By Rehan Iqbal
If you have flat feet, do you need orthotics? The answer is: “Yes and no!” If you have never had an arch to your foot, and your feet cause you no pain, there is no need to correct or support them (beyond simply wearing properly fitted shoes). If your arch is fallen, that is a different condition, and you may very well need over-the-counter (OTC) or custom orthotics to provide extra support. Which is better and why? In this article, we will explore this question. Read on to learn more.
Why Use Foot Orthotics?
Properly fitted orthotic inserts can help with a number of foot problems, including:
* Weak ankles
* Foot deformities
* Sore feet
It’s important to choose the right type of orthotics with a proper fit. If you fail to do so, you may end up making your problem worse instead of better because a poorly fitted insert can negatively affect your gait and cause a variety of skeletal alignment problems.
Even so, if you are in good health and your foot pain is minor, or you just want to add a bit more cushioning to your shoes, you may wish to try OTC orthotics for relief. When you purchase shoe inserts for flat feet at your local drug store or online, you will spend $20 or $30 or less. Custom fitted orthotics can cost hundreds of dollars, and your insurance company may or may not pay for them.
If you have had a diagnosis of a specific foot malady, you may be able to get a set of custom orthotics from your podiatrist and have it covered by insurance. If you need extras for more than one pair of shoes, you can often find OTC insoles that are specifically designed for your condition.
Studies have shown that well-made non-custom orthotics devices can be as effective as custom models; however, you should look for brands and designs that are endorsed by professional organizations such as “The American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society” or the “American Podiatric Medical Association” .
How Do You Choose Good Insoles?
If you have a diagnosis, naturally you would look for shoe liners that are designed to address your specific problem. Be sure to double-check the sizes and buy a size that coincides with your shoe size. Look for those that can be trimmed for perfect fit. There should be no lumps, bumps or folds in your inserts.
You should also purchase insoles that are designed for your gender. This makes a difference in the fit of the insole in your shoe and the way that the orthotic device supports and balances your foot, ankles, legs and hips. Men and women are simply built and aligned differently.
Address Your Shoes First!
Don’t wear cheap or worn out footwear. Always purchase the best quality shoes you can and replace them when they become worn. Here are the qualities of a properly fitting, supportive shoe:
- There should be plenty of room in the toe box to wiggle and spread your toes.
- The forefoot of everyday shoes and walking shoes should be flexible. It should bend easily at the point on the sole that coincides with the point where your toes join the ball of your foot. However, good running shoes have a rigid, rocker sole that does not flex in this way, so this caveat does not apply to them.
- You should not be able to easily twist the shoe from front to back. A shoe sole that is so flexible that you can twist it will not provide enough support to prevent your foot from rolling inward.
- The heel cup should be sturdy and rigid. It should be made of a durable material such as polymer. Cheap shoes often have cardboard heel cups. This is not sufficient. Good shoes have strong, plastic heel cups that are firmly attached to the rest of the sole.
Choosing high quality, supportive footwear may eliminate the need for shoe inserts. If you have good shoes and still feel the need for more support, you may need to add OTC or custom foot orthotics.
If you have genuine flat feet and you are experiencing pain, it’s important that you wear properly fitted shoes. A simple, flat pad may help add more cushioning, but if this does not help you may need a semi-rigid orthotic device featuring a long arch pad. Additionally, an inner heel wedge or an extended heel counter may be helpful.
When To Get Professional Help
If you try OTC orthotics and do not get relief from soreness within a couple of weeks, you should see your health professional for advice and a possible referral to a podiatrist.
A qualified foot care professional can give you good advice on footwear and orthotics. He or she may prescribe a custom fitted orthotics created just for you. The price tag on this type of foot support can be quite high, but orthotics that are created using a mold of your foot provide precisely the support you need.
Custom made foot orthotics are very high quality and durable, so they are a good investment in your health. Remember that your feet are the foundation of your body. In the long run, healthy feet support overall good health.