Arch Supports, Insoles and Orthotics

Orthotic Insole
Orthotic Insole. Depositphotos.com

When feet hurt, walkers seek relief. The first step is to get the right shoes, but the answer to pain may be a step further - to insoles, arch supports, and orthotics. Consulting a foot health specialist can bring definitive diagnosis and treatment for your pain.

What a Shoe Does and Doesn't Have:

  • Arch support: No. Walking shoes and running shoes do not have arch support.
  • Cushioning: Depending on the style, shoes provide more or less cushioning. Look for a cushioned style to relieve sore feet.
  • Motion control: Some shoes provide correction for overpronation with motion control elements - dual density foam in the sole so that the foot does not over-rotate.
  • Insoles and inserts do not extend shoe life: It is the unseen midsole of the shoe that breaks down by 500 miles, leaving your foot without proper support. Adding a new insole does not correct that problem.

Conditions That May Benefit From Shoe Inserts:

  • Arch strain and pain
  • Heel pain
  • Ball of foot pain (metatarsalgia)
  • Weak ankles
  • Crooked toes and corns
  • Calluses
  • Knee pain
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Overpronation
  • Shin splints
  • Plantar fasciitis

Other alternatives

A podiatrist or other foot expert may use taping, padding, and other simple techniques to correct foot problems. Before spending an arm and a leg on your feet for products that may not work, consider an appointment with a foot expert to have the pain and problem fully diagnosed.

How Insoles Can Help for Walking Comfort

One of the first methods walkers try to alleviate foot pain is to use insoles. Over the counter insoles are available in many varieties. The insoles that come with athletic shoe generally do not provide shock absorption or arch support. Remove the insole that came with the shoe to replace it with the chosen insole.

Cushioning and Shock Absorbing: cushioning is provided by foam, gel, or other means.

This extra cushioning can provide shock relief in shoes that have little cushioning. Extra cushioning is also needed as people age and the fat pad at the bottom of the foot thins.

Orthotic Insoles:Some insoles are constructed to mold themselves to your foot upon wear and call themselves orthotics. These differ from custom orthotics which are created for the individual to correct foot and walking problems. The ready-made orthotic insoles are less expensive than custom orthotics, but may not afford the same degree of relief. These ready-made orthotics provide arch support and some degree of gait correction and cushioning.

Who Can Benefit from Insoles?

Most walkers will feel more comfort with a shock absorbing insole, especially in shoes or boots that have little cushioning. If your feet feel generally tired and a little sore after walking, adding an insole may afford relief. However, do not try to extend the life of the shoe by adding an insole.

The shoes should still be replaced every 500 miles.

Shoe Insole Products

Arch Supports

Athletic shoes generally do not provide arch support. Sometimes the shoe is constructed to give the feeling of arch support, but it is a sensation rather than reality. People with high arches may have foot pain from walking or running in shoes without arch support. A ready made arch support can give relief and comfort.

  • Arch/metatarsal cushions: Slip in the shoe only under the arch.
  • Arch support insoles: Many designs of cushioned insoles include arch support.
  • Orthotic arch supports: Some ready-made products conform to your foot shape upon wear, providing a better arch support fit.

Who Can Benefit from Arch Supports?

Walkers with high arches may be more prone to plantar fasciitis injury, which may be prevented by wearing arch supports.

Walkers who have lower arches should also take care not to wear high arch supports, which would prove uncomfortable.

When ready made products still afford no relief from pain or discomfort, see your health care provider for a referral to a foot health specialist such as a podiatrist. You may need to have custom orthotics designed and fitted to correct your foot problems.

Orthotics for Walking Comfort

Orthotics are custom-made shoe inserts that correct gait problems, provide foot support, relieve pressure on painful areas of the foot, and provide motion control.

Over the counter, ready-made products are also available - heel cups, insoles, and arch supports may call themselves orthotics and provide some degree of relief. But a custom orthotic provides individual correction.

Types of Orthotics

  • Functional orthotics: wedges are fashioned into the orthotic insert to adjust the heel or forefoot to correct defects in the arch such as overpronation (the arch flattens and allows the foot to roll too far inward) or supination (the arch is too high and the foot rolls too far outward). This motion can cause strain on joints and muscles throughout the leg, hip, and back as well as the foot and heel pain of plantar fasciitis. While many athletic shoes correct for overpronation, a custom orthotic will make a precise correction.
  • Weight-dispersive or accommodative orthotics: these have padding to relieve pain and pressure on the metatarsal heads, sesamoid bones, collapsed tarsal bones, sores and inflamed toes.
  • Supportive orthotics: arch supports to treat problems of the plantar arch.

Orthotics may be prescribed by health care professionals - medical doctors, podiatrists, chiropractors.

The fitting is done by a pedorthist at an orthotics lab. The best fitting is done by taking a plaster cast of the foot at rest in its "ideal neutral position." The orthotic is then constructed to support that foot in that position. Information in the prescription given by the podiatrist or other health care provider also tells the pedorthist what kind of corrections are needed.

Other methods to measure the feet for orthotics such as a foam impression, tracings, or computer measurement have drawbacks.

Each pair of orthotics cost between $150 - $400 US, and different styles may be wanted for dress shoes, sports shoes, and casual shoes.

Other Alternatives to Orthotics

A podiatrist or other foot expert may use taping, padding, and other simple techniques to correct foot problems. Before spending an arm and a leg on your feet for products that may not work, consider an appointment with a foot expert to have the pain and problem fully diagnosed.

Foot Experts to Consult

People with foot pain may seek assistance from a variety of health care providers. Often the first stop is a referral from a primary care physician to a foot expert.

Podiatrists

Podiatrists are licensed medical professionals, DPM - doctor of podiatric medicine. They apply for entry to a school of podiatric medicine after receiving a bachelors degree, then attend four years of classroom and clinical education and a year or more of residency.

American Podiatric Medical Association has a member locator.
More: Do You Need a Podiatrist?

Orthopedic Medicine Physicians

A physician specializing in orthopedic medicine completes his/her bachelors degree and medical school, then up to five years of orthopedic residency and further specialization in surgery.
American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society member locator around the world.
Orthopedics

Chiropractors

Chiropractors are licensed medical professionals who believe and practice the principles of chiropractic medicine - that manipulation of the spine can relieve many diseases. They may act as primary care providers and prescribe orthotics.

Pedorthists

Pedorthists design, fabricate, fit, construct and modify shoes and foot orthotic devices upon prescription by physician. They are board-certified professionals.

Physical Therapists and Kinesiotherapists

Physical therapy or kinesiotherapy may be prescribed for rehabilitation from injury or treatment of heel spurs, bursitis, plantar fasciitis, bunions, corns and calluses.

They use a variety of treatments to relieve pain and swelling and increase the range of motion. They can also recommend ongoing exercises to strengthen muscles and joints and prevent further injury. Kinesiotherapists in particular use therapeutic exercise and education.

Continue Reading