Shoe Inserts: Is Custom Really Better?





One of the most effective ways to treat foot problems without surgery is the use of foot orthotics. Think of a foot orthotic as an arch support that's custom made for your foot, that you can move from shoe to shoe. Orthotics can be made to help accommodate deformities in your foot such as bunions, or to relieve pressure from painful calluses. Orthotics can also be made to control the function of your foot, to help prevent deformities — or to prevent the recurrence of a deformity after you've had surgery to correct it.

Not all orthotics are the same. We've all heard commercials for orthotics you can get from drug stores, or kiosks. If you go into a local department store, you might see one of those machines that you stand on and it provides you with an orthotic that's supposed to be custom for your foot. Well, don't believe everything that you read or see!

Let's take a look at the differences between an orthotic you might get from the drug store or one of those kiosks, versus one that's custom designed for you by an expert. But before we do that, let me show you what we do to get the mold of your foot to create a truly custom orthotic. First, we take a plaster impression of your foot, and then we'll fill this impression with plaster to make a positive model of your foot. On that model, we can mark any pressure lesions you might have, such as calluses, so we can relieve pressure on those. Plus, any deformities you have will show up on the model.

There are a variety of custom orthotics that can be made. For dress shoes, you can have a smaller orthotic made that fits well into even a high-heel shoe. For casual shoes, there's another type of orthotic that can be made, that fits fine into a walking shoe or an everyday shoe. There are also orthotics for sports, including some that are made specifically for running, and there are other types of orthotics made for other types of sports. You can also have an orthotic that's specifically for relieving pressure areas or discomfort. We often use these for our diabetic patients, by taking a device that's completely molded into the shape of the patient's foot, and then placed inside of a shoe.

Orthotics that you see at drug stores or in kiosks are nothing like the custom devices made by our staff. For example, we saw a so-called orthotic for sale at a drug store recently. It was called an orthotic, but it had absolutely no support. It had very little cushioning; and there's really no significant benefit to a device like that. Another device we saw in the drug store, supposedly for a dress shoe, was also called an orthotic, and it was supposed to give good support, but as we examined it, there was no real support. So, there are shoe inserts you can buy off the shelf that may say "orthotic" on them, but in reality, they're nothing like an orthotic that's custom made by an expert at a place like The Foot & Ankle Center.

So, as you can see, there's a difference in quality between store-bought orthotics and custom orthotics. Here at the Foot & Ankle Center, you're going to get a high-quality device that's professionally fitted by a certified pedorthist.

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