Foot orthotics in the treatment of lower limb conditions: a musculoskeletal physiotherapy perspective

Man Ther. 2004 Nov;9(4):185-96. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2004.08.003.


Orthotic therapy is frequently advocated for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and injury of the lower limb. The clinical efficacy, mechanical effects, and underlying mechanism of the action of foot orthotics has not been conclusively determined making it difficult for practitioners to agree on a reliable and valid clinical approach to their application and indeed even their fabrication. This problem is compounded by evidence suggesting that the most commonly used approach for orthotic prescription, the (Biomechanical Evaluation of the Foot. Vol. 1. Clinical Biomechanics Corporation, Los Angeles, 1971) approach, has poor validity and many of the associated clinical measurements of that approach lack adequate levels of reliability. This paper proposes a new approach that is based on two key elements. One is the identification, verification and quantification of physical tasks that serve as client specific outcome measures. The second is the application of specific physical manipulations during the performance of these physical tasks. The physical manipulations are selected on the basis of motion dysfunction and their immediate effects on the client specific outcome measures serve as the basis to making an informed decision on the propriety of using orthotics in individual clients. The motion dysfunction also guides the type of orthotic that is applied. Practical case examples as well as generic and specific guidelines to the application of this clinical assessment process and orthotics are provided in this paper.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Foot Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Foot Diseases / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / physiopathology
  • Manipulation, Orthopedic* / methods
  • Orthotic Devices*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Management*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Time Factors