From runners and athletes to people who just want to walk more comfortably, so many patients want to solve their problems with shoe inserts. And that makes sense—after all, this is a non-invasive treatment option that can be highly effective, as long as you choose the right product for your needs. So, when will an over-the-counter insole solve your foot pain, and when will you need to invest in custom orthotics to find relief? Read on as we break down the age-old orthotics vs insoles debate.
What are over the counter insoles?
At the most basic definition, insoles describe any insert that goes into shoes. They can be bought without prescriptions, at most drug stores and even many supermarkets. These insoles are padded, which may relieve some of the impact runners put on their feet during training, especially in thin-soled shoes. Plus, they can help make flat shoes more comfortable by offering additional arch support—a big bonus for runners who love minimalist sneaker styles. In short, over the counter insoles can make unsupportive shoes more comfortable. However, insoles are built using a one-size fits most model. And they are not designed to address your body’s specific dynamics. As a result, they won’t be able to treat most of the common causes of chronic foot pain. For that, you’ll need to invest in custom orthotics instead.
Orthotics vs Inserts vs Scanned Insoles
Some drugstores also offer foot scanners that print out a more customized insole. Because they do scan the shape of your feet, they can offer support that’s a bit more customized. As such, the final product will be less supportive than a custom orthotic, but more effective than a purely over the counter insole. To that end, these scanned insoles come at a higher cost than OTC products, but can be more effective at addressing chronic heel pain, especially when it’s caused by flat feet or high arches. Still, scanned insoles are not as effective as orthotics when it comes to addressing pain caused by your foot shape. And they are often not up to the task of preventing athletic injuries, unlike custom orthotics.
Custom Orthotics vs Insoles: the Difference is Key to Injury Prevention
When it comes to the world of shoe inserts, only custom orthotics can do two important jobs: address biomechanical problems while prevent injuries. In fact, a recent Australian study confirmed what we have long told patients at our podiatry practice in Medford, OR: custom orthotics are capable of preventing injuries. Unfortunately, this study confirms, over the counter insoles can not perform this critical function. Even worse? Evidence suggests that wearing these cheaper, thinner insoles could even make you more likely to sustain an injury, perhaps because they insulate your feet from initial discomfort, without addressing the damaging forces causing that pain.
Choosing Custom Orthotics vs Insoles: A Question of Comfort or Treatment
When you’re just looking to make your shoes a bit more supportive, feel free to spare some expense and slip insoles into your soles. However, if you have chronic foot pain, or are a regular runner, then you’ll need to get fitted for a pair of custom orthotics. Still not convinced that these customized medical devices are worth the investment? Here’s a list of conditions we can treat by having you wear your custom fitted orthotic devices.
Custom Orthoses and Shin Splints
Shin splints are a type of overuse injury characterized by front lower leg pain that pops up when you run. To heal this running injury, you will need to stop training for a brief period of time. Then, to prevent a return injury once you’ve recovered, we recommend running with custom orthotics. Because we fit them to address your specific foot structure, they provide optimized biomechanical control as you train. In turn, this lessens the strain that running puts on your muscles. As a result, you can almost always put the pain of shin splints in your rear view mirror, often without adjusting your training schedule.
Bone spurs are areas of abnormal bone growth that develop due to external pressure. When they form at your heel bone, we call them heel spurs. And they’re usually caused by tugging pressure coming from attached tendons or ligaments. While you can only remove a bone spur surgically, you can eliminate external pressure by getting fitted for custom orthotics. In this way, you can eliminate pain and prevent existing heel spurs from growing in size.
Custom Orthotics and Heel Pain
When heel pain is caused by plantar fasciitis, custom orthotics could offer lasting relief. Basically, this condition is caused by inflammation in your plantar fascia tendon, running along the foot bottom between your heel and toes.) That inflammation is usually the result of external forces that overstretch or even tear your plantar fascia. As such, orthotics can help relieve plantar fasciitis pain by supporting your feet and keeping them in positions that reduce tugging on your tendons.
Tendonitis Can Be Solved as Well!
A true custom orthotic can also help heal or prevent Achilles tendinitis, another type of overuse injury, that’s often the result of new or dramatically increased exercise routines. In some cases, tendinitis is actually caused by your body structure—people with flat feet have a higher risk for this condition. In both cases, wearing your custom orthotics can prevent inflammation—and pain—by reducing the stress on your sensitive Achilles tendon.
Custom Orthotics Fitting in Medford, OR
Want a one-stop solution to chronic foot and heel pain? Looking to prevent injury while sticking with the athletic routines you know and love? Then, in the great debate between orthotics vs insoles, it’s time to choose the latter. And, since these customized medical devices must be fitted to your body, it’s time to schedule a consultation with our highly trained podiatry team. As your local authority on custom orthotics, we can offer you a diagnostic biomechanical exam, along with custom molds of the feet and the ankles, helping you understand how and why custom orthotics are your best choice for pain relief and injury prevention.