Comparison of orthotics

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Podiatrists have molded custom orthotics to address patients foot malformations. Over the years they have developed numerous means to create the basis for their molds; plaster casts, foam box impressions, or three-dimensional computer imaging. None is very accurate: all produce proper fit under 80% of the time.[1][2]


Manufacturers of these products choose various materials.

  • Firm supports stay in one exact position.
  • Flexible supports maintain the arch positions while moving with the foot through the stride.
  • Soft supports might use materials like foam rubber of varying intensity, memory foam, EVA, carbon fiber, silicone gel or filled leather. Because they are soft, their contour is less relevant. Instead, these tend to flatten, serving as shock absorbers. These give the proprioception of support, causing muscles to trigger in response, without true articulated support of the firmer models. Many shoe manufacturers, including athletic shoes, include similar pads with their shoes. Some products might be rubber pads shaped for a specific problem spot. Some of those could include a wrapping apparatus to hold them in place.

The firm or flexible models might require a period of adjustment. Depending on the severity of the arch collapse and the body's previous conditioning in response to that collapse, sudden readjustment can seem painful. Many attribute the feeling to walking on a walnut. It is recommended new users build up to wearing firm arch supports, starting with only a couple of hours the first day and adding an hour each successive day until the foot is adjusted to full-time usage. To mitigate this adjustment period, many manufacturers sell covering pads or have different gradations to build up to solid support. Some manufacturers cover their products in leather, which somewhat moderates the intensity of the correction while also adding to the stylistic look.


  1. ^ Ingraham, Paul (December 22, 2014). "Orthotics Review: A consumer's guide to the science and controversies of orthotics, special shoes, and other (allegedly) corrective foot devices". 
  2. ^ Telfer S.; Gibson KS; Hennessy K; Steultjens MP; Woodburn J. (2012). "Computer-aided design of customized foot orthoses: reproducibility and effect of method used to obtain foot shape". Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 93 (5): 863–70. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2011.12.019. PMID 22541310.