When Are Custom Orthotics Prescribed?
What Are Custom Orthotics?
Also known as prescription orthotics, these shoe inserts are custom made to fit your feet. In addition to a custom fit, custom orthotics are designed to accommodate your unique foot pathology and movement.
Types of Custom Orthotics
There are two primary groups of custom orthotics:
- Accommodative orthotics: These inserts are designed to provide extra support and cushioning. They are often prescribed in the case of diabetic foot ulcers to provide relief.
- Functional orthotics: Prescribed to control or correct abnormal motion, functional orthotics are usually harder than the accommodative type. Functional orthotics are also used to relieve foot pain caused by abnormal motion and other injuries.
Orthotics are prescribed to treat a variety of foot issues, such as tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, and general foot pain.
When Are Orthotics Prescribed?
Your podiatrist may prescribe orthotics to help treat a variety of foot conditions. This includes:
- Gait abnormalities, i.e. how you walk or run
- Foot pain caused by plantar fasciitis, bursitis, arthritis, and more
- Support the arch in patients who have flat feet
Custom orthotics are often part of a conservative treatment (i.e. non-surgical) regimen. The goal is correcting biomechanical foot issues without having to resort to surgery.
How Are Custom Orthotics Made?
The process starts with a detailed examination to determine the best orthotic for your specific needs. Your podiatrist examines you from the knee down to gain a complete understanding of your foot pathology and structure, taking measurements and often inspecting your footwear. Once this is done, a cast is made of your foot to make the most precise orthotic possible. Casting is done primarily in one of two ways:
- Foam casting: Your podiatrist rests your foot on foam before pressing the foam into the best position and pushing the foot into the foam to create the mold. The process is quick (typically only a few minutes) but is generally only used if you cannot keep your feet still long enough for plaster casting.
- Plaster casting: Strips of plaster are wrapped around the foot, which provides the most accurate mold of the contours of your foot. While this method of casting takes longer (about 10 minutes), it is the preferred method, as it leads to a better-tailored orthotic.
Custom orthotics are often covered by insurance, so we recommend you contact your provider.
Custom Orthotics vs. Over-the-Counter Shoe Inserts
While many people do get relief from over-the-counter inserts, there is no comparison between a shoe insert you can buy at a department store and one custom-made for your feet. Custom orthotics provide relief and treatment in a way that OTC shoe inserts cannot; there is no way to get a truly tailored orthotic from a package.
Having a podiatrist build an orthotic for your feet and your feet alone ensures that your specific issues are addressed and that factors such as medical history, footwear, and foot pathology are considered.