OakLeaf Medical Network Healthy Viewpoints, Winter 2003
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Dr. Joel Kowski, DPM

Prescription Orthotic Therapy

Joel Kowski, DPM
Podiatric Medicine
Foot & Ankle Clinic, Menomonie

The human foot is an engineering masterpiece. It is a complex of 26 bones, 33 joints and a network of over 100 tendons, muscles and ligaments. Unfortunately, foot related problems are among the most common health ailments in the United States. Studies show that three of every four people experience foot problems at some point in their life.

However, there is good news. Your podiatric physician has been trained specifically in the diagnosis and treatment of all types of foot and ankle problems. First, and most important is to obtain a diagnosis of the ailment. A treatment plan can then be prepared.

Some of the commonly suffered foot conditions treated by podiatrists include: heel spurs/plantar fasciitis, arch pain, shin splints, bunions, hammertoes, neuromas (a pinched nerve in the ball of the foot), corns, calluses and arthritis. Foot and ankle problems associated with diabetes or poor circulation are also diagnosed and treated by the podiatrist.

Podiatrists will often prescribe a custom molded device for the foot, called an orthotic, as a conservative approach in the treatment plan for these problems. Many times an orthotic can cure a foot problem before surgery is needed. In the event that surgery is required, an orthotic is often prescribed afterwards for long term support, control and protection.


Prescription orthotic therapy is the use of a custom made prosthetic device to correct an abnormal or irregular walking pattern or foot structure problem. They make standing, walking or running more efficient and comfortable. Orthotics are designed to support or restore the footís natural arch, or alter the position/angle at which the foot contacts the ground. Orthotics are also used to cushion and protect painful or inflamed areas of the foot.

Prescription orthotics are an integral component in the overall treatment plan for patients with diabetes. The orthotic is used in the treatment of structural abnormalities, poor circulation and conditions often associated with diabetes. This type of orthotic is designed to improve or control abnormal foot function, redistribute pressure and reduce the progression of foot deformities.


A custom orthotic is typically made from a precise mold made of the patientís feet. The podiatrist will hold the patientís foot in a specific position while making the mold in order to achieve the appropriate alignment and function. This mold is then used to make a custom orthotic specific for that patient.

Depending on the purpose of the device, it may be made of a hard, soft or a combination of materials. Hard (rigid) orthotics are typically used to control function and give support. Soft orthotics are designed for shock absorption, as well as relief from pressure and friction.

Orthotics are designed to fit in just about any type of shoe including dress shoes, athletic foot wear and heavy duty work boots. They can even be made to work in ski boots or ice skates. Worn by all types of people, orthotics can be particularly helpful to those who must stand many hours a day for work, the exercise enthusiast or the professional athlete.

Your podiatrist is a physician and surgeon trained specifically in the diagnosis and treatment of the foot and ankle. Prescription orthotic therapy is often an integral part of a successful treatment plan.

Visit the following internet links for more information:
American Podiatric Medical Association: www.apma.org
American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons: www.acfas.org or 800.421.2237

For more information, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Joel Kowski » 715.235.4274/800.359.4421
Foot & Ankle Clinic