Over-the-counter inserts have been used for many years for a variety of purposes. In general, they provide decent padding and cushioning to the arch and sole of the foot, reducing shock and in some designs providing limited structural support. Typically, these devices consist of felt, foam, gel, or polymer padding designed to push bulk into the arch. Some designs are plastic, emulating orthotics in appearance, but not function. These inserts have firmer support, but are not as well tolerated as the unyielding plastic can irritate the tissue on the bottom of the foot as it is not truly molded to the wearer’s specific foot, much less to a proper subtalar joint neutral position. In certain conditions that simply need further cushioning or minimal support, over-the-counter inserts are a fine choice for therapy, and present a viable option as an initial treatment for conditions requiring further support as long as functional orthotics are eventually used for long term control. These inserts can potentially belong to a class called accommodative orthotics. Feel free to find more information at Pro Motion Healthcare, Barrie
Although this generally implies inserts made of a mold of the foot without placing it into a subtalar joint neutral position, the definition has seemingly broadened to include most all over-the-counter inserts and soft orthotic-like inserts. These devices as a whole increase shock absorption, benefitting high arched feet. They also reduce pressure, beneficial for diabetics and those with painful rheumatoid arthritis. However, they are insufficient in providing adequate structural support over the long term, and are far inferior to traditional orthotics for that specific purpose. In essence, over-the-counter inserts have a notable role to play in a foot treatment course, but are insufficient for those who need full biomechanical control.
Many providers now produce orthotics or inserts claiming to be orthotics. Beyond podiatrists, some orthopedic surgeons, and traditional orthotists/pedorthists, orthotics are offered by physical therapists, chiropractors, shoe stores, and self-described insert stores. As with anything, quality is directly related to the training of those providing the service. As long as a full biomechanical exam has been performed, and the foot has been casted in a subtalar joint neutral position, the orthotic will generally turn out sufficient for use. I have definitely seen good orthotics from therapists and chiropractors due to their knowledge of general biomechanics. On the other hand, I have also seen accommodative padded inserts passed off as functional orthotics as well.
Unfortunately, many non-traditional retail store providers of orthotics and inserts have little understanding of how the foot actually functions, and cannot make an accurate assessment as to any compounding foot problems that may need to be addressed in the orthotic fabrication. The devices produced are often inadequate to provide exacting support, and, although not uncomfortable initially, tend to fail in the long term. This is often at great financial cost. In some cases, customers are given what they are told are orthotics, when in actuality they are simply over-the-counter inserts that are matched to a person’s shoe size. Some retail locations charge hundreds of dollars for these devices, where actual orthotics may be covered by insurance, and may not even be as expensive if not covered.