A comparison of different over-the-counter foot orthotic devices on multi-segment foot biomechanics

Prosthet Orthot Int. 2016 Dec;40(6):675-681. doi: 10.1177/0309364615584660. Epub 2015 May 26.


Background: Over-the-counter foot orthoses are a cost-effective alternative to custom-made devices. However, few studies have compared over-the-counter devices and most biomechanical research involving orthoses has focused on rearfoot biomechanics.

Objectives: To determine changes in multi-segment foot biomechanics during shod walking in three commercially available over-the-counter devices: SOLE, SuperFeet and Powerstep when compared to no orthotic.

Study design: Repeated measures, cross-sectional study.

Methods: Retroreflective markers were placed on the right limb of 18 participants representing forefoot, midfoot, rearfoot and shank segments. Three-dimensional kinematics were recorded using an eight-camera motion capture system while participants walked on a treadmill and the order of condition was randomized between four conditions: SOLE, SuperFeet, Powerstep and no orthotic.

Results: All over-the-counter devices exhibited significant decreases in plantar fascia strain compared to no orthotic and only Powerstep exhibited significant decreases in peak rearfoot eversion. Medial longitudinal arch deformation was not reduced for any over-the-counter device.

Conclusion: Different over-the-counter devices exhibited specific alterations in rearfoot kinematics and all reduced plantar fascia strain by varying amounts. These over-the-counter-specific kinematic changes should be taken into consideration when recommending these devices as a treatment option.

Clinical relevance: Over-the-counter orthoses are a cost-effective alternative to custom-made devices. We demonstrated that three commonly used over-the-counter devices influence foot kinematics and plantar fascia strain differently. Clinicians can use these results to provide more tailored treatment options for their patients.

Keywords: Plantar fascia strain; foot kinematics.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Foot / physiology*
  • Foot Joints / physiology
  • Foot Orthoses*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology
  • Young Adult