Ordering custom orthotics online
September 23, 2019 12:07 PM   Subscribe

I've been dealing with plantar fasciitis for over a year now. I've tried every remedy that my doctor has suggested. The next step is custom orthotics. I've looked at a few companies online where they send you a foot mold that you return. Has anyone tried any of these services? If so, do you have one that you recommend? Or should I avoid the online route and head to a local place for fitting?
posted by slogger to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If your doctor is a podiatrist and will do them for you, I recommend going that route if at all possible. If your doctor is not a podiatrist, I recommend going to a podiatrist and decide next steps from there.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:12 PM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Can I ask why you don't want to do this locally? I was dealing with foot issues several years ago and went to a local foot clinic and got a lot more than custom orthotics. The doctor examined my feet and gave me some additional insight into what was going on, including some tips for shoes to wear without the orthotics that would help in my particular situation. You've been dealing with this for a year, so I'd encourage you to go to a local place that has more experience than your general doctor. They might also examine your shoes and have a bigger conversation with you.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:31 PM on September 23, 2019

I would also do this locally. I got 3/4th-length custom orthotics made for me at On the Run in San Francisco. I went in on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving and the store was deserted, so I spent over an hour chatting with with an older sales clerk who knew from the get-go that I might not buy anything. He watched me walk barefooted, and in different shoes, measured my feet, and eventually I did spend a couple hundred dollars, but I wouldn't have without feeling that I was getting really thoughtful, tailored advice that I could take with me to just about any shoe store. For what it's worth, the sales clerk at On the Run had been there for years, and was obviously really good at his job; I tend to think that local/independent shoe shops that specifically cater to folks with foot problems, older people, etc, will give you a better outcome than running stores in the mall staffed by a bunch of underpaid 27yr olds working on commission. I can't speak more highly of On the Run, but if you're not near the Bay Area at least read through the reviews on their Yelp page to see what kind of personalized service you should expect at a shoe store that focuses on foot health!

(I also feel that insoles made from foot molds you stand on aren't right in most cases, since when if you're putting pressure on your feet, you're creating a mold that will replicate the way your body compensates for injury. For example, I have fallen arches and tend to like/need significant arch support; an insole made from a mold wouldn't be right for me. But this is just my opinion, not actual science.)

For what it's worth, my partner bought Superfeet insoles off the shelf, and has been pretty happy with them. A podiatrist friend recommended that I buy some thick wool felt and make my own insoles, cutting multiple extra layers to create arch and metatarsal support, then gluing them when I was sure the fit was right; he said that's what most podiatrists do for custom orthotics themselves.

In the end, as someone who's mostly over plantar fasciitis, I just try to wear shoes with arch and metatarsal support religiously: I wear EVA Birkinstock knockoffs (called Funky Monkey -- they're the best quality of a handful I've tried) indoors, and those aforementioned 3/4th-length orthotics in any lace-up shoe, or real Birkinstocks of some sort during the summer.
posted by tapir-whorf at 1:14 PM on September 23, 2019

I was thinking of going online mainly because of price. I've since made an appointment with a local podiatrist to get a second opinion. Thanks!
posted by slogger at 1:19 PM on September 23, 2019

Oh yes do I ever agree with what everyone is saying. I have one pair for my everyday shoes that were made for me by a podiatrist, and another that was made at a (specialty shop) by a fitter who is well versed in (sport that I do). In both cases, their expert take meant they molded and fitted me properly, and the orthotics have made such a difference, after me trying off-the-shelf brands like Dr. Scholls and SuperFeet.

Also, as someone who gets plantar fasciitis, I am never barefoot. Even if I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom I slip on my flip-flops. It's made a big difference.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:20 PM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Funnily enough, I had the exact opposite experience. I spent months trying to fix my feet, until I decided to go barefoot as much as possible. The first week was torture, but it eventually got better and better, until the pain disappeared completely. That was years ago, but I never went back. I now run barefoot, only use zero-drop and minimalist shoes, and take them off at the slightest opportunity.
posted by Cobalt at 3:19 PM on September 23, 2019

From what my chiropodist explained to me, making the orthotics is a bit of an art. It's based on your foot mold, but also the assessment of what your foot practitioner thinks will improve things for you based on your problems, observing your gait, and their experience in what correction can be tolerated and comfortable.

For things that need to be custom made to fit your body, I think it always makes sense to buy from a local specialist. For orthotics, I would not only want to go to someone local, but go to someone personally recommended to me, or with good reviews.
posted by ice-cream forever at 4:54 PM on September 23, 2019

You might want to check out Footmaxx orthotics as an alternative to the traditional mould method. They use a computerized gait analysis to customize the orthotics.
posted by bkpiano at 7:45 PM on September 23, 2019

Cobalt: my experience is somewhat similar to yours. Everything I've heard leads me to believe I should avoid going barefoot. But, it's one of the few things that don't make my feet hurt. Everything else -- OTC inserts, recovery sandals, new running shoes -- eventually causes pain.
posted by slogger at 5:47 AM on September 24, 2019

Here's what happened with me.

I was diagnosed with PF about 10 years ago. I had custom orthotics made by a local company and they worked great for about 4 years. Then one day I woke up and felt hobbled. I couldn't take a single step with either foot without more substantial pain than I'd felt before the orthotics.

I went back to the same doctor and he made me a new pair. They didn't take. Since they're guaranteed, they made me another pair. Then another. Then they tweaked them. Nope. Then they made another pair. Nope.

Each time, they recast my foot with plaster to go back to ground zero. Nothing helped. I literally thought my life was over. I couldn't walk. I was miserable and lame. I was offered a short-time job in Santa Monica -- one of my favorite places on the planet -- and the idea of not being able to walk on the beach left me positively suicidal.

Drinking with a yoga instructor friend, she recommended someone she called a "Movement Coach" or "Movement Therapist". I don't do yoga. I'm not into alternative medicine or supplements. It sounded like bullshit to me. But, it was either spend $120 with this person or jump off a bridge, so I went.

The woman (Cecily from Yoga Detour) spent an hour with me. She didn't touch me. She did some exercises with her own feet, which she asked me to mimic. Most were just movements. Some required a tennis ball or resistance band. Some were difficult. She suggested they'd get easier with time. I was to do them daily.

When I was leaving, I asked her if I should wear the orthotics until I felt better. She told me I should throw them out. Why?! (They were $800!).

She told me they were crutches. "When you hurt your arm, do you wear a cast forever? When you break your leg, do you use crutches the rest of your life? No. The reason your feet are in pain is because your feet are weak. Your feet are weak because your foot muscles aren't being used because they're constantly being propped up by the orthotics. Keep them if you wish, but if you do what I told you, you won't need them." She also recommended barefoot shoes.

I did the exercises for about a month, felt relief after about a week, and never used the orthotics again. I now only wear socks when going to strangers' houses or boarding airplanes. I wear barefoot shoes when outdoors. I have not had any foot pain in almost 4 years. Most days I walk at least 8 miles and many days up to 18. (I have a dog and we love to walk.)

I know people often say, "It was the best $x I ever spent!", but really, I have never made so life-affecting a purchase. Best money I ever spent.

A number of the exercises are in this book, which Cecily recommended I recommend to people who couldn't afford to visit her.
posted by dobbs at 12:52 PM on October 23, 2019

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