Off-the-shelf orthotics (often called “arch supports” or “prefabricated orthotics”) are non-custom devices designed to provide gentle support to the arch of the foot and help spread weight more evenly along the bottom of the foot. They are not as supportive as well-made custom orthotics but they can work well for a lot of people at less cost then custom. Prefabricated orthotics can be found in retail stores, doctors offices and online.
There are many different arch supports on the market. Like everything else, some are better than others. And one brand might work well for your feet while another brand works well for your friend’s feet. Quality off-the-shelf orthotics usually cost $40.00 – $70.00.
Our Recommendations for Over-the-counter Arch Supports
We have evaluated many of the arch supports on the market and carry some high-quality OTC supports in our office and in our online store at www.FootAnkleStore.com. We also have found a supportive flip-flop sandal that incorporates an arch support.
The arch supports below are the ones we recommend most often to our patients.
For the most support in full-size athletic and walking shoes use the P3 Full-length Orthotic. For lace-up shoes this arch support is the most supportive and the best choice for heel pain, arch pain, ball-of-foot pain and big toe joint pain. These OTC orthotics incorporate many features otherwise found only in custom orthotics and run about $60. We can also modify these in our clinic to make them work even better for your specific foot problem.
For smaller shoes such as soccer, bike shoes or women’s causal shoes, we recommend the P3 3/4 length Orthotic which has excellent arch and heel support and are available in the $40 range. While these fit in a wide variety of shoes, they won’t fit in women’s flats or pumps. You can find orthotics for women’s dress shoes here.
The Superfeet Synergizer is not as supportive as the P3 but is the best choice of full length arch supports in the $40 range. We also find Superfeet to be very easy for us to modify in our clinic.
For times when you don’t want to wear shoes, the Vionic flip-flops, sandals and slippers offer exceptional arch support. These are by far the best sandals we have found for people with foot pain including plantar fasciitis and ball-of-foot pain.
For people with very wide feet, the PowerStep Wide Full Length Orthotics are the widest prefabricated orthotics we have found. If you have a foot above a D width, you may want to give these a try. If your feet are extremely wide, however, custom orthotics are usually a better option. We also recommend this arch support for people with very flat feet.
For dress shoes, including high heels, the Powerstep SlenderFit Fashion orthotic provides the best dress shoe support we have found in a prefabricated orthotic that will fit in women’s dress shoes
Arch Supports to Avoid
There are several arch supports that we think you should avoid because they are either not very supportive or don’t offer good value.
First, avoid any arch supports that are recommended by a “foot mapping computer”. These “arch support machines” are simply sales tools. For the most part the arch supports that are recomended are very flimsy and are far too expensive. You can learn detailed information about these types of arch supports and the “foot mapping units” here.
There are some shoe stores that advertise heavily on radio and TV selling what they call “custom fit orthotics”. These are not custom orthotics and are simply over-the-counter arch supports – but they charge well over $100 for them. Don’t get ripped off – avoid these places at all costs. You should never spend more than $70 for any arch support unless it is a custom orthotic made by a medical professional. We have detailed information and a review of these heavily advertised arch supports here.