Orthotic insoles offer essential support and pain relief for individuals suffering from foot and ankle conditions. But with so many types of insoles available, choosing the best ones for you can be tricky. Read on to learn more about what the right custom orthotics can do for you.

What Are Orthotic Insoles and What Do They Do?

Foot orthotics are also sometimes called “arch supports” or simply “orthotics.” They can be made of different materials and vary in quality. However, their purpose remains the same: orthotic insoles are designed to support your feet and ankles so that you can stay active without experiencing pain and discomfort. Orthotics guide your foot in maintaining natural and healthy motion and can prevent over-pronation or over-supination.

What Is a Custom Orthotic?

Custom orthotics help align your feet and ankles correctly. They are used to treat abnormal motion and other foot issues. A healthcare provider normally prescribes custom orthotics, using casts and scans to ensure the medical device is perfectly fitted to your foot.

Why Use Orthotic Insoles?

There are a number of reasons to use custom orthotics. Orthotics offer numerous benefits, such as equalizing weight distribution and absorbing shock while walking or running. Orthotic inserts can also help to:

  • Provide arch support
  • Boost circulation
  • Relieve foot pressure and pain
  • Improve performance
  • Maintain mobility
  • Repair or heal foot conditions and injuries like plantar fasciitis

Custom insoles can be particularly beneficial for people with diabetes, as they can keep the feet healthy and provide pain relief for diabetic neuropathy. Read our related article, “Signs You May Need Orthotic Insoles“.

Different Types of Orthotic Insoles

Foot orthotics come in different forms and materials depending on the wearer’s needs and preferences.

The Different Materials of Inserts

The four most common materials for shoe inserts are leather, cork, foam, and gel. Many orthotics will use a combination of materials. Often, the best choice for you depends on your personal preferences and lifestyle. For instance, most people prefer leather for dress shoes, whereas cork offers added support that works well for sports and athletic shoes. If you are looking for an orthotic insert for hiking boots, gel or foam provides superior shock absorption, making them an excellent choice for outdoor enthusiasts.

Ultimately, each material has its advantages and disadvantages. While personal preference plays a significant role in selecting an insert, consider seeking advice from your healthcare provider if you are looking to treat an injury or correct any underlying conditions.

Foot Levelers uses premium materials such as Lambson leather that are built to last and reduce odor. Other proprietary materials Foot Levelers uses in their designs are great at increasing comfort, shock absorption and arch support while providing a propulsive boost during all weightbearing activities.

Three Main Categories of Insoles

Orthotic insoles range from soft support to a more rigid structure, according to the wearer’s needs.

1. Soft Support

Shoe inserts with soft support are great shock absorbers. They are lightweight, ease pressure on sore feet, and help redistribute weight across the foot. Most soft support insoles contain gel or foam and can help manage minor complaints.

2. Semi-Rigid Support

Semi-rigid insoles offer the best of both worlds: they are more flexible than rigid orthotics but provide more support than soft inserts. Semi-rigid insoles are typically made from both soft and rigid materials, such as leather, foam, and cork. They provide the wearer with better balance and can relieve pressure on the foot. Semi-rigid inserts can help with various conditions, such as flatfoot and arthritis.

3. Rigid Support

Rigid-support insoles are typically prescribed by a healthcare provider and custom-made for the patient. These insoles help to stabilize the foot and control movement below the ankle. Rigid-support inserts tend to be constructed with plastic for strength and microfiber or foam for comfort. They are relatively inflexible but more durable and long-lasting. Rigid-support custom insoles can help manage and correct various conditions, including collapsing arches, limb-length differences, and foot deformities.

Medically prescribed rigid orthotics can also treat more severe conditions when combined with foot and ankle braces or orthopedic footplates.

How to Choose the Best Foot Orthotics for You

Orthotic insoles are not a “one-size-fits-all” product, nor are all orthotics created equal. as people wear them for different reasons. Many people use orthotic insoles to relieve chronic foot, ankle, or heel pain. Some individuals may use orthotics temporarily during recovery from a lower-body injury. Still others may wear orthotics for flat feet to relieve pressure when they are on their feet all day. Whether you choose to go with a soft or rigid footbed, or something in between, will depend on your particular needs and the complaint you are looking to address.

Foot Levelers custom orthotic insoles are unique because of their patented 3 Arch Advantage that addresses all three arches of the foot for complete and proper arch support that stabilizes the entire body. It’s unlike anything else on the market.

Should You Go for Full-Length or ¾ Inserts?

Full-length orthotics, as the name implies, cover the entire length of the footbed. This means you can use them to replace existing insoles in shoes. If the insert is very thin and flat, you may be able to fit it over the top of the shoe’s existing insole. However, most full-length orthotics take quite a bit of extra space and may only work in shoes that have a certain depth, removable insoles, and rounded toe boxes.

In contrast, ¾-length orthotics cover only the ball of the foot up to the heel. ¾-length orthotics also allow you to wear casual footwear, such as boots and dress shoes, as they easily fit over top of existing insoles.

Foot Arch Type

Most foot arches fall into one of three categories:

  1. Neutral or medium arches
  2. Flat feet (low or fallen arches)
  3. High arches

The insole you choose should be custom-made to fit your particular foot arch type. This means that you need to know your foot arch type before buying orthotic inserts. Buying the wrong type of inserts for your foot anatomy can lead to considerable discomfort or pain and may even aggravate an existing condition.

Seek Professional Help

Choosing the right shoe inserts can feel overwhelming with so many options and price points available. If you are considering orthotics for added support and pain relief, rather than just added cushioning, consider consulting with a professional. A healthcare provider can assess your feet and advise you on the types of insoles that will suit your specific needs.

The Benefits of Using Orthotic Insoles

Custom insoles offer significant benefits, such as alleviating heel pain, helping lift arches, and addressing deformities. Some conditions that can be relieved by inserts include: 

  • Over-pronation
  • Over-supination
  • Differences in leg lengths (also known as leg length inequality (LLI) or leg length discrepancy (LLD)
  • Neuromuscular conditions
  • Foot deformities
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Back problems
  • Uneven weight distribution
  • Collapsed arches
  • Toe deformities
  • Bunions
  • Chronic foot pain

Even minor foot and ankle conditions can negatively impact your mobility and cause soreness and pain. However, for individuals with serious foot deformities, collapsed arches, or chronic pain, a great pair of custom inserts can be life-changing. Orthotics allow you to maintain (or return to) an active lifestyle without experiencing discomfort caused by foot or ankle conditions.

How to Correctly Insert and Wear Your Orthotic Insoles

Here is a step-by-step guide for inserting and wearing your foot orthotics correctly:

  1. Choose a shoe with the adequate depth and width to accommodate your insert
  2. Remove the existing insole from the shoe
  3. Insert the orthotic, ensuring it fits all the way to the front of the shoe
  4. Push the insert down flat at the heel
  5. Slide your foot carefully into the shoe
  6. Fasten your shoes

Your orthotic inserts may feel uncomfortable at first and might take some getting used to. However, any discomfort or resulting soreness should go away after the initial break-in period.

Common Problems with Orthotic Insoles and How to Solve Them

Problems individuals may experience with new inserts include:

  • Discomfort and pain
  • Continued symptoms
  • New symptoms
  • Shoes fitting poorly
  • Pain in ankle and leg muscles

With new orthotics, as with new shoes, there is often an adjustment period. To avoid serious complaints, it’s best to begin by wearing your inserts for only short periods over the first few days, increasing how long you wear them over the following days. If you are experiencing redness and significant ongoing pain from orthotic inserts, please see your doctor immediately. A healthcare provider can adjust your insoles and help to resolve any issues.

Beware of inferior orthotics, which may be cheaper but could end up costing you far more in the long run. Low-quality orthotics or wearing the wrong type of orthotic for your foot and arch type can cause chronic pain and may further aggravate foot conditions.

How to Keep Shoe Inserts in Place

If you are struggling to keep your orthotics in place, here are some tips to make sure they fit well and keep your feet comfortable:

  • Purchase the correct size and type of orthotic for your foot
  • Remove your shoe’s existing insole before inserting your orthotic
  • For soft inserts, cut them to the correct shoe size
  • Glue soft inserts to the bottom of the shoe to keep them in place
  • Use Velcro® straps or sticky tape to keep 3/4-length orthotics in place

How Long Do Orthotics Last and When Should You Replace Yours?

Typically, good-quality custom orthotics will last two to three years, sometimes longer. However, even the best orthotics will eventually wear out. Indications that your insoles need replacing include:

  • Your orthotics shows signs of wear and tear
  • You have recently developed foot pain and discomfort
  • You have recently lost or gained a considerable amount of weight
  • You have experienced a significant lifestyle change, such as pregnancy or a major injury

If you’re in doubt about whether you should replace your inserts, your healthcare provider can help! They can assess your current orthotics, re-examine your feet and ankles, and help you determine whether it’s time for you to invest in a new or different pair of inserts.

Foot Levelers Can Help You Get You Back on Your Feet

Foot Levelers’ custom orthotic insoles are backed by intensive research and proven science and made for your unique foot shape and needs. Our inserts can help ease pain from many common conditions, including back pain, knee pain, neck pain, and foot pain. Let us help you get back on your feet.

Find a Foot Levelers provider near you today!