Do You Need Insoles or Orthopaedic Shoes?
If you have been experiencing foot pain, discomfort, or have been diagnosed with a disease that put your feet at risk, you have probably heard of orthotics and orthopaedic shoes and may be left with the following questions:
- What is the difference between the two?
- Which one is better for me and my foot concerns?
- What properties should I look for to accommodate my lifestyle?
In today’s blog, we will tackle these questions to help provide a better understanding of these devices, and ultimately help you make the right, healthy choices for your feet.
What is an Orthotic Insole?
An orthotic insole is an insert that is placed inside a shoe to address various foot concerns. There are two major kinds of insoles: custom foot orthotics and over the counter insoles.
Benefits of Custom Orthotic Insoles
A custom foot orthotic is classified as a medical device made from a three-dimensional mould of an individual’s foot. Therefore, it is unique to one’s specific foot and tailored to meet one’s foot needs. These devices are prescribed by a physician or a foot specialist, such as a Registered Chiropodist or podiatrist and will contain specific prescriptive elements based on the practitioner’s physical assessment. Custom foot orthotics address faulty foot mechanics and other foot ailments that cause pain such as, plantar fasciitis, painful calluses and corns, shin splints, tendonitis, diabetic feet, and ulcers. They are made to mechanically control, support, redistribute pressures, and balance the foot to improve function. They are also made from high-quality materials and will generally last 2-3 years if used properly.
Look into your insurance plan as some plans cover a percentage of custom foot orthotics when prescribed and assessed by a recognized health care practitioner.
An over the counter insole is a shoe insert that you can find in the shelves of your local pharmacy or retail sports store. Compared to a custom orthotic, these devices are much less costly; however, they will not address or correct improper foot function and more serious foot problems. The purpose of over the counter shoe inserts/insoles/arch supports is to provide additional cushioning, support, and increase general comfort for the foot.
What is an Orthopaedic Shoe?
An orthopaedic shoe is a shoe made with properties a normal shoe would not typically have. These types of shoes are made to accommodate foot abnormalities or foot deformities, improve biomechanical foot function, as well as enhance the effectiveness of custom foot orthotics.
Benefits of Orthopaedic Shoes
Orthopaedic shoes are for those who are suffering from bunions, hammertoes, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, diabetes, arthritis, flat feet, swollen feet caused by venous insufficiency/lymphedema, or recovering from foot surgery. This type of footwear is made with characteristics that a normal shoe would not normally have. These may include but are not limited to:
- Extra-wide and deep toe box to accommodate and make room for bony toe deformities
- Firm heel counter to control and support the heel as well as prevent irritation to the Achilles tendon
- Deep heel cup to control and stabilize the heel for better alignment
- Shock-absorbing sole to dissipate ground reaction forces and reduce stresses on joints and soft tissues of the body
- Stability sole and good torsional stability to help control faulty foot mechanics such as overpronation (rolling in of the foot towards its arches) and stabilize the foot
- Rocker bottom sole to promote a smooth and efficient heel to toe gait by inhibiting painful joint motion such as those seen in conditions like hallux limitus or hallux rigidus
- Easy to fasten (eg velcro straps) for those who suffer from conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and have difficulty using their hands
- Seamless design to prevent irritation and pressure points which may not be detected in an individual with diabetic neuropathy
- Removable liner to adequately accommodate a custom foot orthotic
How to Choose an Orthotic Insole Based on Your Lifestyle
We are fortunate enough to live in a time when orthotic insoles come in a wide array of shapes and sizes to accommodate different lifestyles and footwear. The following are general guidelines to keep in mind when looking for insoles for specific lifestyle choices.*
- Good shock absorption
- Good cushioning if the footwear allows room for this
- Semi-rigid to semi-flexible shell depending on what the individual can tolerate
- Top cover (the material that comes in direct contact with the foot) should have low friction and good breathability qualities
- Dress shoe orthotics
- Thin and narrow device to fit into a lower volume shoe
- 3/4 length
- Good cushioning properties in particular at the ball of the foot and heel
- Full length
- Semi-flexible to flexible shell
*If you are experiencing foot pain and continuous foot discomfort it is in your best interest to book an appointment for a consultation from a licensed health care practitioner. Chiropodists are foot care specialists who are professionally trained to assess the biomechanics of the lower extremity. At your appointment, a full medical history will be taken and a biomechanical assessment and gait analysis performed to determine the right foot care devices for your needs.
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