By Rehan Iqbal
Foot pain can be caused by a wide variety of foot and ambulation problems. Among them are:
In order to know what is causing foot pain, it’s necessary to have a complete medical exam and evaluation. Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor may recommend changes in diet and exercise. Surgery may be the solution to your problem.
Very often, in conjunction with one of these solutions (or as a standalone) shoe insert orthotics may be recommended. In this article, we discuss orthotics and provide sound information to help you choose the right shoe inserts to suit your needs. Read on to learn more.
Are Orthotics Always The Answer To Foot Pain?
Sometimes better shoes will take care of your foot pain. If your shoes are worn out, you should get new shoes. If your shoes are too tight, you should get looser shoes. If your shoes are cheap, you should get better quality shoes. Go to a proper shoe store; have your feet measured and buy good quality, supportive shoes of the right size. You may find your foot problem resolved.
When are Foot Orthotics Appropriate?
Orthotics can be helpful in situations in which the bones, muscles, joints, tendons and/or ligaments of the foot aren’t positioned correctly. Misalignment can cause pain. The right support can correct this problem and relieve pain.
To provide just the right amount of support, foot orthotics are available in varying degrees of rigidity. Your doctor may recommend orthotics that are soft and accommodating, semi-flexible, semi-rigid or quite rigid, depending upon your needs.
What Kinds of Foot Orthotics are Available?
How Do You Choose Between Full-Length And Mid-Length Orthotics?
The main difference between full-length and mid-length orthotics is that the full length variety tends to stay in place a bit better. The mid-length provides the same support for the cuneiform bones and the heel, but it leaves a bit more room in the toe box of the shoe. For this reason, mid-length orthotics are recommended for more tightly fitting shoes; however, tightly fitting shoes are never recommended.
When Do You Need Full Length Insoles?
If you have a wide foot and wear wide-width shoes, a full length insole will stay in place better in your shoe. Additionally, if the sole of your shoe is worn, or if you are placing insoles into a structureless shoe (e.g. a slipper) a full length insole is necessary. Additionally, if your foot pain involves the ball of your foot (e.g. Morton’s Neuronal ) and/or your toes, a full length insole can be helpful.
When Do You Need ¾ Length Insoles?
If your shoes have liners that cannot be removed, a ¾ length insole will probably fit more comfortably. This type of insole is usually the right choice for dress shoes. It provides support to the heels and arches, but it does not cushion the ball of the foot or help support the toes.
What Are Orthotics Intended To Do?
Soft orthotics are intended to provide comfort and extra cushioning. They are typically made of soft, giving materials, such as memory foam. You would typically add this type of insert to the existing insole of your shoe for added padding and comfort. These orthotics don’t tend to stand up to a lot of heavy wear and must be replaced frequently. While they may provide pain relief, even for serious foot problems, they will not provide correction.
Semi-rigid and rigid orthotics are intended to help align the foot to correct the problems causing foot pain and associated hip and back pain. If you are experiencing severe pain in your feet, hips and lower back, you should look for sturdy orthotics that will help align your feet while standing up to the test of time and hard wear.
When Would You Use Each Type Of Orthotic?
It might seem that soft orthotics have no use; however, they can be helpful if you have a sturdy, semi-rigid corrective shoe that just needs a little cushioning for comfort. Examples might include some types of plastic clogs that are correctly formed to provide support but are a bit uncomfortably due to rigidity. A cheap $1 set of foam inserts may work very well to allow you to wear this sort of shoe comfortably.
Semi-rigid orthotics are good for most types of shoes that have some cushioning and support. You can sometimes use them along with the existing insoles, or you can replace the existing insoles of dress shoes, athletic shoes, casual shoes, etc.
Rigid orthotics are intended to replace the removable insoles of shoes such as sport and running shoes. They can also be used to add structure to unstructured shoes such as leather loafers, slippers and the like.
How Can You Tell If An Insert Is Sturdy Enough?
To know whether or not a shoe insert is sturdy enough to actually provide support and correction along with pain relief, you must perform a simple bend test. If a shoe insert is so flexible that you can bend it any-which-way, it is too soft to provide real support or to endure long term use.
If you are able to bend some parts of the orthotic with some effort, yet the arch area remains unbent, you know that the insert is flexible enough to move comfortably with your foot while providing proper arch support.
Can’t You Just Buy Orthotics Off The Shelf?
Many times, your doctor may actually recommend inexpensive, store-bought orthotics over costly custom made versions. Even so, it’s important to consult with your doctor first to be sure of purchasing the right product. Some orthotics may help your feet to feel better without actually addressing the problem that is causing the pain. A proper diagnosis will help you avoid wasting your time and money and possibly worsening your condition.
How Much Do Good Foot Orthotics Cost?
Foot orthotics may cost anywhere from $1 to $1000, depending on what you want and need and whether you purchase off the shelf, at a kiosk or from your medical professional.
Generally speaking, off-the-shelf orthotics, which are available at a wide variety of retail stores may cost between $1 and $75. Naturally, the very least expensive are only intended to provide a little padding. The more costly types may provide padding, support and possibly correction. It’s very important that you consult with your doctor when choosing over the counter (OTC) inserts to be sure of getting something that will address your needs.
Kiosk or personalized orthotics may cost between $500 and $1500. While these inserts are made according to a scan of your very own feet, they really are not much more effective than OTC inserts. The vast difference in price is really not justified.
Custom orthotics vary in price depending upon your insurance coverage. These are created just for you using a variety of methods including scans, casts and impressions, along with your doctor’s diagnosis and evaluation of your complete medical history. While this type of orthotics should be (and often is) the most effective, anecdotal evidence indicates that very often patients try out these costly creations for a while and then end up setting them on the closet shelf never to be used again.
What Should You Do?
If you are experiencing foot pain, you may be able to get quick, temporary relief by purchasing inexpensive inserts from your local pharmacy, but you should not do this instead of seeing your doctor, and you should not spend a fortune on OTC inserts.
Consult with your doctor. Once your foot problem has been diagnosed, you will be able to make a wise choice in just the right orthotics for you. Your doctor may recommend a good brand of OTC inserts that will suit you just fine.
How Do You Know Which Type Of Orthotics Will Work For You?
If you are generally healthy and are of average height and weight with no unusual foot configuration, you will probably be able to get along fine with OTC inserts once you have consulted with your doctor.
If you have health problems, are overweight, are diabetic, have a foot condition or injury, etc., you may very well need custom, prescribed orthotics.
Special Health Conditions Require Special Consideration
If you have some sort of foot deformity, or if you have arthritis and/or diabetes and/or loss of feeling in your feet, it is especially important that you consult with your doctor to get the right care and support for your feet. Neglect of these conditions can very quickly lead to the need for amputation. Fortunately, good foot care is almost always covered by most insurance policies and Medicare in these situations.
Do You Always Have To Wear Orthotics?
When you get your orthotics, they may be a little uncomfortable at first, and you may want to take breaks from them to wear slippers, clogs or other shoes that provide less or different support. You may find that you want very supportive orthotics in your active shoes and work shoes and simple cushioning in other shoes.
The bottom line is, the amount you wear your orthotics and the type of orthotics you choose for different shoes and different activities is an individual choice. If you are uncomfortable, don’t force yourself. Take your time and allow your feet and your body to adapt.