Recently, when I was fitting a patient for custom foot orthotics, he asked me if his orthotics would only work in expensive shoes. This is a common concern for many of my patients especially for those who are living on a fixed income.
Although foot orthotics are only as good as the shoes they are worn in, this doesn’t necessarily mean the shoes have to be expensive. In fact, “expensive” does not always equal “better” when it comes to shoes.

For orthotics to function optimally they need to be worn in shoes that have appropriate supportive features, including:
Firm heel counter – The heel counter is the back of the shoe that strengthens the overall shoe, especially the area that cups your heel. A firm heel counter helps to hold your heel in place as you walk, keeping your foot in the right place on the orthotic.
Firm density midsole – A firm density midsole provides a solid foundation which is essential for your orthotic to work properly. To test the midsole density of your footwear, press your fingernail into the midsole. If should feel soft. Next, try to compress the midsole down, the way your body weight will try to compress it. It should stay firm and not compress.
Minimal twist/torsion – Shoes should never twist. If they do you’re not getting the support you need. Hold the heel of your shoe in one hand and the forefoot in the other hand and try to twist your shoe as if you’re wringing out a cloth. Your shoe should not twist easily – there should be resistance through the middle portion of the shoe.
Wider base of support – This is essential for many people as it provides more support under the entire foot, to give you a solid base. If your shoe sole is too narrow, particularly through the arch or middle portion of the sole, you may not be getting the support you need. You may feel unstable while you’re walking, somewhat like walking on a skate blade. In addition, a wider base of support allows your foot orthotic to sit flat within the shoe.
Removable footbed – If you require foot orthotics, a removable footbed is essential as it will allow your orthotics to fit into your shoes.
Whether you require foot orthotics or not, you should consider wearing shoes that have the supportive features described above as they may help to protect your feet and prevent injury. Bargain basement shoes that don’t have these features are not advisable if you are going to be on your feet for any length of time. If you have a limited shoe budget it is better to purchase one pair of properly-fitted, supportive shoes than a few pairs of flimsy, ill-fitting footwear. Just remember, when it comes to footwear, expensive does not necessarily mean better. It is most important that your shoes are giving you the support and cushioning that you require.
Canadian Certified Pedorthists are footwear experts. If you have any questions about your footwear book an appointment with your local Canadian Certified Pedorthist.
By Anne Putnam BSc., MSc., C Ped (C) Saskatoon, Saskatchewan