Definition of orthotics

a branch of mechanical and medical science that deals with the design and fitting of orthotics

Definition of orthotic

a device (such as a brace or splint) for supporting, immobilizing, or treating muscles, joints, or skeletal parts which are weak, ineffective, deformed, or injured

What is the difference between a shoe insole, insert and an orthotic?

  • Insoles also known as inserts, are the product that you can find in pharmacies and other healthcare shops. They are usually made of a soft gel material, and may also have other forms of foam or plastic if they are designed to address a specific problem e.g. fallen arches. Insoles offer cushioning and support to the foot, which reduces pain in two different ways. While this may provide some short-term relief, insoles are mass-produced and designed to suit as wide a range of people as possible. So while they may help, they can only go so far in terms of actually addressing the root cause of the problem. This means that the symptoms are likely to persist, or possibly worsen over time if not properly addressed. Lastly, there is also the option of getting insoles. Insoles are the cheapest of all three options, but for good reason. These are mass produced cheaply to suit as many people as possible, so they are not an effective method of dealing with individual problems. While insoles can have benefits, they should not be confused with orthotics.(
  • Inserts that you can buy in stores without a prescription can provide cushioning and support. They may be made of materials like gel, plastic, or foam. Inserts fit into your shoes. But they’re not custom-made for your feet. They can provide arch support or extra cushioning on the heel, around the toes, or for your entire foot. Inserts might make your shoes more comfortable but aren’t designed to correct foot problems. (
  • Orthotics are different. They are prescription medical devices that you wear inside your shoes to correct biomechanical foot issues such as problems with how you walk, stand, or run. They can also help with foot pain caused by medical conditions such as diabetes, plantar fasciitis, bursitis, and arthritis. Orthotics might even help you avoid surgery to fix flat feet. (

If you are unsure which option is best for you, you should discuss your issues with a podiatrist. 

Definition of podiatry

the medical care and treatment of the human foot — called also chiropody

podiatrist –noun
a person qualified to diagnose and treat foot disorders.

Types of orthotics:

Rigid orthotics, or “functional orthotics,” are made from materials like plastic or carbon fiber. They’re best for walking shoes or dress shoes with closed toes and low heels. This kind of orthotic is designed to ease foot aches and strains as well as pain in the legs, thighs, and lower back that you might feel if your foot doesn’t work like it should. (

Soft orthotics, or “accommodative orthotics,” are made from soft compression materials. They provide cushioning to take the pressure off uncomfortable or sore spots from conditions such as plantar fasciitis or diabetic foot ulcers. Because of their bulk, you might need to wear soft orthotics with prescription footwear. (

You can also get special orthotics designed for sporting equipment such as ski boots, boots, ice skates and more!

Orthotics will cost more than inserts however when you get orthotics, you are generally also getting a medical evaluation of your foot problem, a custom fit, and high quality materials that should last for several years with proper care.

Since most orthotics are prescription medical devices, your insurance company might help cover the cost. Check your personal insurance plan.

NOTICE: Healthmanagementcorp does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area.