If you’ve experienced ankle or foot pain—whether chronically or temporarily—you know how easily it can disrupt your life. Injuries that prevent or impact walking make it difficult to complete everyday tasks, maintain your exercise routine, and participate in activities that you enjoy.
Orthotics is a helpful tool for preventing pain, treating foot and ankle problems, and reducing the likelihood of injuries. While you may have some misconceptions about orthotics—that they’re expensive, can only be prescribed by a doctor, or are only available in ugly, clunky shoes—people of every age can benefit from the support of a pair of orthotic shoes.
But, what is orthotics? What is the difference between orthotics vs orthopedic? In this article, we’ll demystify the technology and help you determine whether you’d benefit from some extra foot and ankle support.
Orthotic devices provide additional support for walking and basic mobility.1 Shoe inserts and ankle braces are two common foot orthotic devices, and there are a few ways to get some:
- Requesting a custom orthotic pair from an orthopedic surgeon or podiatrist
- Purchasing a pair of pre-inserted orthotic shoes (like Vionic Shoes)
- Stopping by your local pharmacy or sporting goods store to find a pair of shoe inserts
While custom orthotics are often necessary for very serious orthopedic conditions and mobility issues, they usually carry a high price tag, especially for people with limited access to health insurance.
Store-bought shoe inserts for your existing shoes can be useful tools, and they’re generally inexpensive. But, they’re mostly one-size-fits-all, and finding the perfect pair and size for all of the shoes in your closet can be a challenge. Plus, not all shoes easily hide inserts. If you know you’re going to need extra support for a wedding, for instance, your strappy sandals won’t exactly hide a pair of Dr. Scholls.
Pre-inserted orthotic shoes are an excellent middle ground for people who have mild-to-moderate orthopedic challenges or who simply want to prevent injury or future mobility issues. They’re less expensive than custom orthotics, and you don’t have to worry about hiding a clunky, brightly-colored insert in an open-toe shoe.
Do You Need Orthotics?
To determine whether or not you need orthotics, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have a hard time finding comfortable shoes?
- Does foot and ankle pain keep you from exercising, attending social events, or doing things you enjoy?
- Have you had a foot, ankle, or knee injury in the past?
- Do you exercise regularly and do everything you can to prevent injuries?
If any of the above describes you, orthotics could significantly improve your day-to-day life and help keep you active. Whether you miss weekend hiking or want to protect yourself during your next marathon, orthotics are an excellent way to keep your feet and ankles comfortable and maintain your strength.
How Do I Find Good Orthotics?
There are a few ways to hunt down the best possible orthotics for your feet:
- Speak to your doctor about any foot or ankle pain you’re experiencing. If your foot condition is severe enough, they may recommend a custom orthotic set.
- Ask a trainer at your gym, a fellow runner, or someone from your yoga class. Asking for personal recommendations is always an excellent way to find products.
- Find an orthotic shoe brand that matches your style.
Whether you choose to consult with a medical professional or use online reviews as your guide, other orthotics users’ experiences can help narrow the field of choices.
It often takes time to find a brand that works for your style, comfortably fits your foot, and provides the relief or injury protection you need. But, it’s a worthwhile pursuit that will benefit your health.
Do Orthotics Actually Work?
Orthotics are an effective, nonsurgical method of treating and preventing foot injuries, improper walking, and foot and ankle pain.2
One of orthotics’ key roles is to improve posture and walking patterns, realigning the bones in the feet and ankles to reduce pain and prevent injuries. While orthotics aren’t the only answer to pain and injury prevention, numerous scientific studies have proven that they’re an effective intervention for a variety of ankle and foot problems.
Even if you haven’t encountered an injury yet, orthotics can provide the support and form correction you need to prevent ankle and foot problems. Just like stretching after a workout, orthotics can improve your daily life and help prevent injuries from interfering with your wellness goals.
Why are Orthotics Useful?
Orthotics help address mobility issues, manage pain, and prevent injuries from walking or running. They can even ease the excruciating pain of plantar fasciitis.
Next, we’ll review four potential benefits of orthotics.
#1 They Address Mobility Issues
If you have trouble walking, standing, or sitting due to foot and ankle pain, then you’re an excellent candidate for orthotics.
One of the most vulnerable populations affected by mobility issues is people with cerebral palsy (CP). People with CP often require extra support to maintain an upright posture and a steady stance while walking or standing. Studies have shown that orthotics are an effective treatment for children with CP, giving them more control over their mobility and helping them complete everyday tasks.3
For walking and standing challenges, orthotics can provide additional support to the heels, arches, toes, knees, and spine and to aid in improved movement.
#2 They Prevent and Treat Pain
There are a variety of conditions that create ankle and foot pain. You may have even experienced one or more of the following conditions, either chronically or temporarily:
- Shin splints
- Flat feet
- Swollen or weak ankles
- Torn ACLs
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), an inner ear condition impacting balance
- Warts, corns, or calluses
- Plantar fasciitis
Whether you’re dealing with long-term chronic pain, persistent flare-ups from a past injury, or general weakness, orthotics could provide relief from your foot and ankle pain.
By adding additional support for your heels, arches, and toes, you can prevent pronation—collapsing in on your arches as you walk—and correct the movement issues that lead to persistent discomfort.
Even if you’re not experiencing pain now, orthotics can help correct alignments that can wreak havoc on your body as you age. Unfortunately, conditions like pronating can’t simply be ignored. Treating them as soon as possible can prevent injuries and pain down the road and improve your overall everyday performance.
#3 They Help You Avoid Injuries
Whether you struggle with mobility or you’re at the top of your fitness game, you’re always at risk for injury.
People with pain in their feet or ankles, who struggle walking or standing, or who have balance issues are even more susceptible to injuries like:
- Slips and falls, which can lead to broken bones or head trauma
- Cardiovascular incidents—like a heart attack or stroke—as a result of limited exercise
- Twisted or sprained ankles
Depending on your age, these injuries could have significant effects on your overall health. By treating your mobility issues, you can improve your ability to complete everyday tasks while building up the strength needed to avoid injuries.
Even if you’re not currently struggling with a mobility issue, you can still be susceptible to balance problems or sprains, twists, and breaks while walking or exercising. With orthotics, you can maintain proper foot and ankle alignment, thus reducing the likelihood of such injuries.
#4 They Can Ease the Pain of Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis, or policeman’s foot, is a common condition that presents with tightness and discomfort in the length of tissue that connects the heel bone with the toe bones.
When facing plantar fasciitis pain, we can sometimes develop misaligned postures or odd gait patterns in an attempt at relief and basic function, but these coping mechanisms aren’t always healthy for our posture and bone alignment.
Orthotics have a twofold function for plantar fasciitis patients:4
- They alleviate the tightness and pain that can prevent patients from walking, reducing the symptoms of the disorder.
- They can realign the foot and ankle bones altered to reduce the pain of walking without orthotics, improving balance and preventing further injuries.
Orthotics aren’t just a mainstream treatment for plantar fasciitis—they’re also, typically, the first line of defense against developing the disorder.
Do Young People Need Orthotics?
A number of the conditions we’ve discussed in this article aren’t exclusive to older populations.
Young people may have a lower risk for mobility issues, but they’re still susceptible to injuries, incorrect walking postures that can weaken bones and joints, and chronic pain from past injuries.
Whether you broke a bone in a youth soccer accident or you’re simply interested in preventing injuries in your day-to-day life, you can benefit from orthotics as a young person. You can harness all of the pain reduction and prevention effects of orthotics regardless of your age, and monitoring your mobility concerns as early as possible can help you prevent concerns later in life.
As a young person, it can be easy to take your physical health for granted. But, keeping a close eye on your mobility—and even investing in a quality pair of comfortable shoes—can help you age without walking challenges or pain.
Protect Yourself in Style with Vionic Shoes
Foot orthotics are incredibly useful for anyone of any age—they help treat and prevent pain and injuries, support basic mobility, and promote excellent orthopedic health. Whether you’re a 25-year-old marathon runner or a 65-year-old retiree, orthotics can help you improve your everyday function.
Are you worried about picking up a pair of unstylish shoes or trying to fit orthotic inserts into your favorite kicks? You don’t have to sacrifice style for comfort with Vionic Shoes. Our collection isn’t just stylish—our Vio-Motion technology has also been proven to support your heels, arches, and toes for improved mobility.
You’re in charge of your own health, and Vionic Shoes is here to help you meet your wellness goals.
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Orthotics. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/treatment/orthotics/
- Hospital for Special Surgery. Advice on Custom Orthotics from Nonsurgical Foot Specialists. https://www.hss.edu/article_custom-orthotics-advice.asp
- National Library of Medicine. An individual approach for optimizing ankle-foot orthoses to improve mobility in children with spastic cerebral palsy walking with excessive knee flexion. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27131186/
- National Library of Medicine. Orthotics Compared to Conventional Therapy and Other Non-Surgical Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4742336/