You’ve seen them at the grocery store and at the mall. You’ve probably even seen them on TV and online. Shoe inserts are any kind of non-prescription foot support designed to be worn inside a shoe. Pre-packaged arch supports are shoe inserts. So are the “custom-made” insoles and foot supports that you can order online or at retail stores. Unless the device has been prescribed by a doctor and crafted for your specific foot, it’s a shoe insert, not a custom orthotic device – despite what the ads might say.
Shoe inserts can be very helpful for a variety of foot ailments, including flat aches and foot and leg pain. They can cushion your feet, provide comfort, and support your arches. They can’t correct biomechanical foot problems or cure long-standing foot issues.
If you have serious pain or discomfort, schedule an appointment with a podiatrist. He or she will assess your overall health and look for any other contributing factors. Today’s podiatrists are specially trained to evaluate the biomechanics of the lower extremity. They can examine your feet and ankles, and recommend shoe inserts to fit and solve the problem, a podiatrist can prescribe custom-made orthotics or suggest additional treatments to improve the comfort and function of your feet.
The most common types of shoe inserts are:
- Arch supports. Some people have high arches. Others have low arches or flat feet. Ach supports generally have a “bumped up” appearance and are designed to support the foot’s natural arch.
- Insoles. Insoles slip into your shoe to provide extra cushioning and support. Insoles are often made of gel, foam, or plastic.
- Heel liners. Heel liners, sometimes called heel pads or heel cups, provide extra cushioning in the heel region. They may be especially useful for patients who have foot pain caused by age-related thinning of the heels’ natural fat pads.
- Foot cushions. Do your shoes rub against your heel? Your toes? Foot cushions come in many different shapes and sizes and can be used as a barrier between you and your shoe.
Shoe inserts are designed to improve comfort. They cannot address underlying biomechanical problems of the foot. If your pain and discomfort remain (or worsen) after trying a shoe insert, consult a podiatrist.