Orthotics (commonly termed arch supports) are inserts put into the shoe to re-align the foot, and takes pressure off certain areas of the foot, or to increase comfort.
Custom arch supports are made from a cast of the foot and used to treat many foot disorders, such as: heel pain, arch pain, and metatarsal problems. These devices can also be used to alleviate knee and back pain.
Palliative orthotics / insoles are designed specifically to reduce pressure from painful or ulcerated areas of the foot. These are softer and less complicated devices made of foam or rubbers, and consist of padding glued to a flat insole. Insoles are useful for treating severely deformed feet with a limited range of motion and mobility, or extremely painful conditions that do not require control of foot posture. They are often an appropriate choice for elderly people with significant soft-tissue atrophy and/or circulatory disease, and for pressure relief cases that includes: localized callous, corns or other painful lesions.
Mass produced orthotics are a cheap and effective option for some conditions, especially for injuries or pain that does not require specific, or aggressive control of foot motion and conditions requiring only short term use of orthotics. Depending on the materials involved, the average life span of “off-the-shelf” orthotics is six to twelve months.
From a tracing of your foot and a prescription, a pair of orthotics that are mass made by the same laboratory that makes custom made orthotics, can be modified to suit your needs. Whilst made of the same materials (thermoplastic) and often looking very similar to a custom made orthotic, the cost is reduced as the labor time is minimal and not made specifically from your individual cast. These orthotics are a good option for people requiring moderate control, and commonly used for children who grow out of their devices.
Functional orthoses are prescribed after a biomechanical assessment/gait analysis and plaster casting (taking a mould) of the feet. They are made to align with the structure of the foot in its most functionally efficient position. The orthotic, molded from the cast, is designed to stabilize the foot and to prevent it from moving into an unbalanced position while walking or running. Prescription orthotics are usually made of a long lasting thermoplastic with a shock absorbing covering. This is the most specific and accurate way to have a controlling orthotic made. They are used for foot deformities, severe foot posture disorders and for those wishing to have a custom made orthotic. Devices last for years and can be modified at any time.