Making your own DIY orthopedic brace, insert or shoes may seem like a loopy idea.
After all, aren’t these pieces designed for a custom fit by medically trained designers? Yes, but that said, creating your own orthopedic accessory can a great way to heal yourself at a reasonable price, or even keep your limbs steady when you’re not in a location where you can easily get a brace.
Before we go any farther, a little advice: It makes sense to consult a doctor or physical therapist about any serious physical injury. Fabricating a brace for a lightly sprained ankle is one thing, trying to heal an ACL tear with a DIY solution is definitely another. We aren’t medical experts, but do-it-yourselfers who are captivated by interesting ways to address complex problems — in this case, with orthopedic gear.
Here are a few interesting orthopedic projects you can try at home. Of course if you’re reticent about any of them, they don’t feel right, go ahead and track down some orthopedic products. By the way: Did you hear that there was a recent TikTok trend of kids making their own braces for their teeth? Let’s just say it didn’t always end well.
Here are a few orthopedic ideas to get you thinking:
If you have inflamed nerves in the knuckle bones of your feet, you may want to make a metatarsal pad. It can also help with joint inflammation.
As Dr. Dave the "Frugal Foot" doctor recommends in the above video, make sure you get an accurate diagnosis before building your pad. To start, you’re going to need a sock support or the lining of your sneaker, a sharp pair of scissors, and a roll of quarter inch adhesive felt.
You need to make a pair shaped pad that will fit onto the middle of your arch support. First, cut out a teardrop shape from the adhesive felt. Shape that teardrop to fit into the area of your foot behind the second, third and fourth metatarsal heads. The placement of the pad is particularly important. It shouldn’t come in contact with the “knuckles” of your foot.
When the pad is installed properly in your shoe or sneaker, more of the weight of your foot will go on the meaty part of your foot and less on the irritated metatarsals.
Making a DIY ankle brace can be done with two ACE bandages. This homemade brace is designed to keep your foot in an L shape so you can walk on your foot in the case of a severe sprain, but won’t allow too much forward and back motion to compound the injury.
The first bandage wraps around the base of your toes and then stretches up to wrap around the top of your calf where it circles around a few more times and then back down. The second bandage starts at your foot and reinforces the framework created by the first bandage. When done, your foot should be able to fit into a sneaker with the laces loosened.
Thumb Spica Split
If you have arthritis- or sprain-induced pain at the base of your thumb (e.g. “Skier’s thumb”), a doctor may prescribe a thumb spica splint to support the movement and keep the hand from getting sore. A spica splint can even be used for simple fractures.
These devices are typically made out of hard plastic, which may seem impossible to do yourself. The two millimeter perforated plastic used for this splint can be cut with a scissor, softened in warm water and then molded to the patient’s hand as it returns to room temperature and hardens.
To start, you’ll need to find the appropriate material and a template for splint online. Once you have the paper template, check it against the size of the hand you’re making the splint for. You may need to trim down the template or make it a little larger before lining it up with the plastic.
After cutting the plastic to the right shape, warm it in a bath of water about 60 to 65 degrees Centigrade (that’s 140 to 150 Fahrenheit). Once malleable, dry it off and then mold it around the hand. The above video by Flex Physiotherapy has all the details on how the splint should fit. Soon the plastic will harden and you’ll have an assistive device you can use for quite some time.
Leather Orthopedic Shoes
Okay, Wood Mood, the creators of the above video don’t appear to offer a how to explaining the steps needed to make orthopedic shoes, but they do show it can be done.
Chances are you probably don’t have the materials to make the mold or the machines to nail in the straps, but it’s still pretty cool to see it done.
If any problems occur while using your DIY braces or clothing, it is best to seek medical advice before continuing use. Through the use of DIY orthopedic braces and clothing items, we are taking control of our own well-being with quick and safe solutions that will allow us to stay active for years to come.