Types Of Orthotics

Custom Foot Orthotics – Short, Full Length or Somewhere in Between?

There are three typical lengths for custom foot orthotics.  Orthotics can go to the ball of the foot, to the sulcus (beginning of the toes), or can be made in full length of the foot.  The support given by the orthotic starts at the heel and ends at the ball of the foot, so any extra length after that becomes a personal choice.  Some patients prefer the full length orthotic for extra padding or to treat other foot issues, such as calluses.

AFAC short orthotic Short orthotics (or ¾ length ort) are used mainly in dress shoes.  These orthotics are made narrower, slimmer, and have a shallow heel cup to allow them to fit comfortably inside your fashion shoes.  By reducing the material, you lose some of the controlling function of the orthotics.  These orthotics may simply be a plastic shell with minimal or no topcover.


Sulcus length orthotics, also used for more fashionable shoes, have a soft material that extends under the ball of the foot to the base of the toes.  This can be beneficial for higher heeled shoes where extra padding is needed under the ball of the foot, due to the increased pressure on the forefoot.


Full length ortFull-length orthotics are exactly what you might think.  They extend the full length of your shoe from your heel to your toes.  The original shoe insole is first removed.  This creates a flat base to place your full length orthotic.  This type of orthotic is best suited for athletic shoes, hiking shoes, work boots, and many casual shoes.   It is for this reason that this Collingwood Foot Specialist prefers a custom foot orthotic that is full length.


Are all orthotics hard?

Absolutely not!  In fact, the majority of my Collingwood foot clinic orthotics are semi-flexible at this stage.  They are comprised of 3 layers of material (all different densities) glued together to create a custom orthotic that is both supportive and cushioning.   This type of orthotic works well for runners, factory workers, nurses and anyone who stands on hard surfaces all day.  Plastic shelled orthotics are used for dress shoe where space in the shoe is a concern.   We now have access to newly developed plastics which enable us to produce a very thin orthotic that takes up minimal space in your shoes.

Another type of soft orthotic is called accommodative.  These are prescribed mainly for diabetics, arthritic patients, and those with poor circulation and decreased fatty padding on the bottom of their feet.  The goal with this style of orthotic is to “accommodate” the existing foot structure, not try to alter it.  The materials used are very soft and help to reduce friction and pressure.  Some materials ‘hold the heat’ and can be helpful in keeping your feet warm when wearing them.   These orthotics can help prevent foot ulcers in diabetics.

Prefabricated Orthotics or Custom Orthotics – Which is better?

Full length Prefab orthoticsThis is a very common question!  Often when people first come to our Collingwood foot clinic, they have already unsuccessfully tried at least one type of off-the-shelf or prefabricated orthotic.  (These prefabs are not actual orthotics and will be referred to herein as insoles.)  Most of these insoles do little more than offer some cushion and shock absorption.  Many are so flat that they do not touch the arch and therefore can’t offer any real support.  But all prefabs are not created equal.  In addition to prescribing custom foot orthotics in our office, we recommend Powersteps prefab insoles as it is a superior brand of prefab insole. These work great for mild cases of foot pain and can be used in alternate pairs of shoes or winter boots so that you do not have to transfer your custom orthotics form shoe to shoes as much.   Prefabricated orthotics cannot be claimed under most insurance plans.

If you are suffering with foot pain, it is best to schedule an appointment in our Collingwood office, to determine the type of foot orthotic that is most appropriate for you!