A brief overview of medical shoes

How are shoes designed specifically for various medical requirements classified?
Children and adults, of any age, may require specifically-designed prescription footwear owing to the following reasons:

  • Due to the progression of a disease such as arthritis that may cause deformity of the foot
  • Deformities that are congenital
  • Flat feet
  • Foot deformity such as hallux valgus
  • On account of any severe injury or trauma caused to the foot
  • Certain vascular and neurological conditions
  • Some kind of a misalignment of the lower limbs and the foot

How are medical shoes classified?
Orthotics or medical shoes are usually classified into three broad categories.
Category 1 footwear have to be specifically customized to fit each individual user, as they are unable to use commercially made retail products. The manufacture of such footwear would require a 3-D imaging of the plantar and dorsal regions of the entire foot. Specific attention is given to designing the footwear keeping in mind any deformity or abnormality in gait. The kind of closing mechanisms such as laces or Velcro, the cushioning, the style etc., are all designed to suit the individual. Customized orthoses, inner and outer modifications, and braces that are attached to the footwear also form a part of such orthotics. Usually, custom-made medical shoes are extremely expensive but are nevertheless very beneficial to the specific user.

Category 2 medical shoes are a class of orthotic products that are not custom made. However, they are designed in various sizes, specifically for use by people with conditions such as hallux valgus, foot deformities, hammertoes, etc. While individualization of design is not essential, it is important that category 2 footwear are properly fitted by an orthotic specialist rather than just bought retail.

Category 3 medical shoes are not specifically individualized but have specific design elements that could be added that set them apart as orthotics.

These include:

  • Adjustable inner soles that can be broad or narrow and insoles with adjustable depth or cushioning
  • Inner protective lining
  • Gel heel pads
  • Arched insoles

Typically, such footwear is used by people with fallen arches, plantar fasciitis, etc.

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