By Christina DeBusk
According to an article published by Steve Caplan, PhD, in The Guardian, by the year 2015, orthotics will be an almost $5 billion industry with foot orthotics taking the biggest piece of the pie.1 So, if you’re spending money in this extremely lucrative sector, you may wonder whether you should spend more for full orthotics built into your shoes, or if you are OK with saving some cash and using just inserts instead. The answer may lie in why you need the orthotics.
When inserts are OK and when you want full orthotics
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggests that inserts are OK for certain foot-related conditions. For instance, these types of devices generally work well for plantar fasciitis, which causes pain in your heel. They can also help if you experience runner’s knee due to pronation of your foot or if your arch is flat (just be sure to purchase a full-length insert if this is the case).2
However, one condition in which you may be better off with a full orthotic built into your shoes is neuropathic ulceration, which is when you have diabetes and get ulcers on your feet. Also, if one leg is a different length than the other, full custom orthotics are recommended.2
A word about having flat feet
Some people feel that having flat feet is a reason for inserts or orthotics. However, most children who are born with flat feet actually outgrow them, and adults who lack a sufficient arch only need inserts or orthotics if they are experiencing issues such as pain. So, having flat feet doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to do anything about it.
Always listen to your doctor
No matter which kind of orthotics you get, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons always suggests that you talk with your doctor first. Sometimes you need different orthotics for different reasons.2 For instance, Caplan wrote that he uses one type for exercise and another type for “day-to-day use”1—an insert may be OK in certain circumstances whereas a full orthotic may be preferred for another.
1Caplan S. “Science of the sole: do orthotics help people with sore feet?” theguardian.com. http://www.theguardian.com/science/occams-corner/2013/dec/17/medical-research-health. Published December 2013. Accessed November 2014.
2American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “Orthotics.” Orthoinfo.com. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00172. Updated September 2012. Accessed November 2014.