Avoiding Foot Pain and Discomfort With Orthotics

Most people will have foot pain at some point in their lives yet very few seek treatment. Asking a doctor about the use of orthotic inserts may help.


The human foot is complex. It's made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, more than 100 related tendons, muscles and ligaments, plus blood vessels and nerves. In an average day of walking, a force equal to hundreds of tons is placed on the feet. Is it any wonder that foot problems are so common?

Even though most Americans will have some foot problems during their lives, few seek medical help. Many believe that discomfort and pain are normal. Some will try to treat problems themselves. But the combination of proper shoes and orthotics - inserts that can correct abnormal or irregular walking patterns - may be the key to solving many foot problems.

Podiatrists (foot doctors) often prescribe orthotics before considering surgery or after surgery.

How orthotics can help
Orthotics are often called "arch supports." But different types address distinct areas and problems of the foot.

Orthotics may be advised to improve or get rid of a variety of problems. Pains, aches and strains in the legs, thighs or lower back may be due to abnormal foot function or differences in leg lengths.

Orthotics can help to:

  • Align and support the foot or ankle
  • Prevent, correct or accommodate foot deformities
  • Improve the overall function of the foot or ankle

A foot pad or heel insert from a pharmacy or sporting goods store might do the trick. But custom-made versions may work better. In some cases, they can make standing, walking and running more comfortable and efficient. Orthotics do this by slightly altering the angles at which a foot hits the walking or running surface.

Types of foot inserts
Orthotics fall into three categories, based on the material they are made of:

  1. Rigid orthotics
    These inserts are created by taking a plaster-of-paris mold or computer model of your foot. They tend to run from the heel to the ball of the foot or just before the toes. They are:
    • Designed to control motion in two major foot joints that lie directly below the ankle joint
    • Made of firm materials like plastic or carbon fiber
    • Used mostly in walking or dress shoes with heels under two inches
  2. Soft orthotics
    These may consist of soft, compressible materials and extend from heel to toes. They're bulkier and you may need extra room in shoes. They can be very effective for arthritic, diabetic and deformed feet that have little protective fatty tissue on their sides. They:
    • Absorb shock
    • Increase balance
    • Take pressure off sore spots
  3. Semirigid orthotics
    These inserts provide balance for feet while walking or playing sports. Semirigid orthotics need to be made with the sport and the athlete in mind. They're made with layers of soft material and reinforced with more rigid materials. This can:
    • Guide the foot through proper motions
    • Enable muscles and tendons to work more efficiently
  4. To maximize the effectiveness of orthotics, consider the following:

    • Wear shoes that integrate well with your orthotics.
    • Bring your orthotics with you when trying on new shoes.
    • When shopping for new shoes, wear socks or stockings similar to ones you normally wear.
    • Plan for follow-up evaluations for your orthotics to ensure that your feet and the inserts are working together properly.

It's best to speak with your doctor before you buy extra super avana or use orthotics. The wrong insert could change the mechanics of your stride and cause further problems.