Custom Orthotics & Shoe Inserts
Custom orthotics and shoe inserts can be effective tools for addressing many painful foot and ankle conditions. The right inserts can provide cushioning to your steps, support your arches, shift excess pressure away from sensitive trouble spots, and even improve your biomechanics.
We have used orthotics and inserts as part of treatment plans for many different conditions, including flat arches, heel pain, bunions, and even diabetic wounds. The secret to such versatility lies in determining the best type and specifications of orthotic for every situation.
As their name suggests, custom orthotics are designed around the specific needs and dimensions of one pair of feet alone.
You can consider them a lot like prescription lenses for the eyes. Where changing the lenses just a tiny bit can affect vision, adjustments of mere millimeters in thickness at different points of a custom orthotic can affect overall comfort and distribution of weight.
Because of this specificity, we always conduct a complete evaluation and take full, precise measurements of the feet we are prescribing custom orthotics too. We want to ensure that the orthotics match each unique foot structure and pathology as closely as possible.
Although no two pairs of custom orthotics are made to be the same, their purposes can be divided into two general categories:
- Functional orthotics are designed to control abnormal motion in walking and running, often to keep excess force from concentrating in areas that can become injured. Functional orthotics are usually crafted of a semi-rigid material such as plastic or graphite.
- Accommodative orthotics are softer and meant to provide additional cushioning and support. They can be used to treat diabetic foot ulcers, painful calluses on the bottom of the foot, and other uncomfortable conditions.
Prefabricated Shoe Inserts & Insoles
These devices are mass-produced and can often be purchased over-the-counter at pharmacies and other stores.
Although they are not made to the exact specifications of one’s foot, there are still cases in which prefabricated items may be useful in providing relief. It is important to keep a few things in mind, though:
- Just because prefabs may be effective does not mean you’re likely to get great results by buying a pair from the store. We can recommend the best prefabs for your needs, and may even be able to adjust them to suit you better.
- Even if it says “custom made” on the package, prefabs are not custom orthotics. Those can only be prescribed by us or another podiatric expert.
- A more expensive prefab is not necessarily better, especially depending on what you are trying to address with it. Our office often recommends Superfeet insoles, but they might not always be the most ideal choice for every situation.
Prefabricated inserts can come in multiple forms. Some of the most common types include:
- Arch supports, which generally have a “bumped up” appearance. True to their name, they help support your arch.
- Insoles, which mainly provide cushioning for the entire foot. They are often made from gel, foam, or plastic.
- Heel liners, also known as heel cups, provide extra cushioning or elevation specifically for the heels.
Foot cushions, which are meant to be simple barriers between you and your shoe that reduce painful rubbing and friction.
What is the Best Orthotic or Insole for Your Needs?
Generally speaking, custom orthotics will almost always provide better results than prefabricated devices, especially if you are experiencing considerable pain or discomfort consistently. Since custom orthotics are created to fit your foot and address your specific diagnosis, you can be much more confident that they will do what you need them to do.
Custom orthotics do come with a higher “sticker price” than over-the-counter options, but it is typically well worth it. You are not only receiving a more targeted means of treatment, but also one that tends to last much longer than prefabricated inserts. Custom orthotics are made of high-quality materials that can be adjusted or refurbished when needed. A single pair can last years when well cared for.
Many insurance plans also cover a pair of custom orthotics, often one per year. Even if you currently have a pair you are using, a second pair can come in handy to keep in certain shoes. This can avoid having to swap inserts out and can extend the life of both pairs you own.
Unsure of whether your insurance provider covers custom orthotics? Click here to download a form you can use as a guide to finding out.
Everything considered, if your symptoms are relatively minor and you simply desire some extra cushioning or support, an over-the-counter insert may be worth trying first. We can point you toward some ideal options.
Find the Foot & Ankle Relief You Need
Custom orthotics are just one potential way to treat or manage various aches, pains, and other conditions you may be facing. The key to finding the best route to relief lies in fully understanding the root of the problem, and we excel at doing just that.
Schedule an appointment with the biomechanics experts at Southern California Foot & Ankle Specialists by calling our Ladera Ranch office or by filling out our online contact form.