The 7 Best Orthotics of 2020

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Orthotics are custom-made shoe inserts that correct gait problems, provide foot support, relieve pressure on painful areas of the foot, and provide motion control. Over-the-counter, ready-made products are also available. Heel cups, insoles, and arch supports may call themselves orthotics and provide some degree of relief, but a custom orthotic provides individual correction.

Here are the best orthotics you can find over the counter.

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Best Overall: Powerstep Full Length Orthotic Shoe Insoles Original with Arch Support Unisex

Investing in a pair of orthotics that you can transfer from your work shoes to your weekend kicks allows you to be pain-free no matter what outfit you choose to wear. The Powerstep Original Full-Length Orthotics Shoe Insoles do just that thanks to a thin design that allows them to fit into most shoes, whether sneakers or heels. They feature semi-rigid arch support for stability along with a heel cradle that helps to cushion your foot and protect against impact—something that’s important if you walk on hard flooring or concrete for much of the day.

People who own the Powerstep orthotics say that they work as well as pricy prescription orthotics and that they provide good arch support. Reviewers have used the orthotics to ease discomfort from a variety of conditions, including plantar fasciitis, flat feet, and knee and joint pain. These come in both men and women's sizes.

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Best for Plantar Fasciitis: NAZAROO Shoe Insoles Arch Support Orthotic Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis—the painful inflammation of the band of tissue that runs from the heel bone to the toes—affects more than 3 million Americans each year. Luckily, it’s usually self-treatable, and many people find that orthotics, like the Nazaroo Orthotic Insoles, can help. Specifically designed for flat feet, these orthotics feature arch support that distributes foot pressure to minimize pain as well as a cushioned latex pad for shock absorption. The orthotics are also odor and mildew resistant to ensure that they stay fresh wear after wear.

People who suffer from plantar fasciitis say that the Nazaroo orthotics have been lifesavers. One reviewer even raves that these insoles helped cure pain that was previously making walking almost impossible. These fit in most shoes and come in men and women's sizes.

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Best Gel Insoles: Envelop Insoles - Shoe Inserts for Walking, Running, Hiking

Cushy gel orthotics, like the Envelop Gel Insoles, absorb impact to reduce foot pain as well as stress and fatigue. In short, they feel amazing. The Envelop insoles feature a massaging honeycomb design and a neutral arch, making them a great fit for any foot type. They can be trimmed to fit most shoes and you won’t have to worry about odor thanks to the lightweight, breathable, and microbial materials.

Reviewers say that these are a great option for those who need to spend hours on their feet and that the design doesn’t flatten over time like some orthotics can. One reviewer even mentions that these orthotics allow her to work a full day at her standing job without needing to sit at all.

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Best ¾ Length: Powerstep Thin Arch Support Shoe Orthotic Inserts

Full-sized insoles can sometimes cause shoes to feel tight and they don’t always fit into slimmer designs, such as heels. To the rescue: The Powerstep SlimTech ¾ Length Orthopedic Foot Insoles. The shorter design even fits on top of existing shoe insoles and features arch support, cushioning and anti-microbial fabric. These insoles may be ultra-thin, but they still provide strong, medical-grade foot support.

Those who own the Powerstep SlimTech ¾ Length Orthopedic Foot Insoles say that they work in a variety of different shoes and that they’re comfortable to wear. One reviewer was pleased to find that the orthotics allow him to wear his flat-soled Converse sneakers again without any discomfort.

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Best for Men: Sof Sole Insoles Men's AIRR Orthotic Support Full-Length Gel Shoe Insert

If low arches or flat feet are keeping you from your favorite activities and sports, give the Sof Sole Men’s Airr Orthotics a go. The insoles are perfect for walking, running and cross training, and air bubbles in the heel and arch of the orthotics help to absorb shock during high-impact activities. Sweat isn’t a problem, thanks to moisture-wicking fabric that keeps feet cool and dry as well as free of odor.

People who own the Sof Sole Men’s Airr Orthotics use them for everything from walking to running to playing basketball. One reviewer says that the orthotics provide cushioning and ergonomic support that hasn’t only helped ease foot pain but has also reduced knee and hip arthritis discomfort.

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Best for Women: Dr. Scholl's MASSAGING GEL ADVANCED Insoles

Treat yourself to a foot massage with each step with Dr. Scholl’s Comfort and Energy Massaging Gel Insoles for Women. Designed specifically for those who have leg and foot fatigue or discomfort, the insoles feature a wave-like gel that cushions feet and absorbs impact. The trim-to-fit insoles fit into work shoes as well as sneakers for a feel-good boost no matter what you’re doing.

Those who use the Dr. Scholl’s Comfort and Energy Massaging Gel Insoles say that they are easy to trim and shape to your shoes and that they take the “ouch” out of long days of standing and walking. One reviewer even wore the insoles while on vacation and said that they made six- to eleven-mile days of sightseeing much more bearable.

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Best for High Arches: HANROCK High Arch Support Orthotic Insoles

High arches can lead to pain due to the fact that more stress is placed on the area of the foot between the ankle and toes. This can make it difficult to fit into shoes and can also lead to foot discomfort while walking, standing or running. For some people, orthotics, like the Hanrock High Arch Support Orthotic Insoles, can help. They provide flexible arch support and can be trimmed to fit most shoes. Added foam padding in the heel and ball of the foot absorbs even more shock.

Reviewers say that the Hanrock High Arch Support Orthotic Insoles feel bouncy and provide great support—especially at the arch. People use them for running and walking as well as for day-to-day wear.

Your Guide to Arch Supports, Insoles, and Orthotics

By Wendy Bumgardner

When feet hurt, walkers usually seek immediate relief. The first step is to get the right shoes, but the answer to resolving pain may need to be taken be a step further by focusing on insoles, arch supports, and orthotics. Consulting a foot health specialist can bring a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan for your pain.

What to Look For

If you're dealing with foot pain, it's likely you need to look beyond your shoe style and the way it fits. Evaluate the following aspects of your shoes to determine if you need to make any changes or additions:

  • Arch support: Walking shoes and running shoes often do not offer sufficient arch support. If you're unsure about your selection, ask a sales associate for assistance when shopping for new shoes.
  • Cushioning: Depending on the style, shoes provide more or less cushioning. Look for a cushioned style to relieve sore feet.
  • Motion control: Some shoes provide correction for overpronation with motion control elements—dual-density foam in the sole so that the foot does not over-rotate.
  • Age: Contrary to common belief, insoles and inserts do not extend shoe life; rather, it is the unseen midsole of the shoe that breaks down by 500 miles, leaving your foot without proper support. Adding a new insole will not correct this problem.

Conditions Shoe Inserts May Alleviate

Shoe inserts are often designed with certain conditions in mind, which is why it can be helpful to consult a foot specialist for a specific recommendation. Conditions that often benefit from shoe inserts include:

  • Arch strain and pain
  • Heel pain
  • Ball of foot pain (metatarsalgia)
  • Weak ankles
  • Crooked toes and corns
  • Calluses
  • Knee pain
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Overpronation
  • Shin splints
  • Plantar fasciitis

Guide to Insoles

One of the first methods walkers use to alleviate foot pain is insoles. Over-the-counter insoles are available in many varieties. The insoles that come with athletic shoes generally don't provide shock absorption or arch support. Remove the insole that came with the shoe to replace it with your chosen insole.

  • Cushioning and shock-absorbing insoles: Cushioning is provided by foam, gel, or other materials. This extra cushioning can provide shock relief in shoes that have little cushioning. Extra cushioning is also needed as people age and the fat pad at the bottom of the foot thins.
  • Orthotic insoles: Some insoles are constructed to mold themselves to your foot upon wear. While these are usually labeled as orthotics, they differ from custom orthotics, which are created for the individual to correct foot and walking problems. The ready-made orthotic insoles are less expensive than custom orthotics, but may not afford the same degree of relief. These ready-made orthotics provide arch support and some degree of gait correction and cushioning.

Who Can Benefit From Insoles?

Most walkers will feel more comfortable wearing a shock-absorbing insole, especially in shoes or boots that have little cushioning. If your feet feel generally tired and a little sore after walking, adding an insole may provide relief. However, do not try to extend the life of the shoe by adding an insole. Shoes should still be replaced every 500 miles to help avoid injury.

Shoe Insole Products

The following are a few examples of shoe insole products that are widely available for purchase:

Guide to Arch Supports

Athletic shoes generally don't provide arch support. Sometimes the shoe is constructed to give the feeling of arch support, but it often isn't sufficient. People with high arches may have foot pain from walking or running in shoes without enough arch support. A ready-made arch support (such as Good Feet Arch Supporting Orthotics) can give relief and comfort. Other solutions include:

  • Arch/metatarsal cushions: Cushions typically slip in the shoe only under the arch.
  • Arch support insoles: Many designs of cushioned insoles include arch support.
  • Orthotic arch supports: Some ready-made products conform to your foot shape upon wear, providing a better arch support fit.

Who Can Benefit From Arch Supports?

Walkers with high arches may be more prone to plantar fasciitis, which may be prevented by wearing arch-supporting products.

Walkers who have lower arches, however, should take care not to wear high arch supports as they may prove uncomfortable.

Guide to Orthotics

Orthotics are custom-made shoe inserts that correct gait problems, provide foot support, relieve pressure on painful areas of the foot, and provide motion control.

Over-the-counter, ready-made products are also available. Heel cups, insoles, and arch supports may call themselves orthotics and provide some degree of relief, but a custom orthotic provides individual correction.

  • Functional orthotics: These are wedges that are fashioned into the orthotic insert to adjust the heel or forefoot to correct defects in the arch such as overpronation (when the arch flattens and allows the foot to roll too far inward) or supination (when the arch is too high and the foot rolls too far outward). This motion can cause strain on joints and muscles throughout the leg, hip, and back, in addition to the foot, along with heel pain and plantar fasciitis. While many athletic shoes correct for overpronation, a custom orthotic will make a precise correction.
  • Weight-dispersive or accommodative orthotics: These products have padding to relieve pain and pressure on the metatarsal heads, sesamoid bones, collapsed tarsal bones, sores, and inflamed toes.
  • Supportive orthotics: These are arch supports that can treat problems of the plantar arch.

How Orthotics Are Made

Orthotics may be prescribed by health care professionals such as medical doctors, podiatrists, and chiropractors. The fitting is done by a pedorthist at an orthotics lab. Fittings are best performed by taking a plaster cast of the foot at rest in its "ideal neutral position." The orthotic is then constructed to support that foot in that position. Information in the prescription given by the podiatrist or other health care provider also tells the pedorthist what kind of corrections are needed. Other methods to measure the feet for orthotics such as a foam impression, tracings, or computer measurement have drawbacks.

Each pair of orthotics usually costs between $150 and $400. You may prefer different styles for dress shoes, sports shoes, and casual shoes.

Alternatives to Orthotics, Insoles, and Arch Support

A podiatrist or other foot expert may use taping, padding, and other simple techniques to correct foot problems. If you are wondering about magnetic insoles, those have not been proven to be more effective than any other insoles.

Foot Experts to Consult

People with foot pain may seek assistance from a variety of health care providers. Often the first stop is a referral from a primary care physician to a foot expert.

Podiatrist

Podiatrists are licensed medical professionals, with the designation of DPM, or doctor of podiatric medicine. They apply for entry to a school of podiatric medicine after receiving a bachelor's degree, then attend four years of classroom and clinical education and a year or more of residency. The American Podiatric Medical Association has a member locator.

Orthopedic Medicine Physician

An orthopedic surgeon or orthopedist is a physician specializing in orthopedic medicine who completed their bachelor's degree and medical school, then up to five years of orthopedic residency, as well as further specialization in surgery. The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society has a member locator that can help you find an expert provider.

Chiropractor

Chiropractors are licensed medical professionals who believe and practice the principles of chiropractic medicine—that manipulation of the spine can relieve many diseases. They may act as primary care providers and prescribe orthotics.

Pedorthist

Pedorthists design, fabricate, fit, construct, and modify shoes and foot orthotic devices upon prescription by a physician. They are board-certified professionals.

Physical Therapist or Kinesiotherapist

Physical therapy or kinesiotherapy may be prescribed for rehabilitation from injury or treatment of heel spurs, bursitis, plantar fasciitis, bunions, corns, and calluses. These professionals use a variety of treatments to relieve pain and swelling and increase range of motion. They can also recommend ongoing exercises to strengthen muscles and joints and prevent further injury. Kinesiotherapists, in particular, use therapeutic exercise and education.

Before spending an arm and a leg on your feet for products that may not work, consider an appointment with a foot expert to have the pain and problem fully diagnosed.

A Word From Verywell

If you've been dealing with chronic foot pain, you're best off consulting with an expert to make sure you're not dealing with a more serious issue that could require more intensive treatment. From there, you can discuss your best path forward and narrow down potential solutions before going shopping.

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