Flat feet aren't always a problem, but when they are, very supportive footwear can help with aches and pains and other problems that may be associated with pes planus (flat feet). What kind of support is best for flat feet? Do you need to invest in custom-made insoles or will store-bought shoe inserts do the trick? In this article, we examine the differences between custom orthotics and over-the-counter (OTC) inserts and discuss their effectiveness for flat footedness. Read on to learn more.
Why Would Someone Want Custom Orthotics?
If your flat feet are unusual for some reason, for example if you have one fallen arch and the other unaffected or if your feet are differently sized, you may very well want to invest in a pair of custom orthotics designed especially for your feet.
This type of orthotic is available by prescription only, and they are made one set at a time just for you. A set of custom orthotics perfectly matches the contours of your own feet. Additionally, the podiatrist will examine your gait and the way you move and take this into account when constructing your bespoke orthotics.
Custom Orthotics Are Designed To Correct Anatomical Problems
Having flat feet can negatively impact the joints of your ankles, knees, hips and lower back. When designing a set of custom orthotics just for you, your podiatrist will look at all of these aspects of your physiology and create a set of supports that will help correct any problems your flat footedness may cause.
When you go for custom orthotics you can be sure of getting the precise type of support you need. These specially designed foot supports come in two different types. They are:
- 1Functional orthotics are called for if your flat feet have caused you to have an abnormal gait. This type of orthotics is made for the purpose of controlling abnormal motion, which can also cause foot pain. Functional orthotics can help treat and alleviate this pain. If your foot abnormalities have caused problems such as tendinitis or shin splints, functional orthotics can help correct this problem. This type of foot support is usually made of fairly rigid materials, such as graphite and plastic.
- 2Accommodative orthotics are mostly meant to provide comfort and cushioning. They are made of soft materials and provide flexible support for people who have painful foot problems such as calluses on the soul of the foot or foot ulcers caused by diabetes.
Custom Orthotics Can Be Designed To Address A Variety Of Needs
Generally speaking, orthotics that are specifically designed for your foot and your particular condition and type of pain are more likely to be successful when treating that pain.
Bespoke Orthotics Are An Investment
When you pay three hundred dollars or more for a set of prescription orthotics, you can expect them to last for many years if you care for them properly. They are made of very high quality materials and very carefully crafted for long and satisfactory wear.
Although specially made orthotics cost a great deal more than over-the-counter (OTC) shoe insoles, if you have an unusual or severe problem caused by flat feet, the expense is certainly justified. Additionally, these prescription devices are usually covered by insurance.
When Would OTC Shoe Inserts Be Appropriate for Flat Feet?
Any kind of OTC device that you place in your shoe to help support your feet is termed a shoe insert. This label covers arch supports, heel supports and full insoles.
If you have flat feet and have had flat feet all your life and they are causing you some pain, extra cushioning and support provided by shoe insoles can be very helpful. These products give your feet more cushioning, support your arches and can provide a great deal of comfort.
If your flat feet are caused by fallen arches or by an injury, you are really better off seeing your podiatrist and getting prescription orthotics or at least getting a recommendation for the type of OTC shoe insert that might work for you.
What Types of Shoe Inserts Are Typically Used for Flat Feet?
If you have flat feet or low arches, you may want to use an insole that simply adds more padding to your existing shoes. Alternately, you might go for a plastic, foam or gel insole with a slightly bumped up arch to provide little bit more support for your low arches or flat feet. Choosing the right thickness of arch support is really a matter of trial and error.
When you're choosing an OTC shoe insert for flat feet, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- 1Consider your overall health. If you have circulation problems or diabetes, you really should see your podiatrist to get advice on choosing the best support for flat feet.
Conditions involving poor circulation or diabetes can make it more likely for you to develop friction injuries on your feet. You may not be aware of these problems because of low sensitivity in your feet. This can make you very prone to foot ulcers, and the likelihood of foot injuries becoming infected is quite high.
Talk with your podiatrist to get good advice on choosing the right shoe insert that will not make your problems worse.
- 2Ask yourself why you need shoe inserts. What do you plan to do? Do you need shoe insoles for running, walking or standing on your feet for a long period of time?
You may need several different types of shoe insoles to accommodate the type of footwear you plan to use. For example, very inexpensive and simple insoles with a slight arch may be fine for your house slippers, but you might need something more supportive and sturdy for your work boots or your running shoes.
- 3Custom fit the insert to the shoe. It may seem a bit strange, but when you go shopping for shoe insoles, it's a good idea to bring along the shoes you plan to use.
This will help you to pick just the right insert for your intended purpose. Choosing and insert that fits your shoes’ contours to begin with will eliminate the need for trimming and ensure a secure, slip-free fit.
- 4Choose insoles that feel good to your feet. It's a better idea to buy your inserts from a shoe store that keeps open samples for you to test than to buy them from a rack at the drugstore.
Keep your socks on and stand on the insoles to see how they feel to your feet. Slide them into your shoes and give them a test drive.
If the store where you purchase your inserts will not allow you to do this, ask about their return policy. Keep your receipts, and naturally do not trim pieces off insoles until you're absolutely certain they will fit you and provide you with the comfort you desire.
You Can Have Both!
In some shoes you may just want a little bit of extra support or a little bit of cushioning. In this case, OTC shoe insoles may be just fine.
On the other hand, for your work boots, your running shoes or other footwear that gets a great deal of use, you may wish to invest in specially made orthotics.
Having a good collection of foot supports for all of your footwear can help keep you comfortable even with flat feet or even more serious foot problems.