If you do a Google search for arch supports or shoe inserts you will be inundated with millions of results with reviews of product success by people you have never met. These reviews will more often than not give you a false hope of resolution of any problem you have ever had with your feet. Whether you born with the deformity or a recent onset of discomfort that just won’t seem to go away. The truth is that most shoes we buy today lack the necessary support our feet need to get through our busy requirements of life. When was the last time most of us had a day when we didn’t walk 1000’s of steps before lunch? The impact our lifestyles have on our feet is enormous. Think about this, every time we take a step it can be from 2-5 times our body weight that our feet endure. The average man weighs around 170 pounds and this creates at minimum 340 pounds of pressure with each step. Now multiply that by 10,000 steps (the recommended amount of steps we take in a day to be healthy). We are left with a result 3,400,000 pounds of pressure a day on our feet! Knowing that our feet alone can not handle this we rely on our shoes to help cushion and provide support throughout the day.
A few years ago sketchers came out with their “shape-up” shoes and with a large marketing campaign they were flying off the shelves with most people believing that just by wearing these shoes our legs were going to be muscular, back pain was going to go away and our feet would be miraculously cured of any ailment. Unfortunately those shoes took their toll on our bodies and people developed very bad tendinitis and inflammation that required care by a medical professional. Nowadays there are commercials all over TV about “custom” insoles by Dr. Scholl’s that will fix our problems once again for the low price of ~$50. They lead us to think that by stepping on a scanner and grabbing a pair of inserts off a rack that we are receiving a “custom” insole. This is very misleading to me. For me, custom means that a mold or digital scan with possible 3D representation of your feet are taken and then a replica of your foot is created and a true custom insert (or orthotic) can be made to the exact shape and contour of your foot based on a podiatrist’s prescription of the necessary changes to help promote better alignment and function of your foot. Custom made orthotics are typically the best option but sometimes OTC shoe inserts are needed.
If you walk through the aisles at Walmart or Walgreens or your local pharmacy or sporting good store you will find a huge wall of inserts that will fix just about anything for your feet. Most range from $10 to over $50! And in my experience some only last a few weeks and others really provide no support at all. Take my own personal experience with these inserts. About a year ago my 11 year old son, Jacob got a new pair of football shoes. After a couple of days they just we’re not very comfortable because they offered no real support in the arch and no cushion either. Jacob told me the night before his game and obviously I didn’t have enough time to make a custom insert for his shoes so I too had to go to Walgreens and purchase a pair of inserts for his shoes. This was a very frustrating experience for me because I knew the $25 I just spent was going to last maybe a week or two at best. It was then that I decided I needed to find a product that was going to be better for people financially and functionally. After some research I found a very good over the counter substitute for custom made orthotics, Powersteps.
Powersteps are a widely used over the counter orthotic that I tell my patients should last at least 6 months (much better than the 2 weeks my son got out of his inserts). Now, could I get these to my patients for less than standing on that silly machine at Walmart? Absolutely! (At JCMG podiatry we can offer these to our patients for $40 with no tax). These inserts can be modified right in the office if needed to further accommodate a painful callus or bony spur. We can add a wedge to change the angle that your foot strikes the ground to help promote a more normal gait cycle. The best thing is that there is no machine performing a short scan of your foot and telling you to grab something off of a rack. There is a physician, a specialist in foot and ankle care, completing a thorough physical examination of your feet and making a personal decision with you for an appropriate treatment plan to expedite your recovery. Over the counter inserts can be a good alternative to custom made orthotics when used properly and when combined with a treatment plan by a podiatrist at JCMG.