Imagine your foot was hovering in a relaxed state. The bottom of your feet would retain a certain shape and that shape almost certainly isn’t a flat line. Even if you are flat footed, the contours on the bottom of your feet are unique. These contours are unique to each foot.
Modern medicine has taken the time to label each peak and valley that the bottom of your foot produces. If you’ve been unfortunate enough to have foot problems, you may have heard terms like first metatarsal or plantar fascia when describing locations on the bottom of your feet. Nobody thinks feet are actually flat.
So since your feet aren’t really flat on the bottom, when you step onto a flat surface, it creates pressure points on your feet. These points correspond the unique tips of the mountains that span the bottom of your foot. The idea behind custom orthotic insoles is to mirror your foot with a corresponding custom made orthotic insert that slips into your shoe. After your feet have been molded or scanned, the peaks are drawn and a milling machine cuts out an exact opposite design on a piece of EVA that matches up with the bottom of your foot.
Having a surface that matches the bottom of your foot stabilizes and improves balance, but more importantly it reduces pressure points. These pressure points are what worsens the effects of issues like Plantar Fasciitis, poor circulation, and general foot pain in very specific areas of your foot. In essence, a custom orthotic insole removes any gaps between your foot and your shoe.
As you can imagine, the benefits of this are significant, but custom orthotic insoles are not cheap. First they require a foot exam and custom mold or scan to be created from the foot. That scan then has to be imported into a computer, software must create the orthotic which is then uploaded to a milling machine. Once the Orthotic is milled, a good insole will be hand sanded to remove any rough edges, and several top layers are glued on to prevent mildew and soften the general rigid shape of the orthotic (quality orthotics are firm or semi-firm, gel or other soft orthotics are short lasting and created to be inexpensive).
One of the questions we get asked a lot is Do I really need custom made orthotics? and the answer is not very simple. First and foremost, you need a foot exam which would include a questionnaire about general usage. For example, if you are a runner, I would check for over or under pronation. To put it simply, that’s when your foot would lean one way or another during your general running gait. Custom orthotics can correct pronation by leaning the orthotic slightly inward or outward depending on your specific foot, which in turn would align your joints putting less pressure on them for each stride. For runners particularly, lower limb joint health is a big deal, and this is an example of how custom orthotics do improve the overall ability of a runner to keep going. If your knees and ankles hurt, you are more likely to reduce the amount of time you run.
Everyone benefits from custom shoe inserts. However, anyone with issues related to foot health will often be required by their physician to purchase these mobility saving pressure relievers. A certified Pedorthist or a Podiatrist should fit you and you should make sure to purchase your custom orthotics from a Joint Commission certified vendor. There are a lot of snake-oil salesmen out there when it comes to this product, so do your research.