The orthotic is an insert that fits inside the shoe and is engineered to help reduce abnormal foot motion while at the same time realigning the foot. This restores balance as well as eliminates or reduces foot pain. There are two ways you can get orthotics. The first is the customized orthotic that is prescribed by a podiatrist or orthopedist. This type of orthotic is designed to fit the foot perfectly and meet your physical needs. It is created based on a diagnostic. The second option is the over-the-counter option. These are orthotics you trim to fit.
Over-the-counter orthotics can be found in both grocery aisles and drug stores. They are available in many sizes and designed for both men and women. They retail for about $30. The custom orthotics, on the other hand, are more expensive. They cost between $400 and $600. The worst thing is that orthotics are not covered by most insurance companies. With that in mind, the big question on your mind right now is this, are custom orthotics really worth it? The answer is yes. For starters, wearing over-the-counter orthotics without a diagnosis can cause more harm than good.
Risks of Drugstore Orthotics
When you pick an orthotic shoe insert from the shelf, you risk causing more problems to your feet, leg, or back. This is according to Dr. Richard Hayes, a Board-Certified Ankle & Foot Specialist at the Great Basin Orthopedics in Reno. He further adds that it is hard for an average person to determine the primary cause of their discomfort or pain.
Orthotic devices are used to treat a wide range of problems which include:
- Supporting and aligning the ankle or foot
- Correcting, accommodating, or preventing foot deformities
- Improving the function of the ankle or foot
When you buy over-the-counter orthotics, you may risk worsening your condition because you may end up picking orthotics that don’t address your issue. The wrong device will change the mechanics of your gait and worsen the problem instead of curing it.
All in all, over-the-counter orthotics are not all bad. They may serve the needs of some people sufficiently when used together with an exercise program and stretching. The hard part is determining which orthotic is ideal for you. Over-the-counter orthotics made using hard plastic polymers will offer more support than your shoe insole. There are also brands that offer semi-custom fit with orthotics that you can mold yourself after you heat them before standing on them.
When you visit a podiatrist, they will recommend orthotic devices based on their diagnosis.
Bunionettes and/or bunions
Shoes with a wider toe box, soft, seamless uppers, and stretchy shoes will be recommended. This is a ‘bunion shield’ type pad.
Calluses and Corns
A toe separator will be helpful if located between or on the toes.
When you have a rigid high arch, a soft orthotic cushion can be used to evenly distribute the pressure.
If there is no pain or symptoms, you don’t need to use an orthotic device. If there is pain or discomfort, semi-rigid inserts or long arch pads, extended heel, or inner heel wedge can help.
Stiff big toe
For hallux rigidus, a full-length custom stiff insert, rocker bottom sole or Morton extension inlay will help.
Hammer toe or claw toe
You need a shoe with a wide or deep toe box to help accommodate the deformity.
A wide shoe, bars or pads under the bones of the forefoot.
Runner’s painful knee
This can be treated with a full-length, soft, custom sport orthotic inlay to reduce stress and the turning inward of the foot.