Predicting the effect of custom foot orthotics in the clinic - is it possible?

Custom foot orthotics work so well for so many people to treat a variety of conditions. But what we also know is that different peple respond to orthotics in different ways.

So how good would it be if we could somehow predict their effect in the clnic, before we commit the time and investment into a pair of custom foot orthotics?!

This was the exact question that puzzled me for years, and finally I got to the point where I neeeded answer - the Result: our publication in Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise in 2016. 


Not to bore you with the technical research jargon, but what we wanted to do is see whether we could use a particular taping technique to predict orthotics. How orthotics work is to manipulate the forces acting on the attachment of the plantar fascia so that it gives the tissue time to heal. 

Our hypothesis: Could we use tape to apply forces to the foot in the same areas as the orthotic does to produce similar effects?

  • Yes it might be tight, but it gives a little after just ten to fifteen minutes.

The taping technique involves us placing a fair bit of force around the joints of your foot, with the aim to remove the force/pressure from the painful plantar heel. 

  • Yes it might pull on those hairs on the top of the foot.
  • Yes it might not last that long because it is elastic based tape.

However, if we could just somehow produce a short-term effects (say for 24 - 48 hours), and we could show that this mechanical effect was similar to that achieved with orthotics, then this would be enough to justify a neat little treatment prediction test for the clinic. 

The method: We took 20 people. Each of them walked in a 3D motion capture laboratory in shoes, in shoes with their feet tapes and in shoes with custom foot orthotics individually prescribed for them.

The results: With the use of the taping technique, we could predict up to half the effect of how the orthotics worked in terms of their mechanical function on the foot. Pretty Neat. 

This data supports the use of our taping techniqe as a treatment prediction test for the use of custom foot orthotics. 

One simple rule: If we get a reduction in pain and symptoms with the use of the tape, its likely foot orthotics can do the same thing. Of course there are no guarantees.

Dr Chris Bishop (PhD)
Director | The Biomechanics Lab