December 17, 2010
Most of us have probably heard the terms arch supports and custom orthotics at some point. You might even know that they both sit inside the shoe and provide support and/or cushion to your feet, and can help to curb pain associated with a wide range of foot abnormalities. But what is the difference between these two devices? And which one might be able to help with some of your foot issues?
Let’s start with arch supports. Good candidates for arch supports need a little more support than a shoe, even a good shoe, can provide. You can find them in any specialty shoe store without a prescription, and they usually run between $25 - $60. Arch supports are not all created equal, and there is no one “perfect” arch support out there. The right one for you can be determined by examining the height of your arch, how stable your foot is, how wide it is in the heel and in the forefoot and whether you have any structural problems that may make one arch support work better than another. Your typical activities and types of shoes you wear also will be determining factors. The arch supports you wear with your dress shoes probably won’t be the same as your friend wears with his athletic shoes.
Common ailments that are typically addressed with arch supports include:
- Plantar Fasciitis (Heel Pain)
- Pain in the Great Toe
- General Arch Fatigue or Sore Feet
- Metatarsalgia (Pain in the Forefoot)
Arch supports are not usually able to completely cure foot problems, but they help they can help stop the progression of many foot ailments and ease strain and stress and making the patient feel a lot better.
But when is an arch support not enough? Some feet are just too flat, too high-arched or have some structural abnormality that makes it difficult to fit an over-the-counter arch support. Also, an individual with two very different feet wouldn’t benefit from an arch support, since the arch support comes in general sizes and each support is identical to its pair. In those cases, a visit to a podiatrist or other foot health care professional is in order as they can evaluate whether you are a candidate for prescription orthotics.
Prescription orthotics go a step further to correct your unique foot problems. They are precision medical devices, made from non-weight bearing images of your feet. Like eyeglasses do for the eyes, a good pair of orthotics will work to help your feet function more normally. Once your foot is functioning properly, the pain of muscle strain and pressure points is relieved, and the progression of deformities can be stopped or slowed. In order for orthotics to control the abnormal motion of your feet most effectively, it is absolutely required that an extensive examination be performed by a professional prior to writing an orthotic prescription.
Custom orthotics will address the individual’s biomechanics and this will help them to feel less pain and create a more stable environment for their feet/knees. Some typical issues addressed with custom orthotics include:
- Knee/Back Pain
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Heel Spurs
- Morton's Neuroma
- Achilles Tendonitis
- Bunion Pain
- Overpronation (Flat Feet)
- Pes Cavus (Supenation)
And one last tip: Whether you use an over the counter arch support or custom orthotics, always remember to bring them with you when you go buy a new pair of shoes. That way you can ensure that your feet, your shoes and your extra support all work together in harmony.
Photo Credit: Superfeet