Orthotics are custom-made shoe devices inserted into a shoe, that correct an abnormal or irregular walking pattern. Sometimes called arch supports, orthotics allow people to stand, walk, and run more efficiently and comfortably. While over-the-counter orthotics (made for an average foot) are available and may help people with mild symptoms, they normally cannot correct the wide range of symptoms that prescription orthotics can since they are not custom made to fit an individual’s unique foot structure. Think prescription eyeglasses versus generic readers.
Orthotic devices come in many shapes, sizes, and materials and fall into three main categories: those designed to change foot function, those that are primarily protective in nature, and of course generic over-the-counter ones.
Functional orthotic devices are designed to control function and are used primarily for walking or dress shoes. They are often composed of a firm material, such as plastic or carbon fiber. Functional orthotics are made from a mold after a podiatrist takes a plaster cast of the foot in its neutral and optimal position. Functional orthotics control the motion of the foot and ankle joints that are responsible for optimal ambulation, improving normalcy. They can help eliminate strains, aches, and pains in the legs, thighs, and lower back.