Orthotics are insoles that are placed into footwear. They are designed to alleviate problems a person may be having with how they stand, walk, or run and are often prescribed by a podiatrist.

Orthotic devices are also used to relieve foot pain caused by disorders such as plantar fasciitis, diabetes, arthritis, and bursitis.

Many people have problems with their feet and legs, and perhaps you’re one of them. Understanding the types of orthotics available will help you make an informed decision about what’s right for you.

Types of Orthotics – The Difference Between Inserts and Prescription Orthotics

Basically, orthotics can be divided into two main categories – off-the-shelf shoe inserts and prescription or custom-made orthotics.

The former are over-the-counter prefabricated products that are designed to cushion your feet and provide an element of support. They’re made from a variety of materials including foam, plastic, or gel.

They come in a variety of sizes, so you’ll easily get a pair that fit into your shoes but since they’re not custom-made or prescribed, it’s unlikely that they will match correctly with your feet. While inserts may cushion and support your feet, they’re masking the problem rather than solving the issue.

Common types of over-the-counter inserts include:

  • Heel liners – which offer some extra padding if your heel’s natural fat pads are diminishing.
  • Foot cushions – these help if your shoes are rubbing against your heels or toes.
  • Arch supports – these help keep your foot in its natural arch position and treat patients with flat feet (low arches) or with high arches (per cavus).
  • Insoles – These provide extra cushioning for your feet and slip easily into your footwear

So, now we’ve talked about over the counter orthotic devices, let’s take a closer look at other types of orthotics.

Custom Orthotics

Custom moulded orthotics are medical devices that are designed to correct biomechanical lower limb problems, such as the misalignment of the foot and ankle. By realigning the muscles, tendons, and joints the foot is able to function more efficiently. This, in turn, takes the stress off painful damaged or misaligned tissues.

Custom orthotics can be divided into 2 types:

  • Structural and functional orthotics
  • Accommodative

Structural and functional orthotics support and change the position of the foot. Compensating for misalignment and placing the foot in a more stable position to take the pressure off painful areas. These are normally made from semi-rigid materials such as plastic and graphite. They’re used to treat foot pain caused by an abnormal motion of the foot that can cause conditions such as shin splints and tendonitis.

Accommodative orthotics alleviate the pressure beneath prominent bony areas, redistributing the force away from painful areas while giving cushioning and minimal realignment to the foot. Typically this type of orthotic is made from soft materials, providing extra cushioning and support. Often they’re used to treat diabetic foot ulcers and painful calluses on the bottom of the foot.

When designing your custom orthotics our podiatrists have a range of orthotic materials, modifications, corrections, and accommodations to choose from. Factors that help determine the choice include a patient’s symptoms, history, diagnosis, foot type, activity, biomechanics/misalignment, shoe type, and weight.

Types of Orthotics for All Situations

There are several custom moulded orthotics to choose from which include:

  • Sport – general or specific
  • General-purpose
  • Dress
  • Arthritic
  • Diabetic
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Children

As you can see, there’s a lot of procedures involved in getting custom orthotics, but most people consider the extra price to be well worth it.

It’s always best to visit a podiatrist who can evaluate, examine, diagnose, and treat your condition. Orthotics may be just one part of the recommended treatment plan a podiatrist can offer.

If you’re suffering from lower limb pain, rather than self-diagnose with over-the-counter products, come and see our highly experienced podiatrists at Cartwright Podiatry. Call today on (02) 8405 6850 or book an appointment online.