Orthotics are shoe inserts designed to correct or change the way the body’s weight lands on the feet. They are available in two types: prefabricated (off-the-shelf) and custom made. Dr. Scholl’s is one of the well-known names in off-the-shelf orthotics, which are less expensive than custom-molded inserts, but they last only a few months. The biggest advantage of store-bought inserts is their price tags.
Custom orthotics, on the other hand, are made to last up to two years with normal wear and, as the name implies, are made to fit the individual’s foot. Molded orthotics are made based on foot type, shoe type and what type of activity the patient will do while wearing the shoes.
When a person has flatfoot, the arch collapses with each step. This fatigues the soft tissue of the foot and contributes to tendinitis, which can be very painful. Custom orthotics help support the arch so weight is redistributed to the heel and ball of the foot.
People who have high arches experience small, pinpoint pressure areas where the feet touch the ground, rather than more evenly distributed throughout the foot surface. These patients are prone to callouses and stress fractures from rigorous exercise. A custom orthotic distributes body weight more evenly over the surface of the foot.
Costco and sporting goods stores use fancy computers to scan feet while the customer walks or stands on a treadmill or platform. The technology is impressive as the pressure points appear on the screen, and the inserts are warmed and “molded” to the customers’ feet.
Foot problems can contribute to other problems, such as ankle, knee, hip and back pain because patients will shift weight to compensate for painful pressure points. Podiatric-molded inserts are made from three-dimensional models of the individual’s feet and are based on a doctor’s diagnosis and prescribed treatment. While the inexpensive price tag of store-bought shoe inserts is a tempting way to self-treat flatfoot, high arches and other foot problems, in the long term, doctor-prescribed custom orthotics are the safest and most effective treatments.