with the fit or design of your orthotics, and addressing them promptly is important to prevent further injury or complications.
Custom orthotics are valuable tools for improving foot health and addressing various conditions. While the break-in period can involve some mild discomfort for some individuals, following the tips mentioned above and consulting your podiatrist can help minimise this discomfort and ensure a smooth transition to enjoying the full benefits of your orthotics.