'Orthotics' can be found on stands at consumer shows and infomercials on TV. Also, arch supports and insoles sold in drug, sports and shoe stores are increasingly referred to as 'orthotics'. Then, there are the orthotics that chiropodists and podiatrists prescribe for their patients.
It is a challenge for most consumers to tell the difference between these different products and making an informed decision. You need to recognize a slick sales 'spin' and separate it from the facts. Here is some information to help you to differentiate these products.
There are 3 common types of Custom Made Foot Orthotics:
Custom devices, customized devices and off the shelf devices.
Custom Made Foot Orthotics are prescription medical devices designed to control the abnormal motions within the feet. Specifically they are designed to help control excessive pronation (collapsing in) and excessive supination (rolling out) and make standing, walking and running more efficient. Accommodative orthotics help to support the existing structure and redistribute the body weight, alleviating pain caused by corns, calluses and other bony prominences.
A thorough examination is performed, weightbearing and nonweightbearing, standing and walking. Measurements are taken. Then a three dimensional volumetric impression is taken, usually with plaster of paris, while you are lying down or sitting. A standing impression is not recommended as it does not capture a true representation of the feet. A detailed prescription is then filled. Your casts and prescription are sent to a professional lab with qualified technicians who manufacture the device.
Customized foot devices are newer on the market and more difficult to distinguish from a true custom foot orthotic. They are commonly a product of computerized pressure platform systems that capture and display pressure information and are created by adding components to a pre-manufactured insole.
These are, unfortunately, often marketed as a 'custom' device and sold at similar prices. A simple way to determine if the product you are receiving is truly custom is if a plaster cast or three dimensional scan is not taken of your feet. Computerized pressure platform systems are a great way to evaluate some aspects of foot function and weight distribution using a colourful graphic display. However, this technology does not capture a true, three-dimensional impression of your feet. Beware of the slick sales 'spin'.
Off the Shelf DevicesOff-the-shelf devices are sold in retail drug, sports and shoe stores. Some chiropodists and podiatrists recommend them for minor foot problems. They cost under $50.00 and some of the better quality products provide good support and cushioning.
If you are having foot, ankle, knee or lower back issues; start by consulting your chiropodist or podiatrist. A detailed evaluation will help to determine which foot orthotics are best for you. This expertise cannot be found on TV, in the mall or consumer shows. Minor foot problems can often be treated with inexpensive, off-the-shelf devices and proper footwear selection. More pronounced and persistent problems usually require a more precise, custom orthotic solution.