What’s the Difference Between a Shoe Insert and a Custom Orthotic Device?
Shoe inserts are non-prescription foot support devices. They are worn inside the shoe. These include pre-packaged inserts and “custom-made” inserts that you may order from a retail store or online.
Custom orthotic devices are prescribed by a doctor and are crafted for your specific foot. They are only created after a podiatrist has completed a thorough evaluation of your feet, ankles, and legs, as well as the way you move as you walk. Custom orthotics are crafted just for your feet and no one else’s, following the contours of your feet and made to accommodate your unique foot structure and pathology.
While shoe inserts can be helpful for many foot ailments, like flat arches, or foot/leg pain, or simple cushioning of your feet for more comfort, shoe inserts can’t correct biomechanical foot problems or fix chronic foot issues.
What Are the Common Types of Shoe Inserts?
There are several types of shoe inserts. The most common include:
- Insoles Often made of gel, foam, or plastic, insoles slip into your shoe to provide extra cushioning and support.
- Heel liners These inserts, also called heel pads or heel cups, are designed to give extra support for your heels. People with age-related thinning of the natural fat pads on the heel may find that these heel liners can relieve their pain.
- Arch supports Many people have less than ideal arches, either too high or too low. Arch support inserts are designed to support the foot’s natural arch, and normally have a “bumped-up” look.
- Foot cushions Many people know the pain that comes from feet rubbing against their shoes. Foot cushion inserts are designed to be a barrier between your foot and your shoe, and come in different shapes and sizes to protect toes, heels or other parts of your foot.
What Should You Look for in an Over-the-counter Shoe Insert?
Looking at the overwhelming variety of shoe inserts available can make choosing the right product feel like an impossible task. These are some podiatrist-tested tips for finding the insert that works for you.
- Think about your health People with diabetes and/or problems with circulation should think about talking with a podiatrist before buying a non-prescription insert. These conditions increase your risk of infections and foot ulcers, so talking with your podiatrist will ensure that you select a solution that doesn’t create additional health problems.
- Think about why Knowing why you need the shoe insert will make a difference in what you purchase. A runner will need different inserts from someone just looking for extra comfort. The product will also be affected by your planned level of activity.
- Think about your shoes The inserts won’t be much help if they don’t fit in your shoes. So bring the shoes you plan to use the inserts with. The fact that the inserts fit your tennis shoes is no guarantee that they will fit your dress shoes or work boots. The insert needs to fit the contours of your shoe.
- Think about longevity The insert needs to be comfortable for months and years to be worth purchasing. Assuming that pressure from the inserts will disappear with continued wear is a mistake. If you can, try on the inserts and walk around. If the store doesn’t let you try them on, make sure you ask about the store’s return policy and keep the receipt.
What Are Your Options for Prescription Custom Orthotics in Utah?
There are two categories of prescription orthotic devices. The first type, called functional orthotics, are designed to counter abnormal motion. They can be used to treat foot pain caused by abnormal motions during walking/running, or to treat injuries like shin splints and tendinitis. Functional orthotics are normally made using a semirigid material, like plastic or graphite.
The second type of prescription custom orthotics are accommodative orthotics. These are softer and made to give more cushioning and support. These orthotics are used to treat painful calluses on the bottom of the foot, diabetic foot ulcers, and other conditions that cause pain or discomfort.
Custom orthotics are used by Utah podiatrists to treat many foot problems, including bursitis (inflammation of the cushioning sac between muscles, tendons, and joints), tendinitis (inflammation of the tendons), diabetic foot ulcers (an open sore that refuses to heal), plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the thick tissue that connects the toes to the heel and creates your arch), as well as other foot, ankle, and heel pains. Podiatrist-prescribed custom foot orthotics have been shown to decrease foot pain and improved function through clinical research studies.
Even though orthotics normally cost more than oner-the-counter shoe inserts, the extra benefits of support molded to your unique foot make the expense worth it. You will have the peace of mind that comes from knowing the orthotics were designed just for your needs and will provide exactly the support they are supposed to. Orthotics are also made of superior materials so they will last many years when taken care of. Insurance can often help pay for prescription orthotics as well.
When Should You Us About Custom Orthotics or Shoe Inserts?
Depending on what you are looking for in a shoe insert, you may not need to visit us first. Simple support or extra cushioning can successfully be provided by a shoe insert. However, if you are experiencing serious pain or discomfort, or if the inserts don’t seem to be helping, or if the pain stays for a long period of time, you should schedule a visit with us. We will examine your general health for contributing factors, and assess your feet and how you walk. After listening to your concerns and ailments, they will complete a study of the function of your lower extremities. We are specially trained to evaluate the workings of the feet and ankles. Some use advanced technology to examine how your feet
work while you are walking or running.
After gathering all of this information, we will be able to suggest either shoe inserts that will help, or recommend custom orthotics. If you need orthotics, then they will use a 3D image of each of your feet. These images and the measurements taken, will be used to create unique foot supports that will assist your feet while moving and provide added support and comfort. We will also be able to recommend other treatments, such as stretches or exercises to improve the function of your feet, and to add to your comfort level.
For information on our other services and podiatry resources go to Our Utah Podiatrist Services here.