Different Types of Orthotics and How to Choose The Right Ones For You

Posted on May 11, 2009. Filed under: Arch Support Inserts, flat foot, foot heel pain, Foot Stretching Exercises, plantar fasciitis | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

There are 3 different styles of orthotics to choose from when you are looking to make a smart investment in your feet. Each of these types of devices has varying characteristics, and are used depending on your particular condition.:

1) Customized (rigid) orthotics: These orthotic shoe inserts are for individuals with severe biomechanical disorders that are more serious than the common degree of overpronation that most of us deal with. Custom-made, rigid orthotics must be prescribed by a foot specialist (podiatrist). For example, some people deal with ‘supination’, which is the contrary to pronation. Their feet roll to the outside or ‘supinate’, and the arch stays high and firm when hitting the ground. This condition is known as a high-arched foot or cavus foot, and only affects 5 percent of the population. Supinators will need a custom-made orthotic that fixes this type of issue. In addition, people with very large bunions, foot ulcers, foot deformities or completely flat feet will need to see a podiatrist. After first diagnosis of fallen arches, or any of the before mentioned conditions, the podiatrist will determine the right customized prescription orthotic. Subsequently, a plaster cast with a negative impression of the person’s feet is created, and this cast is then shipped to an a special laboratory for manufacturing orthotics. Using this cast, a positive cast is formed by pouring plaster into the negative mold. The result is a precise replica of the underside of the foot. From this copy, the orthotic technician (orthotist) will create a custom-made orthotic, making the appropriate adjustments, as ordered by the podiatrist. The result is a rigid (or semi-rigid) orthotic device. Even though these devices are biomechanically correct, many patients find it extremely difficult getting accustomed to them.

2) Heat-moldable orthotics: Heat-moldable orthotics are a less expensive option to the expensive custom-made orthotics, which often cost up to $600 per pair. They are a standard, off-the-shelf, flexible apparatus made of medium-firm density E.V.A. material. The apparatus then can be heated to slightly change its shape. Sometimes wedges are added for a more customized result. Heat-moldable orthotics cost around $100 to $140 and are a lot easier to get used to than custom-made rigid orthotics.

3) Off-the-shelf Orthotic Shoe Insoles: Off-the-shelf orthotics are a soft-medium density insole, available from drug stores, online from specialized websites, and also from some physiotherapists and chiropractors. Patients will get used to these orthotics almost immediately, and the cost varies from $30 to $50 per pair. Research proves that for 80 percent of people dealing with excessive pronation, a prefabricated arch support will provide sufficient support. After wearing them, these types of insoles will adjust to the wearer’s foot shape, due to their body weight and body heat. Most prefabricated orthotics are made of EVA, a flexible but firm substance that sustains the foot without hurting the arches. Children and the elderly will in particular benefit from a less rigid type of insole, since they are less tolerant of anything stiff beneath the foot.

It is always a intelligent choice to get the guidance of a professional before making this type of decision. You must make sure you are making the most appropriate decision for your particular condition.


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    The health of our feet is incredibly important to our overall well-being. Here are some tips and advice to keep your feet in top shape and prevent any foot-related complications later on.


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