In general, foot care specialists group orthotics into the following categories:
- Functional orthotics are designed to support abnormal foot biomechanics. These devices, which often are made of supportive plastic polymer materials, prevent abnormal foot pronation (flattening of the arch) and reduce the impact load from the ground (shock absorption) while walking or running. Functional orthotics allow the foot to become a mobile adapter and a rigid lever. They support the rear foot or subtaylor joints, as well as the midfoot or midtarsal joints. This support stabilizes the foot and can help prevent repetitive overuse injuries. Functional orthotics are used to correct many foot deformities.
- Accommodative orthotics typically feature a soft supportive device that is designed to relieve mild foot pain and correct minor foot problems. These devices often are used to correct biomechanical walking problems in young children. Accommodative orthotics include include splints, gait plates, and night bars (devices used to hold a child's feet and legs at a proper angle while sleeping) that promote corrective adjustment for excessive toe-in or toe-out walking. Braces may be used in infants to correct foot, leg, or hip abnormalities (e.g., metatarsus adductus, internal or external hip rotation problems).