Shoe and Arch Support Stores vs. Podiatry

Presently, there is a television commercial from a shoe insert company featuring a wife who is happy that her husband found relief from their product, and an athlete who testifies to the same.

As a podiatrist, however, I have had patients who complain to have spent hundreds of dollars on their products, stating salespeople and not doctors have sold them multiple pairs of different inserts.  They ask me which ones they need.  However, they could have saved money by first coming to the doctor who could have recommended similar, less expensive over-the-counter options that would have worked for them.  One patient, who was a diabetic with a rocker bottom foot, even developed a huge ulceration or sore from wearing an insert from this store with a hard metatarsal pad that pressed into the foot.

Oftentimes patients with certain foot problems initially try to get help through a specialty shoe or insert store, perhaps believing that it would be less expensive than getting medical care or products.  They may have seen a commercial or a display or scanner at the local supermarket or expensive shoe store and received a pair of “customized orthotics” which may not be helping the problem. They may be confused with all the different types of shoes and inserts available.

Shoe stores are helpful for healthy athletes who wish to improve performance.  They may also stock shoes and inserts that increase a person’s comfort, and help customers to choose popular brands.  However, when there is pain or pathology, a salesperson at a shoe store may not be enough to assess and treat a medical or surgical condition.  A podiatrist, who is a physician and surgeon of the foot and ankle, may need to be consulted first.

Podiatrists have expertise into foot and ankle problems and what kinds of shoes and inserts will help them, and what will not.  This knowledge can be helpful, and the patient can then seek the right type of solutions from shoe stores.  Podiatrists can assess the condition to confirm whether an insert is good for the condition, or recommend an alternative.  Perhaps other types of treatments besides shoes and inserts may be needed.

Podiatrists may recommend products that may be less expensive than what a salesperson could offer and provide help for the patient’s foot and ankle problem.  Perhaps the podiatrist may recommend and fabricate a custom-molded pair of functional orthotics to treat the problem.  These may be covered by insurance and therefore less expensive than a product sold to them by a store.

If there is pain in the feet or if the patient is diabetic, podiatrists can also recommend appropriate shoes.  They may dispense or prescribe special shoes for patients with deformities, or the appropriate device for those who need protective accommodative inserts.

Is the foot condition beyond the insert kiosk or shoe and insert salesperson?  It is time to consult the podiatrist.