The term “shoe inserts” refers to orthotic devices placed in the sole of the shoe. They are used to treat pain and a variety of other conditions caused by malformed feet, sports injuries, bad shoes, or improperly balanced walking. Shoe inserts are designed to cushion the foot and even out pressure on the walking surface. They can be prescribed by a doctor and custom made, or purchased over-the-counter at pharmacies.
Any chronic foot pain is abnormal, and it can lead to leg, knee, and back problems if left untreated. A podiatrist can assess the patient’s feet and decide if orthotic shoe inserts are appropriate. Symptoms a doctor might investigate include bunions, flat feet, chronic heel or shin pain, and frequently sprained ankles. The doctor should look at the patient’s gait to see if the toes are pointed too far in or out, and he might even check the insides of the patient’s shoes to see if poorly balanced foot movement is indicated by uneven wear in the shoe.
Shoe inserts may absorb shock while walking or running, accommodate a malformed foot, or encourage more evenly balanced walking by supporting proper foot movement. They come in a variety of shapes. Some shoe inserts are designed to cover only the heel or the ball of the foot, and can be used to absorb shock in those areas, to give extra support, or to make shoes fit better. Orthotic arch supports cover the entire sole of the foot and give extra support to arches that are either too flat or too high.
Many different types of shoe inserts are available over-the-counter, often with one or two size options. Other orthotic insoles are prescribed by a doctor, and custom-made for the patient’s foot and condition. To do this, the doctor makes a mold of the foot out of plaster, then sends it to a lab with recommendations about the type of support the device must provide. From the first plaster mold, another plaster impression is made of the sole of the foot. The orthotic device is then molded to the plaster sole in accordance with the doctor’s instructions.
A patient who uses prescription shoe inserts should be careful about his feet, and only wear the kinds of shoes his doctor recommends. He should consult his doctor regularly to make sure the shoe inserts are working properly, and adjust them if necessary. When buying new shoes, a patient should bring his insoles to make sure the shoes can accommodate them.