If you suffer from pain in your feet or lower legs, you may have considered using an orthotic to help restore balance. Orthotics are designed to reduce or eliminate foot pain, align the feet to eliminate abnormal foot motion, and to encourage optimal balance when walking. While over-the-counter orthotics are available in most drug stores, seeing a doctor to have your foot problem assessed and a custom orthotic designed for your foot generally leads to better results.
Over-the-Counter Shoe Inserts vs. Custom Orthotics
While over-the-counter shoe inserts can help alleviate foot pain, a custom orthotic can be crafted after a physician carefully evaluates the nature and the cause of your foot condition. This leads to a more accurate fitting as well as a personalized design to reduce or eliminate symptoms of common foot disorders. Doctors typically recommend that their patients wear an orthotic if they are experiencing any of the following symptoms/conditions:
- Runner’s Painful Knee
- Heel spur or pain
- Cavus foot
- Neuropathic ulceration
- Painful or stiff big toe
- Morton neuroma
- Hammer or claw toe
- Limb length deformity
- Various foot pain
Each of these is treated differently when creating a custom orthotic, and patients will be given a different type of insert based on the specific symptoms and conditions that need to be corrected. Orthotic inserts are typically used to create better alignment, to provide support, and to improve function of the foot or ankle. An improperly fitted insert can cause symptoms to progress or worsen, which is why it is often best to seek guidance from a physician before purchasing an insert.
What is the Difference between a Custom Orthotic and an Over-the-Counter Insert?
A custom orthotic is typically quite a bit more expensive than an over-the-counter insert that you can pick up at your local drugstore. The difference between the two is that each custom insert will be fitted precisely to your foot and will be designed to provide maximum support and improved function given your unique foot condition or recurring symptoms. An over-the-counter insert utilizes a standard model and sizing chart, which often provides some relief to patients but is not as effective as a custom insert. Also, the quality of materials used in a custom insert is much better than an over-the-counter insert, which means custom inserts often last longer.
If you are uncertain of whether a custom insert or over-the-counter orthotic is the right option for you, an expert opinion can help you decide. Experiencing chronic foot, leg, ankle, or knee pain should be addressed with your physician so that you can determine the best course of treatment moving forward. The best solution for you may be either an over-the-counter or custom orthotic, so consult with your physician or an orthopedic surgeon to find the right fit.