Archive for the ‘Foot Orthoses’ Category

Foot Orthoses; Nomenclature

Foot orthoses are a source of immense discussion amongst health professionals and sports people, and as such are more than worthy of their own category on any Podiatry blog.  What is the difference between an off the shelf and a custom made device?  Do they weaken foot muscles?  Do we know how they actually ‘work’?  What does the scientific research tell us about them?  These are just a few of the topics I hope to blog about in the future.

This first entry is going to be quite short but it was the first thing I was ever taught regarding orthoses so seems as good a place as any to start; and it is simply regarding correct and incorrect terminology.  This was drilled into me so religiously that unfortunately it made me a little bit pernickety about it.  So what should we call the things we issue people to wear in their shoes? Insoles?… Inserts?… Orthotics?… Prosthetics?  Certainly I’ve heard them called all these things.  The general rule for their naming is perfectly summed up by Ray Anthony at the start of his 1991 book:

It is an Orthosis

They are Orthoses

They are Orthotic Devices

They are not Orthotics

Funny really, as ‘orthotics’ are probably what I hear them called (by patients and healthcare professionals alike) with the most frequency, despite this being considered poor terminology.  Does this really matter?  I suppose not in the big scheme of things.  But I can’t help but cringe a little when I read or hear them referred to incorrectly – the legacy of a pedantic (but brilliant) university lecturer almost 10 years ago.


Anthony, R. J. (1991). The manufacture and use of the functional foot orthosis. Karger; Basel, Switzerland.

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