Over-The-Counter Orthotic Selection

Orthotic devices, whether custom made or off of the shelf, help in combination with the shoe to modify abnormal foot motion and pressure that cause lower extremity conditions.

Initial self-treatment often drives consumers to purchase a store bought orthotic. When selecting a store bought orthotic consumers usually get bombarded with too many options and choices making it difficult if not impossible to choose the best one for their particular needs.   “High arch”, “low arch”, “neutral arch” what do I buy and how do I know what to buy?

The key features in any orthotic are first and foremost NOT “cushioning”. We all feel better when we stand on something that is “soft” but it really is “firm support” in an orthotic that provides its beneficial effects.

As you observe the bottom of your feet notice that the heel and ball (metatarsal region) are relatively small areas of contact compared to the overall length of the arch which receives low pressure during walking. Beyond controlling foot motion one goal of the orthotic is to disperse pressure more evenly through the entire foot. Firm foam and plastic constructed store-bought orthotics provide the support for recovery.

The quality of store bought orthotics, depending on the specific condition, can be as effective as a custom foot orthotic in treating some of these healthcare conditions. Remember, an orthotic is only as good as the shoe that it is riding in.

Selecting a store bought orthotic off of the “rack” without specialist expertise is almost always a bad idea. The reason these products are manufactured so “soft” is to maximize sales, limit returns and eliminate the need for a trained support staff.  High-quality store bought orthotics that fit different arch heights is available but most of the times even a trained fit specialist can help select the correct one.

Word to the wise: when selecting a store bought orthotic think and feel for “firm” and not “soft” when purchasing. Break in the orthotics slowly over several days to allow your body to adjust and wear a supportive shoe that helps to compliment your healthcare needs.