Okay, I’m going to come right out and say it: custom orthotics, made from a mold of your foot, are better than over-the-counter arch supports. How can I say this? Because I’m neutral on the subject.
You see, during normal motion while walking or running, the foot can sometimes roll too far to one side. The rolling of the foot too far inward is called pronation. Rolling too far outward is called supination. Both conditions are often painful, and can cause other problems.
A normal foot in motion is neutral. The foot and ankle maintain a straight line, and it doesn’t roll too far to one side or the other.
Herein lies the key difference between custom orthotics and over-the-counter arch support: custom orthotics are designed to hold the foot in neutral, whereas over-the-counter arch supports are not.
The neutral position created by custom orthotics stabilizes the forefoot to the rearfoot. Think of a car with the front and back wheels out of alignment—the wear and tear that ensues is a direct result of the wheels not lining up correctly. I’ve seen patients who have worn over-the-counter arch supports for months and are still dealing with pain. After switching to custom orthotics, their pain goes away.
The most glaring reason to use custom orthotics instead of over-the-counter arch supports is when the forefoot is tilted onto the rearfoot. Think of driving a car with a flat tire on the front driver’s side. The car doesn’t need something to support it in the middle; it needs the front balanced with a new (inflated) tire. In the flatter-footed population, the front “flat tire” is the big toe joint. A custom-molded orthotic will support the flat arch by supporting, or “inflating”, the first toe joint, which will bring the foot to neutral. Over-the-counter arch supports can’t do this.
A custom orthotic will help the front and back of your foot work together, creating a more efficient, one-component system. An over-the-counter arch support, on the other hand, will be soft and fluffy and will only support your arch.
Custom orthotics can get you back to the level of activity that will improve your fitness and happiness. So, put it in neutral to get moving!