The orthotic is a common foot treatment device

What is an orthotic for the foot?

An orthotic is a common foot treatment. The device is a shaped piece of material that fits in a shoe and may be different lengths. Treatment to help improve foot and ankle function may well include having an orthotic recommended. The material can be anything from soft to hard, sold as over the counter, on-line purchase or provided as a prescription. You can buy your own or have an orthotic (orthosis) made to measure. Prices vary enormously. Access is easy but advice varies enormously across English speaking countries.

As a podiatrist I thought I would see if I could find a site within five minutes. If I wanted to seek out the information to answer the question above, ‘what is an orthotic for the foot’ I would not want to waste too much time. My best first useful search was physiopedia which surprised me as I would have thought a podiatry site would come up. This appealed to me because it looked user friendly and offered a wide range of foot conditions. The other quality feature was that the site also looked at other parts of the body.

Podiatrists and physiotherapists are probably the two main professions that use orthoses. However there are other groups such as chiropractors. There is no law protecting the public from who can and cannot supply orthoses. These devices were called appliances 40 years ago and you may find various types in magazine catalogues. Some caution is needed, so do read on. If you have any questions do fill in the reply form and I will do my best to answer your query. This site does not sell orthoses or provide treatment.


Here are a few tips

Orthoses can help with a wide range of foot problems. 
Depending upon the material they help muscle-tendon balance around the ankle.
Foot pressures can be reduced by orthoses.
Orthoses do not correct flat foot shapes, they may only help symptoms.
Heel pain can be helped enormously by foot orthoses as distinct from foam heel pads which have less value.
You do not need a prescription for an orthosis
Prices vary widly so be careful.
Buy a midrange orthosis as cheap versions may work poorly as materials need to be robust.
More tips…

If you have foot deformity, medically related foot problem, constant pain and feel unsure, seek out a podiatrist or physiotherapist. Some foot health practitioners will also provide advice.

Should you have a made to measure design, also known as a prescription orthosis? Generally it is recommended to try out a low cost orthosis first if you have never had one before. A trial of up to to 3 months is worthwhile. A prescription orthosis is used for the following reasons.

  • To provide better foot control reducing unwanted movement
  • Taking into consideration the shoe’s depth and refining the material thickness
  • Ensuring the correct strength versus flexibility matches the foot problem
  • The type of condition you have does not work with mass produced over the counter products

Avoid non qualified and non registered professionals selling you an orthosis without taking a proper clinical history. This is part of a consultation process.

Avoid trade shows where  foot print plates, pressure mats and force plates are used as a sales pitch for orthoses. Avoid buying products based on this method. Podiatrists and physiotherapists are registered with the HCPC who protect the public from poor standards of care and misleading the public. CHECK THE REGISTER


Why are prescription orthoses expensive

  • Orthoses are made to measure and therefore more costly in time and materials.
  • Devices are very different and may have alterations added to help with your foot condition.
  • The professional who prescribes an orthotic took many years to learn about their specialty and can save you money by best representing your needs.
  • A full clinical examination and history is undertaken with the application of medical knowledge.
  • A reputable manufacture will be selected with product guarantees.
  • Management is carried out in an appropriate clinic.
  • You will have professional come back if you are misled or treated improperly. This adds security to your management and is trust assured. 

Thanks for reading “The Orthotic a Common Foot Treatment Device” by David R Tollafield

David was a former director of an orthotic company and taught the subject of orthotic manufacture and prescription for 10 years at Northampton University. He is a qualified and registered podiatrist and author

Written for ConsultingFootPain and published by Busypencilcase Reflective Communication Est. 2015

25 December 2020