Orthotics: Are They Really Worth the Price?

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Many people who suffer from foot, ankle, knee, and hip pain turn to insoles for relief.Many people who suffer from foot, ankle, knee, and hip pain turn to insoles for relief. Putting these supports in shoes is supposed to realign the joints and improve any imbalances that cause painful symptoms. Insoles vary greatly in price. You can pick up a pair at the drug store for ten dollars, or you can be fitted for expensive orthotics and pay in excess of $300.

But do orthotics really work? Let’s take a look at what some clinical studies say about their effectiveness. One study from Northern Illinois University looked at the performance of orthotics in stabilizing posture and reducing the risk for injury. Twelve people participated in the study. The researchers performed various tests on the participants with and without orthotics. They found that the orthotics reduced negative changes in posture caused by the foot swaying to the inside when walking.

Orthotics may be a good option for you if you suffer from plantar fasciitis. This painful condition is caused by inflammation in the tissues surrounding the bottom of the foot. Anyone who has had plantar fasciitis can attest to the difficulty in moving around when every step causes shooting pain.

PLUS: Chiropractic solution for heel pain

A research team decided to test three different orthotics in the treatment of plantar fasciitis: a thin, non-supportive orthotic; a soft, supportive foam orthotic; and a foam-covered rigid, self-supporting plastic orthotic. Which one performed best? Not surprisingly, the orthotic that offered no support also had no effect on pain symptoms. Both the foam orthotic and the plastic orthotic significantly reduced pain levels. However, there was one category in which the plastic orthotic outperformed the rest: the length of time patients were free from pain when walking.

Now, what about rheumatoid arthritis? Do shoe insoles help reduce the pain and swelling associated with this condition? Rheumatoid arthritis can cause problems with mobility and physical function. It primarily attacks joints, creating chronic inflammation. Researchers in Ottawa, Ontario conducted a review and found that “extra-depth” shoes—shoes that give your foot more room, along with extra space to add an insole—helped reduce pain symptoms better than regular shoes alone.

If you’re going to give orthotics a try, consider going to a certified pedorthist. These professionals could potentially protect you from forking over a lot of money for an orthotic that’s not based on scientific principles and medical knowledge of the foot. A pedorthist is a professional trained to assess lower limb anatomy and joint and muscle function. A pedorthist could help you better manage symptoms associated with arthritis, diabetic neuropathy, Achilles tendinitis, injuries, and metatarsalgia.

Try checking out the Pedorthic Association of Canada or the American Board for Certification in Pedorthics to find professionals in your area. Beware of orthotics that are made by uncertified parties. It may seem like you’re saving money, but these insoles may offer little in the way of support or relief from painful symptoms. If you want to give an inexpensive insole a try, stick with the recommendations of the second clinical trial reviewed in this article and buy a plastic insole instead.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Bateni, H., “Changes of postural steadiness following use of prefabricated orthotic insoles,” J Appl Biomech. April 2013; 29(2): 174-9.
Walther, M., et al., “Effect of different orthotic concepts as first line treatment of plantar fasciitis,” Foot Ankle Surg. June 2013; 19(2): 103-7.
Egan, M., et al., “Splints/orthoses in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis,” Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2003; (1): CD004018.