What Types of Orthotics Might Be the Ticket to Relief?

Jul 18, 2019

Options are good. We’re out of the Henry Ford days when you could get a car in any color—as long as it was black. You can get cars in just about any color you want now, including weirdo-named colors like “Antelope” and “Contusion Blue.” You can even choose your engine, lighting type, and number of cupholders!

Yes, having options is good. But that doesn’t necessarily mean every option is good. When it comes to matters such as your foot health and comfort, certain choices will be much better than others. This includes not only choosing between certain forms of treatment, but between different types of one specific treatment.

The different types of custom orthotics are a great example. If orthotics might be an option for dealing with foot, heel, or ankle pain, it pays to know what you may run into when it comes to options.


Unfortunately, getting them in “Contusion Blue” usually isn’t one of them.

What Orthotics are Made For

As a whole, orthotics have the goals of reducing discomfort and/or damage in the feet. The design and constitution of each orthotic depends upon the way it needs to go about these purposes.

Functional Orthotics help provide comfort by controlling abnormal motion in the feet and ankles.

For example, many people have a condition known as overpronation, in which the foot rolls too far inward while walking. This excess motion can lead to strain that, in turn, can lead to painful problems such as plantar fasciitis. A pair of functional orthotics can resist this excess motion, reducing strain.

Functional orthotics tend to be made of semi-rigid materials such as plastic. They still have a bit of give, but they’re not pushovers.

Accommodative Orthotics are designed to provide cushioning and support to needed areas. In this respect, they are made of much softer materials than their functional cousins.

Accommodative orthotics can be useful when an area of the foot is receiving excess force when walking, perhaps due to flat feet or high arches. Patients who may be more vulnerable to diabetic ulcers or similar injuries can also benefit from having excess weight and force taken away from “hot spots.”

Some custom orthotics can have elements of both the above types in different areas, depending on the needs of the patient. They don’t have to be a “one size fits all” type of treatment, which brings us to our next categories…

How Orthotics Reach Your Feet

When it comes to actually acquiring orthotics, we like to divide these routes into three distinct categories.

“Grocery Store” Orthotics are the variety you can find in many pharmacy sections, perhaps next to a neat machine you can stand on to determine your “type.”

While that in itself might seem to provide some customization, it’s only in a very limited sense. Every insert you buy in this way is pre-fabricated and is not going to provide specific help in many areas of your foot. They also tend to be pretty cheap in design and not built to last. You should not expect to get a lot out of grocery store orthotics, if anything.

This is not to say that prefabricated choices are never useful, however; you just need to have a sound selection.

“Custom Picked” Orthotics are prefabricated inserts that we at Foot & Ankle Center of Oklahoma select and order for immediate use. These brands may not be found in just any store, and they tend to be of a much higher overall quality, making them more effective and durable. We also know how they function a lot better than a random grocery store selection.

This kind of prefabricated orthotic may be effective in certain mild or moderate cases. However, they are oftentimes used as intermediate measure to help provide relief until the highest tier orthotics can be made.


True Custom Orthotics are the ultimate deal. Each pair is prescribed specifically for each patient’s exact needs. This is accomplished by creating a mold or scan of a patient’s feet and ordering precise parameters to those models. A lab then creates the orthotics based on those specifications.

True custom orthotics are made to provide the best, most specific relief for any kind of foot or ankle issue that can be treated with orthotics. And for more severe cases, they may be an outright necessity!

What is the Best Choice for Reclaiming Comfort?

While custom orthotics are an ideal choice for many cases, they will not always be the best form of treatment overall. Some cases might call for orthotics in addition to supportive treatments such as physical therapy or medications. Some may not need orthotics at all.

When it comes to choices such as these, however, you do not have to rack yourself with anxiety. Dr. Darren Elenburg and the staff of Foot & Ankle Center of Oklahoma are here to help make the hard decisions for you. With expertise and a thorough evaluation, we can provide the best recommendations for your foot and ankle happiness moving forward.

Schedule an appointment with our Oklahoma City office or Moore care clinic by calling us at (405) 418-2676. If you prefer to contact us electronically, we’re also happy to accept questions and appointment requests via our online contact form.


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