Do You Need Orthotics?

Many of our patients complain of foot pain, and we get a lot of questions about orthotics and inserts. What is an Orthotic? Could an orthotic help you? Do you need to get your orthotic from your doctor, or can you buy one at the drugstore?

Foot pain can be the result of a variety of conditions including bunions, hammertoes, neuroma (pinched nerve), or plantar fasciitis (heel pain). In many cases, muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, or bones may not be optimally positioned for function, contributing to pain, discomfort, and fatigue. An orthotic, in concert with retraining exercises and physical therapy, can correct some of these issues or relieve the pain associated with them.

Foot orthotics vary depending on the intended benefit and can be rigid, semirigid, semiflexible, or accommodative. Orthotics are available in three main types: over the counter, “kiosk-generated”, and professionally produced or custom orthotics.

Over the Counter Orthotics

You have likely seen these in your drug store or grocery store. Over-the-counter orthotics are available in many retail stores and are based on your shoe size and the type of problem or pain you are experiencing. They can be very effective in relieving the symptoms of Achilles tendonitis and arch pain.

Kiosk Generated Orthotics

“Kiosk” orthotics are generated by a machine or kiosk. A scan is taken of your foot and a particular size or style of orthotic is recommended to address the symptoms you are experiencing. Kiosk orthotics can be effective in treating heel pain, lower back pain, general foot pain, or used for sports.

Custom Prescription Orthotics

For a custom orthotic, a health professional will assess your health history, height, weight, activity level, and perform special foot evaluation and measurements. Based on this assessment, your doctor will determine how rigid or flexible the orthotic needs to be. A mold is then made of your feet to create an orthotic that addresses your specific needs. Another cost-effective option that we use regularly at Move Better is a customized pre-fabricated orthotic that is designed to address specific functional deficits for a patient at a fraction of the cost of full custom orthotics.

What type of Orthotic is right for you?

If you are a generally healthy person of average height, weight, and foot type and you are experiencing a generic problem like heel pain, an over-the-counter or kiosk orthotic may be sufficient. You will need to replace them more often than a custom orthotic, but they are relatively inexpensive and easy to find in most stores. If you have more specific needs like very flat feet or diabetic foot discomfort, a custom orthotic may be a better way to treat your symptoms.

Before buying an over-the-counter orthotic or making an appointment with your podiatrist, make sure you are wearing good quality, properly fitted shoes. Modern shoe buyers often buy shoes “off the shelf”, skipping the shoe fitting and picking shoes that look great but may not support your feet. With all the fit options available (wide to narrow, tight heels, wide toes, etc.) it can be relatively easy to choose a shoe that causes pain or discomfort.

If properly fitted shoes do not address your symptoms, monitor the type of pain you are experiencing to determine whether the opinion of a professional might be helpful. Don’t ignore your pain – failure to address pain in your feet can lead to greater problems down the road.

The physical therapists at Move Better have advanced training in gait analysis, gait training, and the appropriateness of orthotic intervention in the management of a specific condition, or as a preventative modality. We focus our care on the use of cost-effective, pre-fabricated orthotics and wedge devices prescribed to your specific needs as well as customized gait training to help reduce pain. Prevent your future risk of falls, and improve your walking speed and confidence by learning a custom set of exercises designed to improve your daily function. If you are experiencing foot or ankle pain, please call Move Better at (434) 817-0980 because we are here to help you.