Evolution of Foot Orthotics – Part 2

Part 2: Research Reshapes Long-Standing Theory

Kevin Arthur Ball, PhD, a and Margaret J. Afheidtb



Objective: To challenge casual understanding of the causal mechanisms of foot orthotics. Although the classic orthotic paradigm of Merton L. Root and his colleagues is often acknowledged, the research attempting to explain and validate these mechanisms is far less clear in its appraisal.

Data Sources: Studies evaluating the relationship ·of foot type (medial arch height) and use of foot orthoses to the motions of the foot and ankle were compared and contrasted. A search \Vas conducted to evaluate other possible mechanisms of orthotic intervention.

Results: Although Root's methods of foot evaluation (subtalar neutral position) and casting (rton­weight-bearing) are well referenced, these methods have poor reliability, unproven validity, and are. in fact, seldom strictly followed. We challenge 2 widely held concepts: that excessive foot eversion leads to excessive pronation and that orthotics provide beneficial effects by controlling rearfoot inversion/eversion. Numerous studies show that patterns of rearfoot inversion/eversion cannot be characterized either by foot type or by orthotics use. Rather, subtle control of internal/external tibial rotation appears to be the most significant factor in maintaining proper sup!nation/pronation mechanics. Recent evidence also suggests that proprioceptive influences play a large, and perhaps largely unexplored, role.

Conclusions: Considerable evidence supports the exploration of new theories and paradigms of orthotics use. Investigations of flexible orthotic designs, proprioceptive influences, and the 3-dimensional effects of subtalar joint motion on the entire kinetic chain are areas of research that show great promise. (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2002;25:125-34)



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