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Flat feet can cause a great deal of discomfort, and while there is no instant cure for this bothersome condition, there are several non-prescription devices available that can help provide support and relief for persons suffering from flat feet. These devices are known as over-the-counter orthotics (a.k.a. shoe inserts), and they come in a wide variety of forms including insoles, arch supports, foot cushions, heel liners, and so forth. The main purpose of over-the-counter orthotics is to enhance support for the foot–whether it’s in the arch, the heel, or some other area–in order to help prevent common injuries associated with flat feet such as ankle, knee or back pain.
Some common over-the-counter orthotics are as follows:

  • Insoles – Insoles can be slipped into your shoe, and they are typically constructed of a gel, plastic or foam material. Insoles provide extra support and cushioning for your feet.
  • Arch Supports – When it comes to the arches of the feet, there really is no one-size-fits-all shoe insert; some people have high arches, while other people have very low or fallen arches (a.k.a. flat feet). Arch supports are designed with a raised appearance in order to support the natural arch of the foot.
  • Heel Liners – Also called heel cups or heel pads, heel liners provide cushion and support for the heel area. Aging persons in particular will often use heel liners due to the gradual thinning of the natural fat pads on the bottom of the heel.
  • Shoe Cushions – These cushions provide relief for people whose shoes rub against their feet in certain areas. Shoe cushions help to protect your feet by providing a layer of material that reduces motion-related friction.

Over-the-counter orthotics are different from custom orthotics, which are available only by prescription. Custom orthotics ultimately provide better support for flat feet because they are specifically designed by a podiatrist to match the shape and contours of your feet, versus an over-the-counter orthotic device that will be somewhat generic. Although custom orthotics are typically more expensive, they are often covered by insurance. The main advantage of custom orthotics is that they are created only after your feet, ankles and legs have been thoroughly evaluated by a podiatrist in order to ensure an accurate fit. So while over-the-counter orthotics can provide an acceptable level of relief for flat feet, custom orthotics will be much more effective in accommodating your particular foot structure and condition.