Orthotics, also called orthoses or arch supports, are devices that are inserted into a shoe to correct various foot problems. Orthotics can range from simple felt pads to custom-fitted shoe inserts, and may be either over-the-counter or prescription.
The purpose of orthotics is to help you stand, walk, and run more comfortably and efficiently, which can correct foot issues and help facilitate healing. Over-the-counter orthotics can help with some minor symptoms. However, for most foot problems prescription orthoses are the best solution, because they’re custom made to fit your unique foot structure.
You should consult your podiatrist before wearing any kind of orthotics.
Types of orthotics
Orthotic devices come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and are made with various materials. There are three main categories of orthotics: rigid, soft, and semi-rigid.
- Rigid orthotics: Designed to control or change foot function, these devices are typically used in walking or dress shoes. They’re made of firm material such as carbon fiber or plastic. To make rigid orthotics, a podiatrist takes a plaster cast or other type of impression of the foot to create a mold for a perfect fit. These devices are used to improve or eliminate pain or strains in the legs, thighs, and lower back.
- Soft orthotics: Primarily worn for protection, soft orthotics are made with soft, cushioned materials and shaped using a mold, in the same way as rigid orthotics. These devices are often effective for arthritic, diabetic, or deformed feet.
- Semi-rigid orthotics: Combining protection with functional control, these devices are made with rigid materials that are reinforced with soft material. The purpose of semi-rigid orthotics is to provide foot balance for walking or sports activities. They’re often used to help athletes reduce pain during training and competition, or to treat flat feet, in-toeing and out-toeing in children.
There are a number of ways prescription orthotics may be able to help with your foot problems. Contact us to learn more, or to make an appointment to discuss your symptoms.