Finding the right inserts for your shoes can be a challenge, especially if you don’t know what to look for, or what kind of support you need. In fact, wearing ill-fittinginserts can cause more pain than going without them. Here is a quick guide to orthopedic shoe inserts and what they do:

Why Inserts?

Shoe inserts are an accessory that slides into the sole of someone’s shoe to provide extra comfort and support. Inserts come in many different shapes and forms, and can be made from materials including plastic, rubber, memory foam, and even fiberglass. Many people can benefit from inserts as well, even if they don’t have foot complications. People with arthritis, diabetes, and gout may benefit from inserts. Other conditions that can be treated with shoe insertts include flat feet, fallen arches, hammertoe, bunions, heel spurs, and more.

Over-the-Counter Supports

Over-the-counter shoe inserts are the most common kind available, since anyone can buy them at a drugstore without a prescription. OTC inserts can provide general comfort, arch support, and cushioning for the heels, but they are not custom-made to fit the wearer’s exact foot specifications.

Partial Insoles

Partial insoles are another type of over-the-counter insert, but unlike the ones described above, partial insoles do not cover the whole shoe. Instead, partial insoles focus on a specific part of the foot.

Heel Supports

Partial heel supports are great for providing extra shock absorption, and are usually made of a soft gel-like material. Heel lifts, on the other hand, raise the heel slightly to draw weight away from the calf muscles.

Metatarsal Pads

Similar to the heel supports, metatarsal pads are great for shock absorption and weight redistribution. These inserts go just behind the ball of the foot, and are recommended for people who wear high heels frequently.

Custom Orthotics

Custom orthotics are shoe inserts that require a prescription from a doctor or podiatrist to purchase. These inserts are also often covered by insurance as well, since they are a prescription item designed specifically for the wearer. They are most often used to control how the foot moves to prevent abnormal movement, or to provide extra, custom support.


These inserts are typically made of a durable plastic material that is shaped to fit the wearer’s foot. To make the inserts, a podiatrist will first need to create a plaster cast of each foot. The insert material is then molded around this cast. Some custom orthotics can be tweaked as needed to fit the wearer’s specific needs, although this process cannot be reversed. It is recommended to get new custom inserts every couple years.


If you are looking into getting shoe inserts to provide extra comfort and support, speak with your doctor for more information. To browse orthopedic shoe inserts and other orthopedic devices, visit Medical Supply Depot.

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