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Orthotics vs Insoles/Inserts

2020 Camino Guides

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Aragones(2020)
Portuguese(2020)
In a few threads focused on issues with feet, I noticed that definitions are getting very blurry for the terms 'Insole'/'Insert, vs 'Orthotic'. I thought it might help to tighten things up a bit so that we do not get tripped up by terminology.

Insoles, arch supports and inserts are pretty much the same thing as a category. You can usually find them over the counter at retailers from big box stores to athletic shops to outdoor recreation stores like REI. They are all over online shopping sites as well.

They provide additional cushioning and may also offer some level of minor support in your shoes, replacing the insole that came with the shoe.. Because the material is often soft and deforms easily, even if contains some plastics, replacing them about every 4 to 6 months, at most, is a good idea. Beyond that and their functionality decreases.

Orthotics are found in shops that are specialized or medical offices. What has happened is that the term “orthotic” has been adopted as a generic term, like kleenix or windex.

An orthotic is a firm support. It is primarily made from some type of plastic material where the arch of your foot is located. They are meant to provide some distinct level of arch support in order to reduce the risk of further structural damage of injury to the feet while walking or running.

As a result, orthotics tend to be custom made and cannot be pre-made or manufactured then placed on a store shelf waiting for a buyer. Your foot must to be evaluated, and that evaluation determines what and which type of orthotic you need. A mold is made of the foot/feet, the mold is then modified to deal with the foot's specific structural issue(s), and then the orthotic is fabricated (off site or on site) to precisely match that foot and its needed correction. Orthotics do not usually deform; therefore, they do not have to be replaced as often as over-the-counter insoles.

Superfeet models, even though they have a plastic component, for example, are NOT orthotics. Neither are Dr. Scholls products, or gel inserts, or silicone stuff that slips into a shoe. The same applies to heat molded insole products.

Some other personal observations:

Into this mix comes a sorta hybrid approach: specialty shops which are stand-alone, retail locations that one can pop into and have a mold taken, and a device produced.

The inserts produced are meant to act in the same manner as an orthotic, and many of these shops do indeed refer to their product as an orthotic insert. The problem is, that the need for a physical exam and assessment has often been replaced with a robotic algorithm, which attempts to deduce problems based on a foot's shape, and visualized pressure points. As such, the insert devices produced may not solve the problem at all, and the customer later ends up still needing to visit a medical professional, costing even more money.

That is an imprecise way to try and determine an actual deformity or structural problem that NEEDS to be corrected, vs one which does NOT need correcting. They can work to help soreness, but they can also do nothing, or worse, exacerbate an underlying issue.

Keep in mind that the business of orthotics, even those custom made in a podiatrist's office, are a BUSINESS. There is a large debate, even in professional circles, about how to evaluate the need for an orthotic, whether they are needed, and even whether they produce the benefits which are promise to patients and consumers.

Anecdotally, there are many who find them a life saver. . . but also those who have found them to create harm.

So if you have undiagnosed soreness, or motion control issues, start first with the footwear to see if changing it will affect performance. Then if more is needed, look at the various insoles that focus on the issues that you are concerned with: pronation, comfort, heel pain, metatarsal pain.

Beyond that, if more is needed and a solution isn't found, I would think about consulting with a Sports Podiatrist to assess to properly assess feet and ankles.

If knees and lower back are involved, I recommend seeking consultation with an Orthopedic practitioner or surgeon who can more accurately assess you for specific musculoskeletal issues. The findings may be that dealing with the feet will solve the problem, but often it is not a foot issue.

There are folks who will report that their symptoms were resolved using a variety of means. These are anecdotal reports. While they worked well for someone else, there are others for which they have failed.

So go conservatively, and be cautious about any serious concerns regarding knees, lower legs, ankles and feet as you seek solutions. If someone suggests something that sounds interesting to try, go slowly as you try it out yourself.

For issues with knees and ankles, I would not seek to try and correct such issues on my own or with a foot-based additive, like an insole or orthotic. While they can relieve some discomfort in a given circumstance, they may also mask more serious underlying issues. Get those issues evaluated professionally to determine IF a footwear based solution is the right solution. It may be, or not.
 
Last edited:

jmcarp

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2013
Camino del Norte a Chimayó (USA), 2015
Camino Portugues, 2017
In a few threads focused on issues with feet, I noticed that definitions are getting very blurry for the terms 'Insole'/'Insert, vs 'Orthotic'. I thought it might help to tighten things up a bit so that we do not get tripped up by terminology.

Insoles, arch supports and inserts are pretty much the same thing as a category. You can usually find them over the counter at retailers from big box stores to athletic shops to outdoor recreation stores like REI. They are all over online shopping sites as well.

They provide additional cushioning and may also offer some level of minor support in your shoes, replacing the insole that came with the shoe.. Because the material is often soft and deforms easily, even if contains some plastics, replacing them about every 4 to 6 months, at most, is a good idea. Beyond that and their functionality decreases.

Orthotics are found in shops that are specialized or medical offices. What has happened is that the term “orthotic” has been adopted as a generic term, like kleenix or windex.

An orthotic is a firm support. It is primarily made from some type of plastic material where the arch of your foot is located. They are meant to provide some distinct level of arch support in order to reduce the risk of further structural damage of injury to the feet while walking or running.

As a result, orthotics tend to be custom made and cannot be pre-made or manufactured then placed on a store shelf waiting for a buyer. Your foot must to be evaluated, and that evaluation determines what and which type of orthotic you need. A mold is made of the foot/feet, the mold is then modified to deal with the foot's specific structural issue(s), and then the orthotic is fabricated (off site or on site) to precisely match that foot and its needed correction. Orthotics do not usually deform; therefore, they do not have to be replaced as often as over-the-counter insoles.

Superfeet models, even though they have a plastic component, for example, are NOT orthotics. Neither are Dr. Scholls products, or gel inserts, or silicone stuff that slips into a shoe. The same applies to heat molded insole products.

Some other personal observations:

Into this mix comes a sorta hybrid approach: specialty shops which are stand-alone, retail locations that one can pop into and have a mold taken, and a device produced.

The inserts produced are meant to act in the same manner as an orthotic, and many of these shops do indeed refer to their product as an orthotic insert. The problem is, that the need for a physical exam and assessment has often been replaced with a robotic algorithm, which attempts to deduce problems based on a foot's shape, and visualized pressure points. As such, the insert devices produced may not solve the problem at all, and the customer later ends up still needing to visit a medical professional, costing even more money.

That is an imprecise way to try and determine an actual deformity or structural problem that NEEDS to be corrected, vs one which does NOT need correcting. They can work to help soreness, but they can also do nothing, or worse, exacerbate an underlying issue.

Keep in mind that the business of orthotics, even those custom made in a podiatrist's office, are a BUSINESS. There is a large debate, even in professional circles, about how to evaluate the need for an orthotic, whether they are needed, and even whether they produce the benefits which are promise to patients and consumers.

Anecdotally, there are many who find them a life saver. . . but also those who have found them to create harm.

So if you have undiagnosed soreness, or motion control issues, start first with the footwear to see if changing it will affect performance. Then if more is needed, look at the various insoles that focus on the issues that you are concerned with: pronation, comfort, heel pain, metatarsal pain.

Beyond that, if more is needed and a solution isn't found, I would think about consulting with a Sports Podiatrist to assess to properly assess feet and ankles.

If knees and lower back are involved, I recommend seeking consultation with an Orthopedic practitioner or surgeon who can more accurately assess you for specific musculoskeletal issues. The findings may be that dealing with the feet will solve the problem, but often it is not a foot issue.

There are folks who will report that their symptoms were resolved using a variety of means. These are anecdotal reports. While they worked well for someone else, there are others for which they have failed.

So go conservatively, and be cautious about any serious concerns regarding knees, lower legs, ankles and feet as you seek solutions. If someone suggests something that sounds interesting to try, go slowly as you try it out yourself.

For issues with knees and ankles, I would not seek to try and correct such issues on my own or with a foot-based additive, like an insole or orthotic. While they can relieve some discomfort in a given circumstance, they may also mask more serious underlying issues. Get those issues evaluated professionally to determine IF a footwear based solution is the right solution. It may be, or not.
All very good points, Dave. Thanks for sharing.
 

Tom Quinn

Happy walker
Camino(s) past & future
(2019)
(2020)
In a few threads focused on issues with feet, I noticed that definitions are getting very blurry for the terms 'Insole'/'Insert, vs 'Orthotic'. I thought it might help to tighten things up a bit so that we do not get tripped up by terminology.

Insoles, arch supports and inserts are pretty much the same thing as a category. You can usually find them over the counter at retailers from big box stores to athletic shops to outdoor recreation stores like REI. They are all over online shopping sites as well.

They provide additional cushioning and may also offer some level of minor support in your shoes, replacing the insole that came with the shoe.. Because the material is often soft and deforms easily, even if contains some plastics, replacing them about every 4 to 6 months, at most, is a good idea. Beyond that and their functionality decreases.

Orthotics are found in shops that are specialized or medical offices. What has happened is that the term “orthotic” has been adopted as a generic term, like kleenix or windex.

An orthotic is a firm support. It is primarily made from some type of plastic material where the arch of your foot is located. They are meant to provide some distinct level of arch support in order to reduce the risk of further structural damage of injury to the feet while walking or running.

As a result, orthotics tend to be custom made and cannot be pre-made or manufactured then placed on a store shelf waiting for a buyer. Your foot must to be evaluated, and that evaluation determines what and which type of orthotic you need. A mold is made of the foot/feet, the mold is then modified to deal with the foot's specific structural issue(s), and then the orthotic is fabricated (off site or on site) to precisely match that foot and its needed correction. Orthotics do not usually deform; therefore, they do not have to be replaced as often as over-the-counter insoles.

Superfeet models, even though they have a plastic component, for example, are NOT orthotics. Neither are Dr. Scholls products, or gel inserts, or silicone stuff that slips into a shoe. The same applies to heat molded insole products.

Some other personal observations:

Into this mix comes a sorta hybrid approach: specialty shops which are stand-alone, retail locations that one can pop into and have a mold taken, and a device produced.

The inserts produced are meant to act in the same manner as an orthotic, and many of these shops do indeed refer to their product as an orthotic insert. The problem is, that the need for a physical exam and assessment has often been replaced with a robotic algorithm, which attempts to deduce problems based on a foot's shape, and visualized pressure points. As such, the insert devices produced may not solve the problem at all, and the customer later ends up still needing to visit a medical professional, costing even more money.

That is an imprecise way to try and determine an actual deformity or structural problem that NEEDS to be corrected, vs one which does NOT need correcting. They can work to help soreness, but they can also do nothing, or worse, exacerbate an underlying issue.

Keep in mind that the business of orthotics, even those custom made in a podiatrist's office, are a BUSINESS. There is a large debate, even in professional circles, about how to evaluate the need for an orthotic, whether they are needed, and even whether they produce the benefits which are promise to patients and consumers.

Anecdotally, there are many who find them a life saver. . . but also those who have found them to create harm.

So if you have undiagnosed soreness, or motion control issues, start first with the footwear to see if changing it will affect performance. Then if more is needed, look at the various insoles that focus on the issues that you are concerned with: pronation, comfort, heel pain, metatarsal pain.

Beyond that, if more is needed and a solution isn't found, I would think about consulting with a Sports Podiatrist to assess to properly assess feet and ankles.

If knees and lower back are involved, I recommend seeking consultation with an Orthopedic practitioner or surgeon who can more accurately assess you for specific musculoskeletal issues. The findings may be that dealing with the feet will solve the problem, but often it is not a foot issue.

There are folks who will report that their symptoms were resolved using a variety of means. These are anecdotal reports. While they worked well for someone else, there are others for which they have failed.

So go conservatively, and be cautious about any serious concerns regarding knees, lower legs, ankles and feet as you seek solutions. If someone suggests something that sounds interesting to try, go slowly as you try it out yourself.

For issues with knees and ankles, I would not seek to try and correct such issues on my own or with a foot-based additive, like an insole or orthotic. While they can relieve some discomfort in a given circumstance, they may also mask more serious underlying issues. Get those issues evaluated professionally to determine IF a footwear based solution is the right solution. It may be, or not.
Written extremely well Dave. I admit myself to blurring the definition of "insert" and "orthotic."
Your suggestions are well needed and taken.
 
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