3 Types of Custom Orthotics

Too many people live with foot discomfort and pain when they do not have to. Custom orthotics can do wonders for foot and ankle conditions and complications, improving your health status and quality of life. Luckily, receiving a prescription for your custom orthotics is as simple as making an appointment with a local podiatrist and letting them guide you through the process.

Prescribed and customized foot support can help manage many foot and ankle issues. Keep reading to learn about the types of custom orthotics and how they may benefit you.

What Are Custom Orthotics?

Custom orthotics are podiatrist-prescribed heel and shoe inserts constructed to provide additional comfort and support to a single individual’s feet. A podiatrist’s prescription is possible only after they evaluate their patient’s legs, ankles, and feet. The detailed evaluation ensures the custom orthotics match the patient’s specific foot structure and pathology (i.e., chronic health conditions and injuries).

Doctors prescribe custom inserts to:

  • Treat Foot, Leg, Hip, and Back Problems
  • Relieve Pain and Discomfort

Custom Orthotics vs. OTC Inserts

Some people use the terms “custom orthotics” and “inserts” interchangeably, but really, they are two different categories of devices.

Inserts are general, over-the-counter (OTC) foam inserts to place in your shoes for additional cushioning and arch support and have a lifespan of about six months. Common types of OTC shoe inserts are:

  • Arch Supports,
  • Foot Cushions,
  • Heel Liners, and
  • Insoles.

Custom orthotics address specific foot and ankle health issues, such as back problems, complex foot deformities, and imbalance. These quality orthotics can last for up to five years.

Custom orthotics are:

  • Often more expensive than OTC inserts but are superior in effectiveness to inserts.
  • Molded to a specific individual’s foot for a perfect fit.
  • Crafted from high-quality, durable materials.
  • Often partially or wholly covered by insurance plans.

To learn more, please view The Foot & Ankle Center’s previous blog, Custom Orthotics vs. Store-Bought Insoles.

1. Functional (Rigid) Orthotics

Functional orthotics are formed from hard materials like carbon fiber or plastic, making them long-lasting and durable. They are intended to (1) control the motion of the foot joints below the ankle and (2) improve foot and ankle mobility.

Foot pathologies that may require functional orthotics include:

  • Arthritis,
  • Bunion Deformities,
  • Collapsing Arches,
  • Flat Feet,
  • High Arches,
  • Neuromas,
  • Plantar fasciitis.

2. Accommodative Orthotics

Contrasting to functional orthotics, accommodative orthotics are comprised of soft, well-cushioned materials meant to:

  • Reduce the impact of weight-bearing activities, mediating the adverse effects of compression and pressure on the sole (of the foot) and its tissues.
  • Reduce shear force between the tissues on the sole, preventing the tearing and separation of connective tissues (i.e., blister formation and ischemic foot complications).
  • Promote balanced weight distribution across the foot.

Custom accommodative orthotics can help manage certain health conditions, such as:

  • Arthritis,
  • Diabetic Foot Ulcers (wounds), and
  • Painful Calluses (on the underside of the foot).

3. Semi-Rigid Orthotics

Semi-rigid orthotics are the middleman between functional and accommodative options and are developed with a combination of rigid and soft materials. They are excellent at:

  • Balancing Weight Distribution on the Bottom of the Foot,
  • Relieving Pressure, and
  • Absorbing Shock from a Striking Impact (e.g., walking, running, and jumping).

Podiatrists often recommend semi-rigid orthotics to:

  • Patients with Arthritis or Diabetes
  • Children with Flatfoot and In- or Out-Toeing Disorders, and
  • Athletes for Pain Prevention During Training and Competition.

When to Ask a Podiatrist About Custom Orthotics

Are you only looking for some extra cushioning and support? Then, OTC inserts may be all you need. However, if you are experiencing significant pain and discomfort, make an appointment with a podiatrist so they can perform a complete evaluation and determine if prescription orthotics would be optimal over store-bought inserts.

If you require custom orthotics, the podiatrist must capture 3D images for each foot, using them (and any other necessary measurements) to produce your unique supports. Your doctor may also prescribe additional treatments (e.g., physical therapy) for improved comfort and foot function.

Let Experienced Podiatrists Improve Your Foot Health

The Foot & Ankle Center’s experienced podiatrists customize their treatment plans to address each patient’s specific maintenance and recovery needs. You do not deserve to have discomfort or pain interrupting your daily life. Our health and well-being are priceless—don’t undermine your symptoms or worries.

To schedule a visit, please submit our online form at https://www.facstl.com/request-appointment/. You may also reach us by email at judym@facstl.com and by phone at (314) 487-9300.