So you keep reading about foot orthotic inserts, orthotic shoes, orthotic this and orthotic that, but you’re not really sure what they are.
Well, we aim to put that right for you.
By the time you reach the end of this article, you should have a much better understanding of all the foot orthotic options available for plantar fasciitis, and how each one works.
So what are foot orthotics?
Foot orthotics are products that are built into, or inserted into shoes, to support the foot. The orthotics can be custom made, or bought ‘over the counter’, and will help alleviate pressure on the sensitive areas of the foot, thereby promoting healing and reducing pain.
We will now look in more detail at the various ‘over the counter’ foot orthotics available, and their specific function.
Orthotic insoles are probably the most recommended and widely used product as a first line of defense, when dealing with plantar fasciitis or other sole of the foot pain.
There are many variations available for purchase ‘off the shelf’, but they essentially all do a similar job.
Insoles can be purchased to fit a certain shoe size, or can be cut to size following a shoe size pattern printed onto the actual insole. Custom insoles can also be made to order, but are a much more expensive option.
Whilst many insoles will just offer a cushioning effect to add more comfort to a shoe, others can come with added support in the arch area of the insole to help the plantar fascia do its job.
People who have overpronation (flat feet) or supination (high arches) can find benefit from orthotic insoles, as they offer a little more support than their natural foot position affords.
Many people who may not suffer with any foot ailments, will also purchase these insoles, just to make a pair of shoes fit better or for additional comfort.
If suffering with plantar fasciitis, or heel pain, it is recommended that you purchase the type of insoles that offer both support and cushioning to the foot.
Orthotic Heel Lifts
Heel lifts, as the name suggests, are inserted into the shoe to raise the heel and reduce the pressure on the plantar fascia tissue.
There are different sizes of lifts, depending on how much lift is required.
Heel lifts are not only used for plantar fasciitis sufferers, but also provide relief for heel spur and achillies tendonitis sufferers.
Once inserted, the lift will adjust your gait to relieve the pressure on the plantar fascia and reduce inflammation.
Heel cups are very similar to heel lifts, apart from they have a dip or recess within the lift to cushion the heel.
These cups are particulary uselful if you are suffering with heel spurs as well as or instead of plantar fasciitis.
The heel cup will raise the heel to reduce the stress on the plantar fascia, as well as cushioning the heel to reduce inflammation around the heel spur.
Arch supports are an insert that is placed within the shoe to sit under the arch of the foot.
People who suffer with overpronation ‘flat feet’, or supination ‘high arches’, will find that they are adding extra stress to the plantar fascia tissue, and possibly risking damage.
The arch insert will help to take the place of the natural arch, and provide both support and shock absorbtion for the foot.
Sometimes arch support can be provided by certain insoles, however you will get much firmer support from a dedicated arch support if this is the area of the foot that needs help.
There are different varieties of arch support, ranging from some worn on the foot with the help of an elasticated sleeve
to supports with adhesive backing to stick into your shoe
Although compression socks are not an orthotic insert, they do play a big part in helping to combat the effects of plantar fasciitis, and so I hope you will forgive the inclusion in this section.
Compression socks can be worn throughout the day, under your normal sock, or at home while you are relaxing.
The function of a compression sock is to support the foot, whilst increasing blood flow and oxygen levels to the inflammed area. The improved circulation will help reduce swelling and decrease the inflammation.
Compression socks can be worn alongside shoe inserts providing they are comfortable, however the compression sock will not replace the need for the inserts.
Self Moldable Orthotic Inserts
Moldable orthotic inserts are a cross between the over the counter inserts and fully custom made inserts. These work much better than the over the counter stock inserts as you mold them to the shape of your foot before placing them in the shoes you wish to wear. They are super easy to mold too. You just place in hot water for the recommended time to soften the insert and then mold to the foot whilst it is warm. You then allow to cool for a few minutes to harden and then they are ready to useThe added advantage of these moldable inserts is that you can reheat them and remold them as required to continue giving the correct support where it is needed. These inserts generally cost around $50 which is much much less than the cost of fully custom made orthotics that can run into hundreds of dollars. If the over the counter orthotics have not been giving you the support or improvement that you had hoped for, then these self moldable inserts would be worth trying before paying put to get fully customised inserts made.
Custom Orthotic Inserts
In many cases, the over the counter orthotics will do the job you need them to do, and you will see improvement in your condition.
If you have tried using the off the shelf inserts, and they have not helped to relieve the pain as much as you had hoped, another option is ‘custom’ orthotics.
Usually to get these made, you would need to visit a dedicated medical professional, or foot specialist that deals with making the devices.
A complete examination and measurements will be made of your foot, as well as a thorough diagnosis of your particular condition, so that the best orthotic can be made to help you.
However, be prepared to pay, as these custom orthotics can run into hundreds of dollars.
The use of orthotic inserts should only be considered as a temporary measure.
The aim of the orthotic is to allow your plantar fascia to start healing and for the inflammation to subside.
Once the inflammation has reduced and healing has begun, you must take action to strengthen the plantar fascia with gentle stretching exercises.
Prolonged use of the foot orthotics will end up weakening the plantar fascia and increasing the possibility of further damage. It could also increase recovery times.
Realated Article: Breaking The Continuous Cycle of Plantar Fasciitis Pain