Plantar Fasciitis Insoles – Know Your Options Before Pursuing Custom Orthotics

Plantar Fasciitis Insoles

An insole, also known as an orthotic, is essentially a thin layer of gel and plastic that is inserted into the shoe and provides additional support. Not everyone needs them, but they can help to counteract excessive foot movements that contribute to the worsening of heel pain. Insoles are therefore recommended in the case of plantar fasciitis to support the arches and correct harmful motions, much the way that shoes do.

Orthotics can come in the form of prescription or over the counter (OTC) insoles. You are most likely aware that the chief drawback of a custom orthotic is its price $250 – $500. Rarely is the expense covered by insurance. We’ll delve deeper into whether a custom, prescribed orthotic or a more general otc insole is right for you. You may not be aware, that beyond prescription or otc, orthotics can also be classified as either accommodative or functional. Either option could be right for you, so let’s first examine the various strengths of accommodative and functional orthotics in reducing your plantar fasciitis symptoms.

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Functional vs. Accommodative Insoles (Plantar Fasciitis Insoles)

Plantar Fasciitis Insoles

When you typically think of an insole, you are probably considering a functional insole. That’s no surprise given that they are the most commonly manufactured and prescribed. A functional orthotic, allows your foot to consistently rest in a neutral position. Neutral in this case, refers to a pose where your foot can operate as normally as possible with tendons and joints functioning without any of the excessive motion that contribute to plantar fasciitis strain. The functional orthotic thus acts as a brace against abnormal motion.

On the flipside, the goal of an accommodative insole is to well, accommodate the foot rather than directing it to a neutral position. Accommodative insoles work best for cases where a foot would not benefit from being encouraged to take a neutral position. For example, a diabetic patient who needed to alleviate pressure placed on painful spots, would not derive a benefit from repositioning the foot to a more relaxed position with a functional insole. In fact, use of a rigid brace under this scenario might even exacerbate the pain.

In knowing the various advantages of accommodative versus functional orthotics, it should now be evident that as a plantar fasciitis suffer, a functional orthotic is the right one for you. Plantar fascia strain occurs both when your arch is abnormally flattened or with excessive ankle rolling movements.

You may be thinking that because your heel is in pain it will benefit from accommodating cushion, but in reality you need a more rigid insole that will keep your foot in a position where it wont strain the plantar fascia. Remember, that the heel pain is a derivative of small tears where your plantar fascia connects to your heel. Cushion is still wonderful for absorbing shock and by all means do select a comfortable insole, just keep in mind that your primary objective is to place your foot in a neutral position.

Prescription vs. OTC Insoles (Plantar Fasciitis Insoles)

Foot during scanning on device

In an ideal world, everyone could opt for an insole that was custom made for their unique foot shape. A custom insole for patent reasons, is much more likely to address the abnormalities in your foot motion, restoring your step to a movement that won’t place strain on your plantar fascia. Of course, when insurance companies wont cover the cost of a custom orthotic which can easily set one back any where from $250 – $800, patients become more ambivalent about going the prescription route.

The question most people want answered is, how much better are custom orthotics than over the counter variety? A lot better or just marginally so?

The average cost of making a custom orthotic is $78, said Ms. Thorson of Burns Laboratory. Customers often pay two and even eight times the cost of production. “It’s doctors’ business to mark up accordingly,” said Frank Mancuso, a spokesman at Solo, another maker of prescription orthotics. Some practitioners argue that the bills are justified by the X-rays, casts and analyses that come with individualized orthotics.

Dr. Eckles, a Manhattan podiatrist argues, “you’re paying for a comprehensive diagnosis of present and future problems,” not the device alone.

How effective a custom orthotic is at resolving your plantar fasciitis, might depend a lot on the skill and knowledge of your podiatrist. If you don’t want to experiment with otc insoles and would rather skip right to custom orthotics, be sure to choose a podiatrist that you trust. After all, even with foot mapping technology and the expense, there isn’t a guarantee that custom orthotics will solve your plantar fasciitis.

Now, clearly you shouldn’t postpone a visit to the podiatrist if your plantar fasciitis symptoms don’t improve over time. Podiatrists are the foremost experts in plantar fasciitis, often with decades of practice and knowledge to support their recommendations. That said, even podiatrists will agree that an over the counter option is probably a good starting point for most individuals with plantar fasciitis, given its price point of around $40.

Dr. Jordan Metzl, who is a 29-time marathon finisher and 10-time Ironman finisher says, “ Over-the-counter (OTC) hard arch supports can be helpful, especially for you high-arched folks. Prescription orthotics are another option because they’re custom-made for your foot, but I suggest trying the (much cheaper) OTC orthotics first because in my practice, about 90 percent of patients have good results with them.”

Trying OTC Insoles (Plantar Fasciitis Insoles)

To help control pronation, support the midfoot and distribute forefoot pressure, try a rigid prefabricated orthotic. Insoles help decrease pronation by controlling the motion at the rear foot. When the heel rotates in, as in pronation, it causes the arch to collapse. The more pronation and arch collapse, the more rigid the orthotic should be and severe flatfoot should be treated with custom made orthotics.

1. ALINE Active

ALINE Active has a higher price tag than some of the other insoles listed below, but after wearing them around, you’ll quickly note the difference. That’s because their design incorporates over 100 moving ribs, which adjust to give the feel and functionality of a custom orthotic. This insole also features gel padding and a heel cup, a definite advantage over a plastic bridge/foam style. Once you try them on, you’ll be stepping in the shoes of athletes associated with 15 Olympic Medals, 12 PGA Tour Events, 100 X Games Medals. Nevertheless, the team insists that their greatest accomplishment is keeping you moving.

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2. Stride by Tread Labs

Stride is the best selling insole from Tread Labs which was founded by Mark Paigen, the creator of the legendary Chaco sandal. Like Chaco, Stride Labs is all about comfort and guarantees against defects in their product line. Though at a slightly higher price point then some of the other insoles listed below, if you go with Tread Labs you will have the nifty option to replace just the upper foam section of the insert, which can extend the use of the insole and save over time. Tread Labs not only has a crazy famous footwear founder, but they also have a 30-day money back guarantee. If you don’t love the fit, you can send them back for a full refund including the shipping.

Bottom Line: Flexible design that offers the feel of a top of the line custom orthotic

3. Powerstep ProTech

Podiatrists actually sell these inserts at a markup to their patients. Many people first hear about them from their podiatrist and are now delighted to have found the once exclusive medical-grade product for around a third of the price. One wearer commented, “I need the support and can’t say enough about this wonderful product, which is far superior to anything available in the supermarket or drug store.” Other wearers have noted that there could be a week or two of break in time, but once your feet adjust they can be worn for up to two years.

Bottom Line: An industry secret, podiatrists sell these insoles at a healthy mark up

4. Powerstep Pinnacle Maxx

Like the ProTech, the Pinnacle Maxx offers prescription-strength insoles at a fraction of the cost of custom made orthotics. The Maxx denotes the extra cushion (more so than some of the superfeet insoles), which is nice but also adds thickness to your shoe. Consider using with a roomier shoe. They seem to work well with normal to low arch individuals. One wearer commented, “This offers more support than any non-prescription insole! It feels almost like a $400 podiatrist orthotic for a mere $25.”

Bottom Line: The more cushioned sibling to the Powerstep ProTech

5. Superfeet Premium Insoles

With their origins tracing back to the Sports Medicine Division of the Northwest Podiatric Laboratory in 1974, Superfeet Insoles are probably the most common form of OTC orthotics. Luckily they come in a variety of styles to pair along with your specific arch size and activity level. Since plantar fasciitis is inherently an arch issue, take care to match up your foot type with the corresponding color below. If you have no clue as to your arch size check out this quick and easy guide.  When debating between the normal padding vs the extra padding, consider that more padding may decrease the amount of space between your upper foot and the shoe liner.

Bottom Line: A well-trusted industry standard for OTC orthotics

6. Samurai Insoles (Flat Arches)

The Samurai Insoles work particularly well for pf suffers with fallen or flat arches. Some have recommended that wearers become accustomed to the insoles over the course of 7-14 days. You should wear them only an hour at a time at first and then repeat this process everyday, adding an extra hour with each wear. They are a bit more expensive than the off-the-shelf variety of orthotics, but the built in arch support is good without being over the top.

Bottom line: A good alternative to superfeet insoles, ideal for flat arches

7. Soul Insole Shoe Bubble

As discussed above, the chief issue with plantar fasciitis is a lack of arch support which has chronically strained the plantar fascia. The Soul Insole works as an arch booster with the added benefit that it fits a full length shoe or something more complex like a high heel. This super small insole fits into any shoe without causing the heel to slip out or crowding the shoe. No squished feet! The shape of the Soul Insole is designed to redistribute your arch pressure evenly across and train your foot to strengthen its natural arch without causing the foot to become reliant on support.

Bottom line: A good alternative to superfeet insoles, ideal for flat arches

8. ArchCrafters

This clever design from ArchCrafters attempts to bring the custom-benefits of visiting a podiatrist to your doorstep and at a fraction of the price. $100, does seem pretty steep with respect to other OTC Orthotics, but they are quite the deal considering a custom orthotic will cost $400 – $600 on average according to Angies list. The method for ArchCrafters is pretty intuitive, step on the foam mold and return the prepaid-postage box to the company. Your custom orthotics should arrive in 3-4 weeks! Many wearers bought their first pair of orthotics from a podiatrist and then made the switch to this do-it yourself mold, noting that they performed just as well.

Bottom line: Custom plantar fasciitis insoles without the expense of visiting a podiatrist

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9. CoreFit – Heat Molded

The insoles that Corefit provides is another way to achieve custom orthotics. After placing the insoles in boiling water for 15-20 seconds that should be malleable enough to conform to the bottom of your feet. If the insoles are not quite right you can re-dip the troublesome areas in boiling water to adjust the fit. The design is particularly well-suited for plantar fasciitis sufferers, who often enough have trouble identifying an over the counter orthotic that will support their arch in just the right way. One wearer went so far as to say, “changed my life.” Results may not be so dramatic for everybody and remember these are composed of firm plastic, rather than cushion.

Bottom line: Custom insoles that can be remolded as needed

Last update on 2022-10-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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