What Is An Orthotic?

An orthotic is a specialized appliance, even a type of shoe insert, that is designed to improve the foot functioning.

The foot is a complex structure that is designed to function in a complex coordination of muscles, joints, tendons and bones to produce walking (a combination of supination and pronation).

When an orthotic (designed for your foot) is placed inside your shoe with full contact to the foot, it aligns the foot with the leg and causes optimum motion of the foot. Usually this improves the functioning of the foot and often eliminates pain from overuse of the tendons, muscles or joints.

Difference Between Arch Support, Shoe Inserts and Orthotics

An orthotic is a specially designed appliance formed to your individual foot. It is different than most shoe inserts, arch supports, or over-the-counter orthotics. To help you better understand orthotics, we must first discuss the other items commonly seen:

  • Shoe Insert: Many stores (including grocery stores, sports stores, and pharmacies) carry shoe inserts that are designed by multiple manufacturers. A good example of this type of insert would be most Dr Scholl's type inserts. These are typically pads (especially the gel type inserts) and usually just increase the cushioning to the shoes. The provide no arch support and usually wear out quickly. Although they may be more comfortable than the original shoe insert, they provide little or no long-term benefits to the way your feet function.
  • Arch Support: Although these inserts can also be found from similar stores as shoe inserts, they typically will provide some increased support to your feet (as in the Dr Scholl's Arch Support) and may even prevent pronation in some individuals. These are typically designed for average foot types and have little or no benefit for the flat foot (pes planus) or high arched foot (pes cavus). Some common brands include Spenco and Sofsole.
  • OTC Orthotic: The next level will include arch supports that can be slightly modified for size and foot type. Among others, these include SuperFeet orthotics and Lynco orthotics if they are fitted to your foot by someone with knowledge of the product. Again, these are not specifically designed for your feet, but do provide some support and may even modify your walking or standing patterns sufficiently to improve some foot and ankle complaints. These are a relatively inexpensive alternative for many people that just need some additional support. These also may not truly function with a flat foot or high arched foot, but much better than the alternative.
  • Heat Moldable Orthotics: Although these are also off-the-shelf products, they can be modified by heating the product and adjusting them to your feet. The start with a standard shell and can be modified to better fit your feet. One type of product of this type is Sole Custom Footbeds, that have helped many people get the mild to moderate support to their feet without the cost of a custom product. These still are limited in their functioning and will not last more than 6 - 12 months usually in an active individual.
  • Semi-Custom Orthotics: The next level include another type of OTC orthotics that are modified or chosen based on walking pattern and foot type.  These include GoodFeet orthotics, and may also include Quadrastep orthotics sometimes utilized in our office.  Although these can be quite beneficial for many, they are not as effective as custom orthotics.
  • Custom Orthotics: This is a product that is designed specifically for the foot and can be either accommodative or functional.
  • Accommodative Orthotic: A custom appliance designed for the patients foot that moderately modifies the functioning of the foot to more ideal function, but primarily serves as a comfort type appliance that will improve the comfort of a shoe while providing some improved support and improved function. This is typically a softer appliance made from cork, leather, plastizote and other mildly forming materials.
  • Functional Orthotic: A custom appliance designed to modify the functioning of your foot, by modification of your gait pattern. They are designed from firmer materials such as polypropylene or fiberglass and could include some of the softer materials as top covers for comfort. Although there are multiple variations on a custom orthotic, the goal is to produce a more ideal gait pattern and alleviate the stresses and abnormal motions that may produce pain. This product or appliance should be considered as a more longterm solution that can alleviate pain and help you minimize injury. The key to remember is although these cost more, you are getting significant benefit for the price. This is not just a shoe insert or an arch support, but should optimize what you were born with.

Who Needs An Orthotic?

Although orthotics can be beneficial to anyone, they are not necessary for everyone. Think of an orthotic like eye glasses monster: Although correctly designed eye glasses will make you see better (whether you need them or not), they are not required for everyone to see 20/20 (normal). Some people even see better than 20/20.

An orthotic is similar: Your feet can be optimized as the foot is not just supported, but placed in the optimum position (neutral) and supinates (rolls out to increase the arch) and pronates (rolls in or flattens the arch) just enough to allow the muscles, tendons and bones to function near perfectly. This reduces stress on bones, joints, tendons and even muscles to reduce fatigue and decrease discomfort or pain. If you are having pain, this is a great option. 

By coming in and undergoing a comprehensive analysis, you will quickly learn whether you need orthotics and how they will help you. Eye glasses can make a big difference when needed. An orthotic can make the same difference for your feet.

An orthotic can Be A Blessing for your feet!

How Are Orthotics Made?

As you can tell from the information above, there are a wide range of "shoe inserts" and they may even be called orthotic inserts or orthotics by the maker.  But a true orthotic needs to be molded to your foot (or better yet created specifically FOR your foot).

WAYS To Create A correct mold

  • Casting: Using either plaster or fiberglass the foot is casted (called a negative cast) to capture the foot in a neutral position.  This is the gold standard method and has been utilized for many years.
  • Foam Box: To speed the process of capturing the foot image and to reduce costs, many have moved from the casting to the foam box. The individuals foot is placed in a foam box and pressed to create a negative image of the foot.  Although this is commonly used, it is not as accurate at capturing a true neutral foot.
  • 2D Scan: There are several forms of 2D scanning, including some of the insert scanners in stores. These scans capture a flat image of the foot (weightbearing or non-weightbearing) from which a 3D image is created by a computer.  This is the least accurate method for creating the correct model of the foot.  
  • 3D Scan: A full 3D image of the foot is captured in neutral position and in a semi-weightbearing position. This gives a very accurate positive image of the foot (as opposed to the usual negative image) from which the orthotic can be manufactured.  This is state-of-the-art and is rare.  We utilize this technology to improve accuracy of the orthotic, reduce costs to our patients and get rapid results.  

NEW State-of-the-Art Technology 

Combining the highest quality 3D scan to capture the full anatomy of the foot and alignment of the ankle, and 3D printing technology to provide the highest quality product, Mountain West Foot & Ankle institute is now utilizing the newest, state-of-the-art technology to create the highest quality orthotic available in as little as 2 weeks!

Human errors have been reduced and almost eliminated while still providing the high quality, completely custom orthotic you require!

Why Get Orthotics From Us?

Just because custom orthotics are an investment in your foot and ankle health, that does not mean they need to be expensive

In fact, Dr Gibson has been working tirelessly to both improve quality and reduce costs. You can now get a good quality orthotic completely custom to your feet for around $350 (a $125 discount).

Schedule an appointment to be evaluated for custom orthotics.

State-Of-The-art custom orthotics - $350

Forever Orthotics Program - $20/month

Trade In Your Old Orthotics - $220

Guarantee Upgrade to the Forever Orthotic Program - $7.99/Month


Start saving time and money while still improving your health!


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