Many people today face common foot problems such as plantar fasciitis, overpronation, and general foot fatigue due to sedentary lifestyles, inappropriate footwear, and increased activity levels.
These issues can lead to pain, discomfort, and reduced mobility.
Foot orthotics, whether over-the-counter or custom-made, offer valuable solutions. They provide arch support, cushioning, and biomechanical correction, which can alleviate symptoms and promote healthy foot mechanics.
This article will help you choose the right type of foot orthotics based on your current foot condition.
What Are Foot Orthotics?
Foot orthotics are devices that fit in shoes to provide the feet with ideal arch support heel cushion and maintain ideal foot joint positioning for various day-to-day activities.
Foot orthotics are a great tool for improving foot posture and alleviating common painful conditions.
The foot inserts can be premade or custom-made and come in different sizes, models, and materials, depending on their specific purpose and use.
5 tips to consider before selecting your foot orthotics are:
- The type of shoe that you wear
- Your foot type
- The material of the orthotic
- Your specific foot condition
- The thickness and length of the orthotic
Different Types of Foot Orthotics
When looking at custom-made orthotics, many different types of devices are available in the market. Each device has a unique purpose: the type and the materials used in each device will dictate its functionality and use.
- Rigid Orthotics (Stiff and minimal flexibility)
- Semi Rigid orthotics (moderate flexibility)
- Soft Orthotics (Cushioned and flexible)
- Flat cushions (No arch support)
In addition to the rigidity of the orthotic, the foot insoles can also be made of different types of materials, which affect their durability and functionality.
Common materials used are leather, gel, foam, and cork.
The material type largely depends on individual preference; however, foam is generally a common choice due to its softness and affordability. Gel offers more shock absorption, and leather tends to be more durable.
Another aspect of choosing the right orthotic is the insole’s thickness. The thicker materials will offer more support but can also take up more space in the shoe.
This is an important consideration, especially if the current shoe’s manufacturer insole is not removable.
Thickness is also chosen depending on the weight of the user. Generally, 3 mm thickness is recommended for individuals over 200lb. However, most individuals fall within 2-3 mm thickness and find that a comfortable fit.
Each type of foot orthotics works best for certain types of people. Below is the guide to choosing the appropriate orthotics that work best for you.
What Type of Orthotics Do I Need?
The type of orthotic you need will largely depend on your foot type, level and type of activity, shoe wear, and any specific foot-related medical conditions you may have.
The different types of orthotics are all designed for different foot types and conditions.
For example, if you are an experienced user of orthotics and require maximal arch support, a rigid orthotic may be appropriate for you.
However, if you are new to orthotics, you may want to start with a semi-rigid or cushioned type to ensure maximal comfort and minimize foot soreness.
When you go in for an orthotic assessment, the professionals assisting you will assess your foot type and gait and ask about your daily activity and goals.
Based on the information gathered, they can recommend the type of orthotic most appropriate for your needs.
When you order a custom orthotic, you ensure that the device will perfectly match your needs and eliminate the risk of having the wrong device and, therefore, the chance of not seeing the benefits of the orthotic.
Rigid orthotics work best for people with severe overpronation or supination conditions.
Rigid orthotics offer low flexibility and are meant to provide maximal support for the arch.
These are recommended for experienced orthotic users who require maximal arch support. It is also recommended for those with overpronation, shin splints, and severe flat feet that may be contributing to their bunion formation.
Overpronation happens when your gait (the way you walk or run) eventually causes the arches of your feet to flatten more than they would normally.
That puts strain on muscles, tendons and ligaments that support your arches.
Overpronation increases the risk you’ll injure your foot and leg.
The rigid structure of these custom-made orthotics provides support, stability, and control of abnormal foot motion, addressing biomechanical issues associated with previously stated conditions and reducing related pain and discomfort.
Soft orthotics work best for people with conditions that require cushioning and comfort rather than rigid support.
Soft orthotics (also called Accommodative Orthotics) are ideal for individuals who suffer from sensitive feet due to arthritis or other inflammatory-type conditions.
Conditions like foot ulcers, deformities, rheumatoid arthritis, and peripheral neuropathies benefit from soft orthotics designed for maximal comfort and shock absorption.
Soft orthotics offer cushioning and support, allowing them to adapt to the foot’s natural shape, ease discomfort, alleviate pressure on sensitive regions to remove irritation and assist in healing sore spots.
Semi-rigid orthotics work best for people with mild to moderate overpronation condition.
Semi-rigid orthotics offer moderate flexibility and provide a balance between support and cushioning.
This feature makes semi-rigid orthotics a good fit for individuals with mild to moderate overpronation, reduced arches, forefoot pain, athletes looking for more stability, heel pain, plantar fasciitis, and minor alignment issues in their knees and or hips.
The semi-rigid insoles are recommended for individuals new to orthotics and wanting to try them out.
Most users respond favorably to this type of orthotic and thus are a great option for those who do not have pain but would like to try wearing orthotics for general foot health.
Children’s orthotics are customized to benefit a range of young individuals.
Children’s orthotics are designed for pediatric patients with foot and lower limb difficulties.
They are most effective for addressing conditions such as flat feet, toe walking, Sever’s disease (heel pain in adolescents and youth), gait abnormalities, cerebral palsy, flexible joints, sports injuries, and congenital foot deformities like clubfoot.
Over-the-counter orthotics are best suited for individuals with mild foot discomfort without specific medical conditions.
Over-the-counter (OTC) orthotics are best for individuals who do not experience any foot pain.
If you experience mild foot soreness from prolonged standing or walking and are looking for extra cushion for comfort, the OTC devices may be an appropriate option.
It is important to note that OTC comes in size categories, and you may need to adjust the size accordingly to fit your shoe size precisely.
Most people seek orthotics for pain relief. Although orthotics greatly help with foot pain, those without pain can also benefit by using orthotics for improved comfort and shock absorption to their feet.
Overall, orthotics enhance foot functionality, reduce inappropriate forces on the feet through shock absorption, and offer appropriate arch support to idealize foot biomechanics during everyday activities.
If you are seeking custom-made orthotics, it is important to seek a professional’s help to ensure you are receiving a type of medical device appropriate for your foot type, your foot condition, and your level of activity.