Over-the-counter (OTC) orthotic insoles are foot supports made from various materials including foam, leather, and plastic. OTC insoles are designed to go inside your shoe and provide some type of relief. OTC insoles are popularized by clever branding and packaging techniques and can be bought at local pharmacies and grocery stores. Some are marketed as providing additional comfort. Others promise to relieve pain from common conditions like bunions, plantar fasciitis, and arch support issues. Additionally, you can buy OTC insoles for a variety of shoes like high heels, athletic shoes, and boots, so as to seemingly work with every consumer’s lifestyle.
While custom orthotics have been a scientifically proven way to overcome pain and discomfort, OTC insoles are dangerous and can cause more harm than help to your body. Although many people do not realize their feet could be the cause of their knee, hip, or back pain, the feet are the foundation of the body. This helps to explain why Chiropractors often treat issues like plantar fasciitis through lower back adjustments and pay particular attention to the feet when diagnosing and treating a patient’s discomfort. More importantly, custom orthotic insoles are typically a great solution and addition to someone’s lifestyle. However, patients must be cautioned against self-diagnosing and treating through OTC solutions. These are the top three bad things that OTC insoles can do to your body. We also added some advice for avoiding OTC insoles and getting better treatment.
1. OTC Insoles Provide Ineffective Support
Each and every person’s body is unique. We are all different heights, weights, and have different body compositions. This means that each one of us also has unique feet, with some of us even having two feet that barely seem like distant relatives. Due to each person’s unique body composition, there is rarely ever a one-size-fits-all cure for an issue. Therefore, when it comes to the feet, customization is key. Using OTC insoles, however, does not provide custom care for your body and cannot provide you with effective support. Ineffective support leads to increased pain and discomfort and can even transfer your pain to a different part of your body to make you think the insoles are working.
The best way to avoid ineffective support is to seek the advice of a professional first. Although there are often scanners inside stores to help you purchase an insole, these are designed solely to sell products, rather than provide treatment. Getting a foot scan by a professional who can assess your body and feet in person is ideal. They will communicate with you directly about treatment options and will help you find the best solution.
2. Increase Physical Discomfort and Cost You More Money for Treatment
OTC insoles are typically made of inexpensive materials. Therefore, OTC insoles wear down faster than custom orthotics and require replacement more often. The problem is that as OTC insoles wear down, your physical discomfort will likely increase. Or, even worse, you could purchase the wrong type of OTC insole, and create more pain and discomfort for yourself. Dr. Kevin Wong indicated that many OTC insoles provide far too much rigidity for our feet and actually make our feet go numb. This would lead us to believe our discomfort is cured when in reality it is simply masked. This “solution” would also make us dependent on an OTC solution for relief – rather than get treatment.
When we experience pain or discomfort, our bodies are under stress. Stress also increases from non-physical issues, like financial burdens and seeking medical treatment which can be time-consuming and riddled with uncertainty. However, seeking treatment for issues, in the beginning, can save a great deal of time and money in the long run. Instead of self-diagnosing your issues while standing inside a store, relieve your stress by seeking the help of an expert. Consider a custom orthotic option that will last longer (about one year) and provide the relief you are seeking. Custom orthotics are also covered by some insurance programs.
3. Diminish the Function of Your Foot and/or Ankle
Body function actually diminishes when insoles are not properly prescribed or fitted to someone’s foot. The wrong insole can make a well-fitting shoe suddenly too tight. The wrong insole can also redistribute our bodyweight in such a way that our foot pain seems alleviated but our ankles are now sore or we cannot bend our feet with the same ease. Bad insoles can also make it difficult for us to run or walk at certain paces. Perhaps most importantly, wearing the wrong insole can create new injuries due to the impact OTC insoles have on the function of our feet and ankles.
Orthotics alter the way our bodies move, affecting how we walk, stand, and absorb shock from the ground. Therefore, selecting the right orthotic for your feet is essential to how our body functions each and every day.
It’s important to remember that no orthotic, OTC or custom, is designed to permanently change someone’s foot. However, custom orthotics are designed specifically for an individual’s body and used to:
- stabilize a joint
- reduce pain
- prevent deformity
- adjust posture and positioning
- and improve the function of the foot
In most cases, custom orthotics address a combination of the above list. A sufficient OTC solution does not exist to provide these benefits. It is not possible to purchase an OTC insole that’s designed specifically for an individual’s body. It is possible to get a custom orthotic that will relieve your discomfort, help your body operate efficiently, and save you stress and money over time.