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All About Orthotics: Do Shoe Inserts Provide Pain Relief?

Author: Niki L. Carayannopoulos, DO

For thousands of patients in the Houston area, orthotics can provide some much-needed pain relief. Orthotic devices (also referred to as “foot pads” or “heel inserts”) are small objects –typically made of silicone or rubber – that can be placed inside a patient’s shoe. Some orthotic devices may be purchased off-the-shelf, while others are custom-designed to fit the specific anatomy of the patient’s foot.

Who Needs An Orthotic Device?

When properly prescribed and used, orthotics can be an effective way to manage pain caused by a range of health conditions, from arthritis to plantar fasciitis to diabetic ulcers. Patients with the following conditions could potentially find improvement through the use of an orthotic device, according to the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society:

  • Bunions and/or bunionettes
  • Corns and calluses
  • Cavus foot (high-arched foot)
  • Flatfoot (in both adults and children)
  • Stiff big toe (hallux rigidus)
  • Hammer toe or claw toe
  • Forefoot pain (metatarsalgia)
  • Limb length deformity
  • Morton neuroma
  • Neuropathic ulceration (including diabetic foot ulcers)
  • Plantar fasciitis (heel pain or heel spur)
  • Runner’s knee (Learn more about how devices can help with this condition.)

Orthotic devices may provide support and comfort by reducing pressure on the foot, shielding sensitive areas of the foot, and improving weight distribution. Injured ankles or knees may find improved support and alignment with an orthotic device.

While orthotic devices, properly prescribed, may prove helpful, it’s important for patients to be aware of the potential risks of using an off-the-shelf medical product (with or without physician supervision). Some orthotic device manufacturers may create “solutions” for non-existent “problems.” Or, in other cases, the research supporting the use of these particular devices may be incomplete or inaccurate.

As with any aspect of your health care, it’s important to seek a professional recommendation before pursuing a self-directed course of treatment. Additionally, it is important to understand that while orthotic devices can lead to mild improvement for some patients, the potential of these devices is somewhat limited when compared to potential outcomes associated with surgery, physical therapy, and other treatments.

Schedule With a Houston Orthopedic Doctor

To learn more about your options for treating arthritis, plantar fasciitis, and other conditions sometimes associated with orthotic devices, contact Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics. Call (713) 756-5546, or schedule your appointment online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.