By Nicholas Giovinco, DPM
Dekalb Medical PGY-2 Resident, Podiatry Institute
One of the most common over the counter treatments for foot pain is not medication; it’s orthotics and other forms of shoe inserts. Many of these appliances are prescribed by foot and ankle specialists, but no prescription is necessary for ones you can order online.
One word of caution is to be mindful of your choice. Be sure to select an orthotic or shoe insert which is best suited for your needs. Insole selection should be centered around the shape of your foot as well as the type of foot pain you are experiencing and the shoe(s) in which you intend to wear them.
Let’s start with foot shape! The shape of one’s foot is very important when choosing shoes, but many people fail to realize how important it is for selecting inserts. We encourage you to use sizing charts and consider the width of your feet. Also, we recommend you consider the height of your foot arch. Arch height is an important dimension for fitting insoles and should not be overlooked.
Next is pain. Consider the type of pain you are experiencing. Remember that not all pain will be adequately relieved from shoe inserts. There are some painful conditions which need medical evaluation and treatment recommendations from a foot and ankle specialist if pain persists after using inserts.
Shoe Type. Whatever shoe you select, make sure it has room enough to accommodate the orthotic. Shoes that come with removable insoles provide greater fitting latitude.
With heel pain and generalized arch pain, arch supports are often a great way to relieve discomfort. The degree of arch support and height should match your posture as is. For example, a low arch support for somebody with a high arch will be inadequate; conversely, a high arch support for someone with a flatfoot can often result in discomfort and dissatisfaction. Choose appropriately or visit a specialist if you are unsure of what condition you should be treated for.
Replacement. Orthotic devices and inserts are made from a variety of materials. Depending on how your device was fabricated, as well as the intensity of your use, one could expect an insert to last several months to several years. Signs of wear are obvious and can include cracking, degeneration of the top cover, damage to the shell, bottoming out, and discoloration.
Another indication of a need for replacement could be time itself. Everyone’s feet change during the course of their lifetime – this is nothing to be worried about; it’s perfectly natural. Therefore one insert that was right for you several years ago, may not optimally suit your needs today.
Please remember to consult a foot and ankle specialist if you are having any questions or issues. The potential for harm is quite possible when attempting to self diagnose and self treat.