Answering Your Questions About Custom Orthotics

Something that undoubtedly holds true for all doctors—including podiatrists—is that we get many questions. In fact, it’d be surprising if you didn’t have your own about foot health.

That makes complete sense. After all, feet are complicated structures responsible for performing essential functions so we can stand upright, move around, and participate in favorite activities.

Between their intricately structured nature and the movements they perform, there are many conditions and injuries that can cause foot pain and difficulty.

Fortunately, there are also many possible treatment options.

One we are proud to offer at our Coachella Valley office is orthotics therapy.

Today, we want to answer some of the common questions we get about custom orthotics and help you understand why this might be the right choice for you.

What are custom orthotics?

Put simply, orthotics are shoe inserts customized to work with your unique feet and biomechanical patterns and correct any irregularities—particularly ones that can cause foot pain or difficulty.

These invaluable medical devices are made from soft and/or rigid materials and capable of achieving a variety of objectives.

What we are trying to accomplish will determine which kinds of materials are used for your custom orthotics. If we need to control abnormal motion or gait, then rigid materials are often best. If the goal is to provide cushioning for specific areas, your pair of orthotics may be constructed from softer materials.

Either way, you should be able to find relief from pain and greater comfort when using your orthotics.

So, how exactly are they used?

This is rather straightforward: you put your orthotics into the shoes you’d normally wear and then go about with your usual tasks and activities. The inserts do the rest of the work.

It might help to think of orthotic therapy as being a lot like wearing eyeglasses. When you put your glasses on, you can see better (without needing to do anything else). Take them off, and your eyesight will go back to whatever it naturally is.

What are orthotics used for?

Now that you know the general uses for these shoe inserts—controlling motion, providing additional cushioning—let’s take a look at some specific conditions they are used to treat.

Given their levels of customization and variety of material options, perhaps it’s less than surprising to learn that we can prescribe orthotics to treat a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Flat feet. One of the most common reasons to utilize this treatment option is to support low or fallen foot arches and establish proper foot positioning. Doing so corrects biomechanical issues (overpronation, in particular) caused by this structural issue.
  • High arches. In a similar way to treating flat feet, orthotics can prevent motion problems caused by arches that are too high. This may resolve issues that include shin splints and knee pain.
  • Plantar fasciitis. Fortunately, the leading source of heel pain has many kinds of possible treatments available, and this is one. Orthotics help by better supporting the heel and foot. In turn, this takes away excessive strain placed on the plantar fascia, which is the root cause of this condition.
  • Bunions (and other toe deformities). As we’ve discussed previously, bunions stem from inherited foot structures, and the core issue is disproportionate stress placed on the front of the foot (and, more specifically, where the big toe connects to the foot). While orthotics cannot correct an existing bunion, they can be quite useful in addressing symptoms and preventing it from becoming worse. This holds true for other deformities, like hammertoes, as well.
  • Diabetic foot wounds. Just like with a bunion, a pair of custom orthotics will not cure a diabetic foot wound. What it can do, however, is reduce your risk of one developing in the first place.

Please keep in mind that this list is only a snapshot of what kinds of foot and ankle conditions can be treated with orthotic therapy. There are many others – which is attributed to the customizable feature of these medical devices.

Along with your orthotics, you might benefit from laser treatments to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

Are orthotics worth it?

It’s perfectly normal to assess the value of anything that utilizes our resources, such as time, energy, and money.

Determining whether to get a pair of orthotics or not is no exception.

In this case, you need to determine if what you receive—relief from foot pain, reduced risk of problems, the ability to resume favorite activities—outweighs what you need to give.

The specifics of total costs vary from patient to patient, but you should decide if the time it takes to have a pair customized and the financial cost (which can be affected by your specific insurance plan) is worth it to you.

For many people, the answer is a resounding yes.

Sure, current situational improvement alone might make a pair of orthotics worth it to you – but that’s only half the story.

Seeking orthotic therapy, and especially during early stages of a foot condition or injury, can keep problems from escalating or recurring.

When problems become more severe and/or continue to return, cost of treatment can shoot up. And that means a pair of orthotics now can potentially save you thousands (or even tens of thousands) of dollars in the long run.

Do I need orthotics? What kind?

This is a question best asked during your appointment at our Palm Desert podiatrist office—and for a fairly simple reason:

We need to diagnose your condition and determine what is happening to give you an accurate answer.

That said, there’s a decent chance a pair of custom orthotics may be a recommended part of your treatment plan for any of the conditions noted earlier. And the reason we say this is because we’ve seen many patients who were able to find relief and resume normal activities with orthotic therapy.

In just a moment, we’ll give you at least an idea as to what you might expect. Before that, we need to cover the kinds of orthotics in a little more detail than we did earlier.

If you’ll recall, orthotics can be used to control foot motion and/or provide additional cushioning.

Depending on which of those objectives we’re aiming to achieve, you might benefit from either fully custom or prefabricated orthotics.

Fully custom orthotics—as the name implies—are created from scratch according to your unique foot structure and biomechanics. Given that they are more customized, these medical devices take more effort to create.

On the other hand, prefabricated orthotics are already started and require (comparatively) minimal adjustment to work with your feet. If you only need minor correction, these might be our recommendation.

Before moving ahead, a quick note about off-the-shelf shoe inserts:

The inserts you can buy at retail stores and nationwide pharmacy chains are not the same. Not even close, actually.

Those shoe inserts may offer a little support and greater cushioning than the insoles that come with your shoes, but they are not capable of resolving medical problems!

What are the best orthotics?

At the risk of providing a “cop out” answer, the best orthotics for you are going to depend on an array of factors.

As with the previous question, this is something we should answer for you only after a careful evaluation and diagnosis. While we can—and will—provide some general guidelines, it’s important to remember that we are talking about a highly customizable form of treatment.

At the top of the list, the condition responsible for your foot pain or difficulty is going to be key in determining which kind of orthotics we prescribe for you.

With that being the case, here are those general guidelines:

  • If your condition is being caused by faulty biomechanics, you would likely benefit from a pair of customized, rigid orthotics.
  • If your condition would benefit from extra cushioning in specifically targeted areas, we may recommend soft, prefabricated orthotics.
  • The shoe inserts you can pick up from the store should only be used for providing some extra comfort during the day – and NOT to treat a medical issue.

Again, we realize these are quite general, but many unique factors must be taken into consideration for this particular treatment.

Ready to put foot pain behind you? Come see us for professional treatment!

If you want to see definitively if custom orthotics are right for you, the best course of action is to come in and see us at our Palm Desert office.

At your appointment, we’ll accurately diagnose your condition and then create a treatment plan to help you find the relief you deserve.

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (760) 568-0108 or contact us online today!






Dr. Harvey Danciger
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Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle
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