Throughout life, you need different types of support for different reasons. You may need family support to get through a difficult time in life, or financial support for unexpected costs. Your feet need support, too, which is where shoe inserts and custom orthotics come in. Whether you’re walking or running, shoe inserts and custom orthotics can both be useful, but they aren’t interchangeable.
Over-the-Counter Shoe Inserts
These over-the-counter shoe inserts are pre-made insoles that you buy and slip immediately into your shoes. You can find them at grocery stores, pharmacies, and a few other places. Their fit is based on the size of your feet. Fancier models might have special padding or extra support in particular areas to help with arch or heel soreness. Their main purpose is to cushion and support minor foot problems.
Over-the-counter shoe inserts tend to come as a few different kinds: arch supports, basic insoles, heel liners, and foot cushions. Arch supports help stabilize an uncomfortable arch. Insoles offer extra padding and shock absorption. Heel liners help cup the heel and pad the back of the foot. Foot cushions provide a layer of protection between your feet and your shoes to alleviate friction. None of these require a prescription to use, and none are truly customizable, even though some ads may make that claim.
Custom orthotics are prescription-based insoles that are designed to fit your unique feet and support you in very specific ways. Unlike over-the-counter shoe inserts, these orthotics have customized shapes and sizes to help correct biomechanical issues in your lower limbs, alleviating that pain. They fit into two main categories: functional and accommodative. Functional orthotics help control abnormal motion, so they are usually made from semi-rigid materials. Accommodative orthotics provide extra cushioning and shock absorption, alleviating pressure on particular parts of your foot.
Because they are prescription-based, an experienced podiatrist like Yuko Miyazaki, DPM, has to examine your feet to determine if you need them and how they should be made for you. Often this involves analyzing your gait and taking casts or measurements of your feet so the insoles can be fully customized for both your unique lower limbs and your individual needs.
Choosing the Support That’s Right for You
Whether you can use an over-the-counter shoe insert or need a customized orthotic depends on your feet and why you need extra support in the first place. The best way to determine this is through an evaluation. If you’re simply struggling with soreness from your activities, standing or walking at work, or your shoes, over-the-counter shoe inserts might be best for you.
On the other hand, if you’re struggling with conditions like diabetes that put you at risk for ulcers, injuries like chronic tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, or biomechanical issues like severe overpronation or fallen arches, the prescription models may be what you need more. It really is up to you and your unique needs.
When it comes to treatments that may be recommended for comfort and relief, it’s important to have a full understanding of what they are and do so you don’t get any misconceptions about the product. Having the wrong expectations can cause disappointments and even mistakes in the way these helpful tools are used.
Ultimately deciding if you need foot support and what kind is best for you should be something you discuss with foot experts like Yuko Miyazaki, DPM. If you’re struggling with sore feet, arch trouble, or biomechanical issues, extra support from orthotics might be just what you need to relieve that pain. Ask for a consultation or more information today! You can reach us through our online forms or call our Berkeley, CA, office at (510) 647-3744.