What are orthotic insoles?
Orthotic insoles are prescription medical devices that are worn inside the shoe to correct foot problems and relieve pain. They are custom-made to fit your feet and are designed to last for a long time, over a period of several years. They are removable, so you can use them in combination with different pairs of shoes.
Orthotics should be prescribed by a qualified podiatrist working in a specialist orthotics service. This is because making the right prescription requires being able to carry out a detailed assessment of biomechanical dysfunction in your foot and analyse the effect on your gait.
Why is it done?
There are a wide range of conditions and deformities which can affect your feet and how you walk, including:
Fitting bespoke insoles can reduce pain, improve the way you walk, reduce stress on other parts of the body, and halt or prevent the develop of foot deformities.
What does it involve?
An initial appointment should take at least 40 minutes, in which the podiatrist will carry out a detailed assessment of the problems in your foot and how they affect the way you walk. The podiatrist should then decide whether orthotic insoles are the best form of a treatment, or whether an alternative treatment would be more suitable (see below).
Most orthotic insole services involve scanning your feet to create the model for the insoles. Some clinics can offer “express” services which manufacture and provide the insoles on the same day.
Fitting is the final stage of the process. It’s important to bring with you the shoes you wear the most, because while insoles can be removed and reused in different shoes, they are designed to work best in one pair.
If you are given a plaster cast of your feet, it is important to keep this as it may be used to design any replacements.
Insoles are designed to last for several years, but in the event that they break or need repair, the clinic should offer a repair and maintenance service.
Alternatives to this treatment
Orthotics can be useful for correcting a range of biomechanical problems in the foot, but are not always the correct treatment or the whole solution. In some cases, proprioceptive insoles can be a better solution if poor posture is the principal problems you are experiencing.
Foot problems can also affect what shoes you are able to wear. In this situation, you might benefit from adapted footwear in addition to orthotic insoles.
There are also a range of orthotic devices aside from insoles that might better treat your condition. These devices include fabric supports, carbon fibre leg supports, ankle braces, and knee braces.
Finally, some conditions, such as iliotibial band syndrome, may be better managed with other treatments entirely, such as physiotherapy and stretching exercises.