Shoes for Orthotics: Everything You Need To Know
If you've been prescribed orthotics, you know that they're a lifeline. Custom orthotics can be so effective, the NHS estimate that for every £1 spent on orthotics, they could save £4 in other treatments.
Best of all, they can lead to greatly improved mobility, quality of life, and significantly reduce pain for wearers. But what exactly are orthotics? And if you've been prescribed them, how can you get shoes that will accommodate them?
Read on for our comprehensive guide to orthotics and getting the right shoes for orthotics.
What Are Orthotics?
Broadly speaking, orthotics refers to any artificial devices provided to support a weak or damaged bone, joint, or muscle. This can include items such as splints, but in this article, we will focus on orthotics as foot supports.
Orthotics are sometimes confused with insoles. While they function as a kind of insole, you cannot get the benefits of orthotics from over the counter insoles. They can also come in the form of heel pads.
Whatever form orthotics take, they require you to put something extra into your shoe. This means that it is important to consider this when shoe shopping, so that shoes are not too tight when you add your new orthotics. Ill-fitting shoes can lead to myriad other foot problems - not a desirable side-effect!
Why Do You Need Orthotics?
If you're suffering from pain in your feet, ankles, or legs it's good to discuss this with your GP. It may be that you are suffering from a condition that could benefit from custom orthotics.
People who suffer from the following conditions could benefit from orthotics:
- Specific deformities of the foot
- High arches
- Low arches
- Plantar fasciitis
- Diabetic foot ulcers
- Other biomechanical issues impacting mobility
Orthotics will be prescribed for you by a specialist podiatrist. These services are available privately or by referral by your GP on the NHS. The first step will be an orthotic assessment. They will discuss your symptoms and look at the way you walk.
They will be able to diagnose the issues that you are experiencing and make recommendations on the type of orthotics that would best help you in your condition.
The podiatrist aims to reduce pain and reduce the risk of further complications. In some cases, a major benefit of orthotics is that they may even be able to correct problems such as flat feet, helping you to avoid surgery.
Different Types of Orthotics
There is a wide range of shoe inserts and heel pads available over the counter. Normally, these are small, lightweight, and do not require specialist shoes. They can provide limited support for minor issues. If you're struggling with one of the conditions above though, it's better to have a consultation with a qualified podiatrist.
The beauty of prescription orthotics is that they are made just for you. There are two main types of orthotics - rigid and soft. They are also known as functional orthotics and accommodative orthotics. A third group - semi-rigid orthotics - are prescribed mainly for use when participating in sports.
During your session with the podiatrist, they will make a custom mould of your foot. They will use this to make either hard or soft orthotic inserts, depending on what is best for your condition.
Rigid (Functional) Orthotics
If you're suffering from foot and leg pain, rigid orthotics may be prescribed to help your foot to function more as it should. They can be worn in a variety of styles of shoes. They normally extend the full length of the foot, right from the heel to the toes.
They may be made of hard plastic or carbon fiber and provide excellent support. They do this primarily by limiting the movement of certain joints in the foot. This provides greater stability, helping to reduce pressure further up the legs.
Soft (Accommodative) Orthotics
As the name suggests, soft orthotics provide supportive cushioning for the foot. They are made from compression materials that give under pressure. This provides excellent support and comfort for people who suffer from diabetic ulcers and arthritis in the feet.
As they are made from cushioned materials, they take up more room. If you've been prescribed this type of orthotics, it's especially important to get specially designed shoes. This will help you to get the full benefit from your orthotics.
Savvy Shoe Shopping With Orthotics
You've got your orthotics prescribed, maybe you're waiting for them to be made. To get the full benefit of your orthotics you need to choose shoes that will accommodate rather than sabotage them!
Let's Talk Insoles
All shoes on the market come with insoles. If you've been prescribed rigid orthotics, trying to wear the standard insole and the orthotic is probably not going to leave too much room for your foot.
Many shoes come with insoles glued in, making them a pain to remove. Attempting to pull out glued in insoles can leave heavily glued parts of the insole still stuck inside the shoe, leaving uncomfortable lumps and bumps.
The best shoes for orthotics are those which come with easily removable insoles.
This will allow you to remove the manufacturer's standard insole and insert your orthotics in their place. Shoes designed for use with custom orthotics allow the shoe to comfortably accommodate both your orthotics and your foot.
Wide Fitting Shoes
As both rigid and soft orthotics can add a great deal of bulk to the shoe, wide fitting shoes are a good option. Wide fitting shoes are given a size such as 4E or 6E.
Let's take 4E as an example. The letter E indicates that this is a wide fit - in fact, you might have seen wide fitting shoes labelled EE and even EEE indicating extra wide sizes.
When you're using orthotics though, the number is also very important. In 4E the '4' refers to the depth of the toe box. This is important if you're adding extra support underneath and around your foot. A roomy toe box will comfortably accommodate this without putting extra pressure on your foot.
Ladies' Shoes for Orthotics
You might worry that using orthotics means sacrificing style. Rest assured that ladies shoes for orthotics have come a long way. There's a style for every occasion and to suit all ages.
It's true that high heels are not on the table for those with orthotics. However, that doesn't mean you can't have any heel. You can still find attractive ankle boots and court shoes to give you a little lift.
The range extends from those classic styles to fashionable pumps, summery sandals and patent leather walking shoes. We cater for everything in between as well. You'll be sure to find something that complements your outfit and helps you to walk in comfort.
Men's Shoes for Orthotics
For men who like to look their best, there is now a wide range of men's styles on offer. Men's shoes for orthotics are not restricted to bulky styles. The range includes everything from smart business shoes for the office, to chunky hiking shoes.
For the man who likes a comfortable pair of slippers when he gets home, we've got you covered there as well.
You can also experience the ease and comfort of Velcro straps on certain styles. These are great if dexterity is an issue, or if you just like a highly adjustable, extra-comfy style of shoe. You can easily adjust the level of tightness to ensure that there isn't any undue pressure on sore or swollen feet.
Common Mistakes When Buying Shoes for Orthotics
Be careful when shopping for shoes for orthotics. If you choose the wrong shoe, you could actually make your condition worse.
The most common mistake is buying shoes that are simply too small. It could be that you haven't had your feet measured recently. It could be that you haven't factored in enough space for your new orthotic when choosing custom shoes.
Either way, it's best to take your time and do your homework before choosing your shoes. This will ensure that they do their job and allow the orthotics to do theirs.
Buying online is great if you're confident that you know exactly what size you need. You can also visit a specialist shoe shop in person. They will be able to measure your feet and discuss which styles would be the most appropriate for your orthotics.
Top Tips For Buying Wide Shoes For Orthotics
1. If possible we recommend that you visit a specialist wide fitting shoe store in person and bring your orthotics with you. The trained sales assistant will be able to assess your feet and orthotics and recommend some styles for you to try. This will allow you to test the shoes with your new orthotics to ensure they fit and the shoes are comfortable and have enough room.
2. If you need to buy online then always buy from a store which highlights whether the shoe has a removable insole. Many online shoe shops do not include this information in their product descriptions or product filters. You need to ensure that the shoe you purchase has insoles which can be easily removed without damaging the shoe or leaving bits of the insole still glued into the shoe.
3. If you have swollen feet, or other foot issues and have orthotics, you should be looking to purchase shoes with extra depth. You will be able to identify shoes with extra depth by looking for 4E or 6E width fittings. This signifies the shoe have extra width but also extra depth so these width fittings will happily accommodate your orthotics and give sensitive feet plenty of room so they do not feel restricted. Shoes with extra depth do not have to appear bulky from the outside. Many manufacturers hide this extra depth in the design of the shoe.
3. If you have full length orthotics (going from heel to toe) it is important to check that the orthotic is seated correctly. Put your hand into the shoe and check that the orthotic is lying flat and that there isn't room at the toe and the heel for the orthotic to move around. If the orthotic is folded or crinkled then the shoe size is too small. If there is a lot of excess room in front or behind the orthotic then the shoe size is too large. Always test the fitting of the orthotic first before walking and testing the shoe incase there is an issue with the orthotic and you need to return or exchange the shoe.
4. Orthotics do not last forever. If you have had your orthotics for a while, then getting new shoes is a great time to inspect them. Are they still holding their shape? If they are a soft insole, is there still bounce and cushioning in them? If they have become misshapen or flat then it is time to get a new pair. Putting worn out orthotics into new shoes will offer you no benefit and can lead to any foot issues returning or becoming painful and uncomfortable.
5. Speak to your podiatrist. If you have any questions about your orthotics or are not sure if they are worn out then we recommend that you give your podiatrist a call and speak to them. They are usually happy to offer advice and help their patients.
Getting the Best Shoes for Orthotics
Orthotics really can be a life changer! It's so worth the time to get your feet properly assessed and custom orthotics made. You can greatly reduce your foot and leg pain and enjoy a level of mobility that may have eluded you!
The best thing is that with our great range of shoes for orthotics, there's no need to sacrifice style for comfort! We believe that you deserve great looking shoes and to be able to walk pain-free.
Click here to check out our wide range of men's and ladies' styles for custom orthotics!