Readers often tell me that they think they “might need orthotics,” but they rarely know more than that. The idea is usually based on an uncertain hunch that something about the way they walk and run can be fixed with a wedge of just the right shape under their feet — which is all orthoses amount to, even the fanciest ones.
Custom foot orthoses or orthopedic footwear or modifications may be helpful for specific medical situations, but it’s probably only truly reliable for a single condition: painful pes cavus (high arches). Everything else is less certain, even quite obvious and common foot problems like hallux valgus (lateral bulging where the big toe meets the foot).With wise prescription and skilled crafting, many people will be helped, and many will not.
Unfortunately, you can’t count on wise prescription! There are many unscrupulous and shoddy suppliers of these products who will prescribe them for almost any problem — or none! — and the science is complex and incomplete. It is nearly impossible for consumers to know if they actually need any of these products, or where to get an expert prescription and a quality product.
The good news is that there are some more reliable sources for these products and services:are the professionals that I recommend. Unfortunately, most consumers have never heard of them and don’t know why they are the best choices, or where to find them … and many therapists won’t refer, because they want to sell you orthotics themselves.
The entire question of orthotics can be answered reasonably well by keeping your expectations pretty low — there’s just only so much that foot support can do for most people — and by consulting mainly pedorthists and orthotists. That’s the short story. But on this website we delve into these things …
We train for many years and we take our jobs very seriously. It’s great to see support for pedorthists, and recognition of the difference between podiatrists and pedorthists. I have a problem with a professional who is allowed to diagnose, prescribe, and dispense within a 15-minute appointment. Prescribers are not providers for a reason!