Orthotics and the science of lower extremity biomechanics (orthopedic/mechanical function of the human foot) is the very heart of podiatric treatment and belief.
A true orthotic or prescription orthotic can only be made by taking a mold and impression of the patient’s actual foot. This is what makes a hand-made orthotic a true medical device. There are many over the counter arch supports that you can purchase from a non-medical person or store without a prescription. However, everybody’s foot has a different shape and many people’s foot type won’t conform to a generic over the counter arch support. Ouch! Especially if there is an actual foot problem present be it a mild or severe deformity. For an orthotic to truly relieve a painful condition or give strength to a tired foot that may have to stand and walk for 8-12 hours at work, it has to fit the human foot precisely. There just isn’t any way to produce, sell and market an effective foot orthotic unless it was made from a mold of the patient’s foot. The reason being, that everybody’s foot is as different as their face. And so called computerized fittings of orthotics just don’t really come close to a precise fit either.
Some people have high arches, some low. Some people have wide feet, some narrow. Some people have hammertoes and bunions some have straight toes. Some people are bow legged some are knock kneed, etc. There just isn’t a way to engineer and make a prefab foot orthotic to precisely fit an unknown patient’s foot from an injection mold machine in China (for a cost of $.50 to the manufacture). In other words, all of the prefab arch supports don’t really have any difference other than the shoe size. One size fits none.
What is needed in an orthotic is specific conformation to the foot and a specific flex depending on the patient and their particular foot problem. And, there certainly isn’t an “ideal” prefab standard shape and size that the human foot is supposed to conform to as some of the infomercials try to sell you on. If you don’t really have any foot position or alignment issues, an over the counter arch support may give you some help. Just don’t be conned by the snake oil and spend any more then $50. Unfortunately on a daily basis I see disgruntled patients who have spent anywhere from $85-$700 for over the counter arch supports that don’t work.
If you must buy a foot orthosis over the counter, I recommend the Powerstep Pinnacle or the Spenco Orthotic at my online store.