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Orthotics for walking difficulties

Foot, knee or back orthotics may be required to support a segment of the body which suffers from a mechanical dysfunction. The brace is called an Orthosis.

physiotherapist helping patient bend her knee on a hospital bed whilst wearing a knee support bandage
Orthotics are medical devices that you wear to correct problems with your feet, legs, or back. They can be bought over the counter or prescribed by a specialist and custom-made for you. Orthotics include specially made footwear, shoe insoles, braces, and supports.

Orthotics can help to:

  • Correct foot deformities
  • Provide ankle support
  • Improve the function of the feet and ankles
  • Reduce foot pain
  • Reduce the risk of further injuries

Call or book online today to arrange a consultation to discuss private orthotic treatment with a consultant of your choice at Circle Health Group.

This page explains what orthotics are, who may need them, and what kind of orthotic devices are available.

Orthotics may be recommended for you if you:

  • Have foot pain
  • Spend a lot of time on your feet
  • Have an injury or health condition that affects your back, hips, legs, knees, ankles, or feet
  • Notice that your shoes are worn down more on one side than the other
  • Have a medical condition that can affect your feet like diabetes, arthritis, plantar fasciitis, multiple sclerosis (MS), or pes planus (flat feet)

Orthotics can be used to treat a wide range of conditions including:

Back or knee pain

This can be caused by poor positioning of the feet while standing or walking.


Diabetes may cause loss of sensation in the feet leading to ulcers.


Both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis can cause poor positioning of the feet and foot pain.


Bunions are bony lumps that develop on the base of the big toe joint causing pain and deformity in your foot.

Pes planus (flat feet)

Also known as flat feet, pes planus is a condition where the arch of the foot flattens when standing, causing foot, ankle and back pain.


Inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs ( bursae) in the heels and toes.

Walking difficulties caused by a medical condition

Conditions including multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and Downs syndrome can all cause walking difficulties that can be helped with orthotics.

Hammer toe

This is a deformity of the second, third, or fourth toe caused by problems with your tendons, muscles, and joints.

Plantar fasciitis

This condition causes pain around the bottom of your foot, heel, and arch.

Heel spurs

Heel spurs are growths of excess bone that develop on the heels and can cause heel pain.

High foot arches

If you have high arches in your feet, it can put stress on your foot muscles and lead to other problems like plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and knee problems.

Foot drop

This is the name given to a difficulty lifting the front part of the foot that may occur as a result of multiple sclerosis or stroke.

Injuries to the feet or ankles

If your foot or ankle is injured, it may need extra support from orthotics during the healing process.

If you're experiencing any of the above problems, you may benefit from treatment with orthotics. Book an appointment with one of our experienced specialists who will be able to recommend the best course of treatment.

At Circle Health Group, our orthotics are custom to the individual, meaning the price of orthotics will vary from person to person. The cost will depend on various factors such as the reason you need orthotics and the type of support you choose.

If you would like a guide price based on your personal circumstances, give us a call and one of our dedicated advisors will help to get you an estimate.

If you are paying for your own orthotics, you can take advantage of our flexible payment options, which allow you to spread the cost over a period of up to five years.

If you have private health insurance, orthotics may be covered by your policy. Speak to your provider directly to find out.

At your first appointment, your orthopaedic consultant will spend some time learning about your issue by asking you some questions.

They may ask you about:

  • Any medical conditions you have
  • Any illness or trauma that may have caused the problem
  • Which parts of the body are affected
  • Which daily activities are affected
  • How long you have been having problems
  • Whether your symptoms are getting worse
  • What, if anything, makes your symptoms worse, and what makes them better
  • Whether you have had any treatment for the problem before

Your consultant will examine your spine, legs, and feet, and run some tests such as:

  • Observing your gait (walking pattern). This may include using pressure plates or cameras to assess every stage of your gait cycle
  • Checking the range of motion of your joints(how far you can move them)
  • Assessing the shape of your feet
  • Assessing the alignment of your legs (how they line up with your spine)
  • Muscle length tests to check your muscle’s ability to extend or be stretched
  • Resistance tests to check the strength of your muscles and tendons

Sometimes your consultant will order further tests like X-ray, MRI, or bone scans to check for underlying causes such as arthritis or injury.

Why is this first consultation so important?

The first consultation is important because it allows us to examine you, perform any necessary tests and recommend a suitable treatment. It is also where we get to know you and what you are hoping to get out of treatment. We create a bespoke treatment plan for every patient, so it’s very important for us to have this one-on-one time with you.

If orthotics are a good choice for you, your consultant will talk you through the process and put your mind at rest by answering any questions you may have.

How do we decide what treatment is best for you?

We decide on the best course of treatment for you based on your symptoms, the results of your tests, and your lifestyle and preferences. Your consultant will explain the process and discuss treatment options with you, allowing you to make an informed decision about how best to move forward.

If orthotics are right for you, the first step towards creating your custom orthotics is to take a detailed mould of your feet. This might be done by your consultant, or one of our physiotherapists, or you may meet with a specialist orthotist. Your orthotic device is then custom made for you. You will need another appointment for the orthotic device to be fitted and checked, as well as further follow-ups to check your progress.

Yes. There are a wide variety of orthotics available. As well as varying in design and function, they vary in terms of the material they are made from and the type of treatment they provide.

Rigid or functional orthotics are made from hard materials such as plastic or carbon fibre. They are used to provide stability and prevent movements that lead to pain in the feet, legs, and lower back.

Soft or accommodative orthotics are made from soft materials and are used to provide cushioning and relieve pressure from areas of the feet that are painful.

Semi-rigid orthotics provide both cushioning and stability and are used for conditions such as flat feet.

Some of the most common orthotics include:

Ankle-foot orthosis (AFOs)

These are a type of brace that covers the ankle or foot. They are used to provide stabilisation and support and can be rigid or semi-flexible. AFOs are commonly used to treat people with foot drop, or foot and ankle problems caused by multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke, or spinal cord injury.

Prescription insoles

These are made by taking a cast of your foot, which is then used to create an insole. They are inserted into your shoes to relieve pain and pressure and correct walking problems.

Resting ankle splints

These are worn at night to stretch and prevent shortening of your calf muscles and to reduce muscle stiffness.

How long do I need to keep my orthotic device on for?

Your consultant will tell you how long to wear your orthotic device for. Normally, you'll start wearing it for around an hour a day, gradually increasing the time by 30 minutes a day until you are wearing your device all day.

You may experience some discomfort for the first few weeks as you get used to wearing your orthotic. If you experience pain, remove the orthotic and wait two to four hours before trying again. If you still experience pain, stop wearing your device and contact your consultant.

Orthotics are a non-invasive method of treatment that carries a very low risk of complications. Complications are much less common in custom-made orthotics than in over-the-counter devices.

Some complications of orthotics may include:

  • Soreness if the device doesn't fit correctly
  • Changes to your posture
  • Increased pressure on parts of the body such as the hips and knees

Before you get your orthotic, your specialist will explain how to use it and care for it correctly. Use this time to ask any questions you may have. We want you to feel safe and comfortable using your orthotic device.

To care for your orthotics:

  • Remove your orthotics from your shoes every night to allow them to air dry
  • If they are dirty, clean your orthotics with mild soap or detergent and a clean, damp cloth
  • Don't put your orthotics in the washing machine or tumble drier
  • If your orthotics get wet, remove them from your shoes and allow them to dry out fully before using them again
  • Take your orthotics with you when you buy new shoes to make sure they fit correctly
  • Keep your orthotics away from extreme heat or cold

We answer some of the most commonly asked questions about orthotics.

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Yes. Studies have shown a significant improvement in lower back pain after six weeks of treatment with shoe orthotics.

Can orthotics cause shin splints?

No. Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome) involve inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around the shin bone (tibia). They commonly occur after exercise such as running. If you have flat feet or recurrent problems with shin splints, orthotics can help by stabilising the foot and ankle and reducing pressure on the lower leg.

Can orthotics cause hip pain?

Wearing your orthotics for too long during the first few weeks can cause pain in the feet, ankles, knees, and hips. If you experience pain when you first start using orthotics, contact your consultant for advice. Orthotics can also cause pain if not fitted correctly.

Can orthotics help bunions?

Orthotics can't correct a bunion, but they can reduce pain in your big toe joint and might stop your bunion from getting worse.

Do I have to wear orthotics forever?

Usually, orthotics are a long-term treatment, but in some cases, you may be able to stop wearing them once your issue is resolved. Talk to your specialist about how long you will need to use your orthotics.

Do I need to remove the original insoles when using orthotics?

Yes. Remove the original insoles that came with your shoes and replace them with your orthotics. Leaving the original insoles in will mean your orthotic insoles won't be in the right place and won't work properly.

How often should I replace orthotic insoles?

How long your orthotics last depends on many factors including the material they are made from, how often you wear them, your lifestyle, and body weight. On average orthotics last around two to three years. Have your orthotics checked once a year by a consultant orthotist or podiatrist to make sure they are still working properly.

Can you put orthotics in any shoe?

Orthotics work best in trainers or boots and shoes with a wide, supportive base. Most slip-on shoes or shoes with a heel over three centimetres are generally unsuitable for orthotics.

Do orthotics change the shape of your feet?

No. Orthotics work by changing the alignment of your feet, providing stabilisation and support, and relieving pressure. They do not change the shape of your feet.

Can orthotics help athletes?

Yes. In addition to correcting problems with the feet, orthotics can improve athletic performance by absorbing shock, improving gait, and reducing the risk of injury.

At Circle Health Group we have the experience and expertise to ensure the best possible care and outcome for our patients. As a patient with Circle Health Group you can expect the highest standards of care including:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations that are convenient for you
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant best suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard
  • A range of delicious healthy meals
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to see a consultant or learn more about orthotics, book your appointment today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.

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