Efficacy of foot orthoses for the treatment of plantar heel pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Br J Sports Med. 2018 Aug;52(16):1040-1046. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-097892. Epub 2018 Mar 19.


Background: Plantar heel pain (PHP) is common. Foot orthoses are often applied as treatment for PHP, even though there is little evidence to support this.

Objective: To investigate the effects of different orthoses on pain, function and self-reported recovery in patients with PHP and compare them with other conservative interventions.

Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Data sources: A systematic literature search was conducted in MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Web of Science, CINAHL and Google Scholar up to January 2017.

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies: Randomised controlled trials comparing foot orthoses with a control (defined as no intervention, sham or other type of conservative treatment) reporting on pain, function or self-reported recovery in patients with PHP.

Results: Twenty studies investigating eight different types of foot orthoses were included in the review. Most studies were of high quality. Pooled data from six studies showed no difference between prefabricated orthoses and sham orthoses for pain at short term (mean difference (MD) of 0.26 (95% CI -0.09 to 0.60)). No difference was found between sham orthoses and custom orthoses for pain at short term (MD 0.22 (95% CI -0.05 to 0.50)), nor was there a difference between prefabricated orthoses and custom orthoses for pain at short term (MD 0.03 (95% CI -0.15 to 0.22)). For the majority of other interventions, no significant differences were found.

Conclusions: Foot orthoses are not superior for improving pain and function compared with sham or other conservative treatment in patients with PHP.

Prospero registration number: CRD42015029659.

Keywords: foot; foot injuries; orthotics.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Foot Orthoses*
  • Heel / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome