The Difference between Shoe Inserts and Custom Orthotics

When you’ve got foot or ankle pain, one of the first things you might be tempted to do is treat it on your own with shoe inserts. We’re talking about the kind that you can pick up at pharmacies and big-box stores. Their packaging will tell you what they promise to fix: “heel pain;” “heavy-duty support;” “overpronation;” “low arches.”

Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm of Clifton Foot & Ankle Center is not out to diss these over-the-counter inserts. They may very well work to control your pain. But here’s where the danger lies: are you sure you know where your pain is coming from? Is “overpronation” really your issue? Wearing an insert to correct the wrong problem could make your pain worse – or create a new problem altogether.

The custom orthotic difference

Dr. Wilhelm can often treat persistent foot pain with custom orthotics. Custom orthotics are shoe inserts designed to fit one particular foot – yours. They may simply offer comfort and cushioning. Or they may actually change the position of your foot in order to reduce pressure and eliminate stress.

Custom orthotics are available to treat a large variety of podiatric conditions, such as

What puts the “custom” in custom orthotics?

If Dr. Wilhelm determines that you can benefit from a custom orthotic, we’ll create a mold of your foot that we then send, along with a prescription, to an orthotics manufacturer. Choosing from a large variety of basic inserts, the manufacturer uses your prescription to form an insert that specifically matches your foot and your needs. So, an orthotic insert that’s created to treat you for Achilles tendinitis relief when you’re on your feet all day is going to look much different from an orthotic created for a runner with overpronation issues.


If you live in Fairfax County and would like to know more about how orthotics can improve your foot or ankle pain, call us at (703) 996-3000 or make an appointment online to see Dr. Wilhelm at our office in Centreville, Virginia.

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