Orthotics Sales Approach $5 Billion Per Year
The term “Foot Orthotic” refers to everything from the inexpensive drugstore pre-fabricated insoles to costly, custom-made devices specifically molded to the foot. Podiatrists generally consider orthotics to be custom-made devices, specifically made from a mold of the patient. Podiatrists spend a great deal of time and energy understanding the biomechanics of the foot and when designing an orthotic for patients, consider the patient’s biomechanics and other factors. The CMAJ article quoted a study by Global Industry Analysts showing that the orthotics market is booming and could reach total sales of nearly five billion dollars in the next few years.
I Discussed the Problem of Possible Muscle Atrophy
The CMAJ article quoted me in saying that “You can’t guarantee anything is going to work for everyone, because people are so variable. Orthotics can do amazing things for many people, but not for everyone.” I stated that “there isn’t even a consensus on what an orthotic is,” and discussed the risk of foot muscle atrophy when relying on orthotic devices. “When you brace the foot, that may alter the function of the foot for the better, but in doing so it negates the need for many of the muscles in the foot to do anything. Common sense tells us that if you don’t use a muscle, it’s going to weaken.“
The Mechanics Of Orthotics Are Still Largely Unknown
Benno Nigg, professor of biomechanics and codirector of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Calgary, Alberta stated that there is no conclusive evidence of the actual mechanism of function of orthotic devices. “Orthotics can work and can have fantastic effects, but we don’t know how they work,” adding that “we don’t really understand what we do.” Nigg wrote about the hypothesis that orthotics may assist in the shifting of improper alignment of the overall skeleton. “Maybe we should not think of pushing the skeleton around, but rather about finding ways to give signals to the body to do the right thing,” Nigg said.
Dr. Nigg has just published a new book, Biomechanics of Sports Shoes, and I’ll be posting a review of that work in an upcoming blog.