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When Orthotics Don't Work: Troubleshooting Issues & Finding Solutions

Are you struggling with foot pain even though you've been wearing orthotics? No worries. If you've found yourself questioning why your orthotics aren't working, this article is here to help. While orthotics can be a game-changer for many individuals, sometimes they don't always provide the relief we hope for. We'll look into the reasons why orthotics might not be delivering the expected results and what to do when orthotics don't work. From poor fit to inadequate support, we explore the common pitfalls that may hinder the effectiveness of orthotics. But we don't stop there – we provide practical solutions and alternative approaches to address these issues. Unlock the secrets to maximizing the benefits of orthotics and discover alternative solutions that could provide you with the relief you've been seeking. Don't let frustration hinder your orthotic journey – join us as we unravel the mystery of orthotics and learn how to make them work for you.

Orthotics are often praised for their ability to alleviate foot pain, improve biomechanics, and enhance comfort. However, sometimes, even with these benefits, individuals may experience issues that leave them wondering, "Why aren't my orthotics working?"


Understanding Orthotics:


Orthotics work by providing support and alignment for the foot and ankle. They come in various types, from over-the-counter options to custom-made insoles designed to address specific foot concerns.

Common issues with orthotics

  • They are too soft or too hard.
  • They are too thick or too thin/need less cushion or more cushion.
  • They don’t fit into or with your shoes.
  • Your feet have changed.
  • Your gait has changed.
  • Your orthotics are worn out.
  • Lastly, I don't feel any change.

Dealing with uncomfortable or ill-fitting orthotics can be frustrating. However, before you give up on them altogether, try these troubleshooting tips to improve their fit and comfort.

Troubleshooting tips for when orthotics don't work

The Trouble: Hardness, Thickness, and Size:


  • Too Soft or Too Hard: Imagine the Goldilocks dilemma, but with insole firmness. Orthotics come in various levels of firmness. If yours feel too soft, they may not provide enough support, while excessive firmness can cause discomfort and pressure points.
  • Too Thick or Need More Cushion: Bulky insoles might not fit comfortably in your shoes, leading to slipping or cramping. Conversely, those lacking sufficient cushioning may not offer enough shock absorption.

The Solution:


Orthotic adjustments - explore different options


In most cases, minor adjustments to your orthotics can significantly improve their fit. This may involve reshaping the arch support, adding cushioning, or adjusting the angle of the orthotics. 


Different materials, new designs, and increased or decreased levels of support might be required for your specific needs. Remember, it's crucial to seek professional help when making any adjustments to your orthotics. 


Find reputable companies and professionals who offer orthotic adjustments.

A sample orthotic design and different orthotics materials

The Trouble: Don't Fit into or with Your Shoes


  • Not all shoes are created equal for orthotics. Orthotics need to fit snugly within your shoes, not create a crowded environment. Incompatible footwear can be a major culprit behind frustration. 
  • Shoes with insufficient space or too much space support can render orthotics ineffective.

The Solution:


Pick the Right Shoes


Choose shoes designed for orthotics or orthotic-friendly shoes. They will provide adequate space and have removable insoles and other supportive features. 


Ask a foot specialist or podiatrist for recommendations on suitable orthotic footwear. Either way, make sure they are not too big (the orthotics slide around) or too small/tight.


Too little room can cause blisters. Some folks go a half size up on the shoe size to make room for their orthotics.

a hand hold an orthotic next a shoe to show when orthotics don

The Trouble: Your Feet and Gait Change


  • Feet Change: Our feet can change over time due to weight fluctuations, injuries, or aging. This can render your once-perfect orthotics ineffective, requiring adjustments or new ones. Orthotics designed for your feet at a previous time point might not adapt to these changes, leading to discomfort. 
  • Gait Changes: Our gait, or walking pattern, can change due to injuries, aging, or new activities. If your orthotics were designed for a different gait, they might not provide the right support for your current walking style.

The Solution:


Embrace Change


When needed, re-evaluate and potentially replace your orthotics. Over time, our feet can naturally change shape due to factors like weight gain, pregnancy, or aging. This can render your existing orthotics ill-fitting and ineffective. 


As your feet and needs change, so might the type of orthotics that best serve you. A new pair might be required to address changed foot conditions or activity levels.

a hand hold an orthotic next a shoe to show when orthotics don

The Trouble: Wearing Out the Welcome


  • Worn Out Orthotics: Like any footwear, orthotics have a lifespan. Worn-out insoles lose their support and cushioning, making them less effective. Regularly check for wear and tear and replace them as needed.

The Solution:


Learn when to replace or repair your orthotics


Even the best orthotics require periodic replacement or repairs to maintain their effectiveness and prevent potential discomfort. Here are some key indicators that your orthotics have reached their expiration date:


1. Visible Wear and Tear:


  • Cracks and tears: Look for visible cracks, tears, or splitting in the material, which can compromise the support structure and cause discomfort.
  • Flattening or loss of shape: Over time, the orthotics' material may flatten or lose its original shape, reducing their ability to offer proper support and alignment.
  • Faded or discolored material: Significant fading or discoloration of the material can indicate wear and tear and potential loss of support properties.

2. Diminished Performance:


  • Increased pain or discomfort: If you experience a gradual increase in pain or discomfort despite using your orthotics, it might be a sign that they've lost their effectiveness and require replacement.
  • Reduced stability or support: Feeling less stable or supported while walking or running could indicate that the orthotics are no longer providing adequate support due to wear and tear.
  • Change in footwear: If you switch to new shoes with a significantly different design or fit, your existing orthotics might not fit well anymore, necessitating replacement.

3. Expiration Information:


Some orthotics, particularly custom-made ones, may have a recommended lifespan specified by your healthcare professional or the manufacturer. Refer to any provided information or guidelines for specific replacement timelines.


TIP: Regular Maintenance is Key:


Remember, proper maintenance is crucial for extending the lifespan of your orthotics. Regularly cleaning them with appropriate methods and storing them properly can help maintain their effectiveness and delay the need for replacement.

worn out orthotics that need to be replaced

Why You Might Not Feel a Change After Starting Orthotics


You've invested in orthotics, hoping for pain relief and improved foot health, but haven't experienced the desired change. This can be frustrating, but it doesn't necessarily mean they're ineffective. Here are some reasons why you might not feel a difference right away:


1. Adjustment Period:


  • Give it time: Your body needs time to adjust to the new support and alignment provided by the orthotics. This adaptation process can take several weeks, so be patient and consistent with your use.
  • Start gradually: If you're new to wearing orthotics, begin by wearing them for short periods and gradually increase the duration throughout the day to allow your feet and body to adjust comfortably. 
  • Even seasoned orthotic wearers meet initial discomfort with new updated orthotics.

2. Underlying Conditions:


  • Addressing the root cause: If you have an underlying medical condition causing your foot pain, addressing the root cause through medication, physical therapy, or other treatments might be necessary in conjunction with orthotics. All underlying conditions should be mentioned to your orthotic provider to be sure they will address your underlying conditions. In some cases, orthotics might not be the sole solution.
when orthotics don

Alternative solutions for orthotic-related problems

While orthotics can be highly beneficial, they may not be the perfect solution for everyone. If you've exhausted troubleshooting options and still find yourself struggling with foot pain, exploring alternative solutions may be the next step.


1. Physical therapy and exercises


Incorporating physical therapy exercises into your routine can help strengthen the muscles in your feet, ankles, and lower legs. These exercises can improve stability, balance, and overall foot function, reducing the reliance on orthotics. A physical therapist can guide you through a personalized program tailored to your specific needs and goals.


2. Combination therapies


In certain cases, combining different treatment modalities can provide optimal results. For example, a combination of orthotics, physical therapy, and footwear modifications may be more effective in alleviating foot pain and addressing the underlying issues. Working with a healthcare professional who specializes in foot health can help you create a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

Seeking professional help for persistent issues with orthotics

If you've tried troubleshooting tips and alternative solutions without success, it may be time to seek professional help for persistent issues with your orthotics. Consulting with a healthcare professional who specializes in foot health can provide valuable insights and guidance tailored to your specific needs. They can:


  • Assess your situation: They can examine your feet, analyze your gait, and review your orthotics to identify potential issues.
  • Recommend adjustments or replacements: If necessary, they can recommend adjustments to your existing orthotics, a different type of orthotic, or explore alternative solutions.
  • Address other concerns: They can rule out any underlying medical conditions contributing to your foot pain.

By understanding the potential reasons behind the lack of improvement and working with your healthcare professional, you can find the most effective approach to managing your foot pain and achieving optimal foot health. Remember, finding the right solution might require exploration, patience, and open communication with your healthcare provider.


Conclusion: Finding the right solution for your orthotic needs

When orthotics don't work as expected, it can be frustrating and discouraging. Finding the right solution for your orthotic needs requires a collaborative approach. However, by understanding the common issues, exploring troubleshooting tips, and potentially seeking professional advice, you can find the most effective approach to managing your foot pain and achieving optimal comfort.

Don't just take our word for it - Helpful links:

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any decisions about your health. If you have any questions about your health or are experiencing any medical problems, please contact your doctor or other healthcare provider immediately. Do not delay seeking medical attention based on the information provided in this article.