Orthopedic aids in cases of chronic heel and ankle pain “Foot orthoses are the better solution in the long term“
More and more customers are coming to medical supply retailer Sanitätshaus Strack GmbH because they are suffering from chronic heel and ankle pain. At the company’s seven stores in the Pfalz area, one orthopedic aid is therefore being individually adapted and sold particularly often: the ErgoPad redux heel plastic foot orthosis.
“People are probably leaving their sensible shoes behind too often,” says Hans-Jürgen Usinger, guessing the reason for the increase in the problem of chronic heel and ankle pain among his customers. Usinger and his father are the third and fourth generations of the family to run their company Sanitätshaus Strack GmbH in Landau (Pfalz), which employs 65 members of staff. The business with a history that goes back more than 90 years has a very broad base as a medical supply retailer, orthotist for insoles and shoes, rehabilitation technology supplier, and home care provider. “Supplying foot orthoses makes up at least about a third of our orthopedics business,” says the expert orthotist. And foot orthoses for chronic heel and ankle pain or calcaneal spurs form a growing percentage of that share.
Presented with a prescription straight away
“Around 95 percent of customers with chronic heel and ankle pain come to us with a prescription for a foot orthosis straight off,” says Hans-Jürgen Usinger. “However, sometimes we have to consult the physician.” For instance, in order to specify the exact type on the prescription required for a reimbursement from the health insurance fund, such as ‘soft foam foot orthosis, long sole, with soft cushioning for calcaneal spur’. The biggest challenge is then to fit sensible cushioning into the customer’s desired shoe: “Customers are very fashion-conscious nowadays. They want the foot orthoses to be as thin as possible but still have the optimum effect. That’s sometimes already a balancing act.”
If customers come to Sanitätshaus Strack without a prescription, they first receive an in-depth consultation, then the painful area is examined, and recommendations are made for them to decide on how to proceed. “We generally send customers to their physician so that they can get an impression of the problem, make a diagnosis, and set a suitable treatment in motion,” says the junior manager.
Heel cushion for short-term acute pain
If customers have more minor, short-term heel problems, the expert orthotist also sometimes uses a viscoelastic heel cushion to absorb shock and relieve pressure at certain points. “For example, if a customer needs to spend an evening on their feet at an event wearing stylish shoes and feels acute pain, a heel cushion can be very useful for cushioning shock loads and absorbing pressure peaks in the heel area. However, a suitable foot orthosis is definitely the better solution for long-term chronic heel and ankle pain,” emphasizes Usinger. “The foot orthosis always sits precisely in the shoe and we can achieve a whole other kind of cushioning and foot guidance.” For example, patients generally need support for the longitudinal arch to reduce the excessive tension affecting the strained tendon whenever they take a step.
ErgoPad redux heel: significantly reduces the workload
The orthotists at Sanitätshaus Strack GmbH primarily use the ErgoPad redux heel as a foot orthosis for chronic heel and ankle pain or calcaneal spurs. Its special hole notches and the intelligent fan design of the synthetic core ensure a noticeable relief of pressure on the painful heel area. This particularly painful and pressure-sensitive area is also provided with extra cushioning. Furthermore, the foot orthosis offers optimum support for flattened foot arches or arches under severe strain, thereby also combating the cause of the foot deformity that patients often have.
“The plantar tendon notch produces particularly positive results,” says Usinger. “After consulting the orthotist , we used to mill a channel in a soft foam foot orthosis ourselves to relieve the tendon insertion point and calcaneal spur area.” As it took a lot of work to create the special notch and cushion it manually, the entrepreneur is now delighted with the ErgoPad redux heel. “We still have enough to do – from examining the foot , measuring foot pressure, and taking a foam imprint to customizing the orthoses,” he stresses. The ErgoPad redux heel is not only effective – it is also easy to modify and lasts a very long time. However, he advises his customers to have the functional features checked after six months at most.
Around 80 percent of customers with chronic heel and ankle pain can be supplied the ErgoPad Redux heel orthotic blank at Strack. The others require additional individual modifications. For example, the longitudinal arch may need to be raised further or flattened, or other pads may be necessary. “The hole notches in the synthetic core are not enough for a small percentage of customers because their calcaneal spur extends over a larger area. We have to enlarge them further in such cases,” explains Usinger. Wearers of the foot orthosis can feel the comfort of the soft cushioning immediately, but it can take a few days before they notice that their irritated tendons are relieved.
Pictures: Bauerfeind, Rainer Kraus