If you have foot pain, a shoe insert or arch support may help. But what kind? And where should you buy it?
Michelle Sine, a physical therapist with Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Services at The Market Common who specializes in the foot and ankle, says before you buy an insert, start with your shoes.
“If you put a good arch support into a crummy shoe, you’re going to still have trouble. It is important to start with a good foundation,” she says.
Sine says a store that specializes in running shoes can help. By measuring your foot and assessing your arch, the store’s staff will be able to recommend a shoe that fits your foot best.
“It’s better to have one really good quality pair of shoes rather than four or five cheaper ones that aren’t quite right,” she says.
When arch supports may be needed
Even with the right shoes, arch supports may still be necessary to help alleviate pain from plantar fasciitis or other foot conditions. They can also correct the position of your feet if they roll inward or outward or reduce foot fatigue from daily activities.
Sine says a computerized kiosk that assesses your “foot map” is a good place to start. You can often find these in retail stores such as Wal-Mart or Target. Based on the shape, arch of your foot and type of shoe you wear, the computer will recommend an off-the-shelf insert for your shoe.
“Oftentimes, you can get just as good of a result with an off-the-shelf solution as a custom insert. Those are not very expensive, so they’re worth trying if you’re having minor problems,” she says.
If you have more significant foot pain or concerns, it’s best to see a health care provider who specializes in foot and ankle issues, she says. Severe problems may require a custom-molded orthotic or one that’s specially designed for people with certain conditions, such as diabetes.
Sometimes foot pain is related to factors such as weight gain, a change in activity or change in health status. Sine says an insert may not address pain resulting from those issues.
Physical therapy can also address painful foot conditions, she says. Stretching and strengthening exercises and manual therapy to improve the mobility of joints and tissues in the lower extremities can help reduce foot pain and discomfort.
“It’s easier to treat a problem the sooner it comes on rather than letting it linger,” she says.