This article was published on: 05/30/21 6:03 AM

OTC Shoe Inserts

Over-the-counter (OTC) shoe inserts are non-custom foot insoles designed to provide general foot support and reduce strain. They are generic in nature and they are aimed at treating a general user with the most common symptoms of foot pain.

In contrast to gel inserts, which are the squishy flat inserts that you may find at your drug store, contoured OTC insoles provide arch support and at times, heel control. Gel inserts can be suitable for someone looking for added cushioning in their footwear but do not require any support or pain relief. For those experiencing mild to moderate foot pain, a more supportive OTC shoe insert is likely the better option.

As the name implies, over-the-counter shoe inserts are readily available for you to purchase on your own without the need for a medical prescription. You can find OTC shoe inserts at retail stores, drug stores and footcare clinics. But when faced with a wall of inserts, how do you know which one to choose? This is where a Footcare Clinician can help! When you decide to opt for an OTC shoe insert, visit your closest BioPed Footcare Clinic for advice. We’ll help you figure out which OTC insole is right for you, based on your specific foot needs.

Don’t play the shoe insert guessing game at the drug store and end up with something that doesn’t work or makes your symptoms worse!

OTC Insoles & Custom Orthotics - BioPed Footcare

OTC Shoe Inserts – When are they a good alternative to Custom Orthotics?

OTC shoe inserts are not a substitute for custom orthotics, but may be a good option for you if your symptoms are mild and you’re looking for a more economical alternative to a custom orthotic.

Consider OTC shoe inserts for:

– Mild foot pain
– Added comfort when you’re on your feet all day
– Mild to moderate Plantar Fasciitis symptoms

OTC shoe inserts have also been clinically effective at improving knee pain in those with knee conditions such as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS).

What to look for in Quality OTC Shoe Inserts & Custom Orthotics

Whether you’re looking for an over-the-counter, or a custom option, quality is important to ensure the efficacy and the longevity of your inserts.


Take your shoes with you when looking for OTC shoe inserts. There are different kinds of OTC shoe inserts to choose from depending on your activity and the footwear you are going to be putting them in. Your footcare provider can help you with fit and footwear options.

Ensure your shoes have a removable insert for an optimum fit.

Discuss your symptoms and concerns with your footcare specialist before deciding on an insert. This ensures you get an insert that is specific to your needs.


Don’t buy inserts for battered, broken shoes. You need a good foundation for your insoles.

Don’t guess your insert size. Your footcare clinician can, and should, help you with sizing and fit.

Don’t buy extra soft floppy/gel inserts if you’re looking for support. While gel inserts add cushioning, they aren’t the best option for support.

Don’t buy arch supports in a smaller size than you need. This can be painful, and proper fit is essential for comfort and support.

Don’t be swayed by fancy marketing. Talk to your footcare clinician about what options are right for you.

When Are Custom Orthotics the Right Choice?

Custom orthotics are—you guessed it— custom-made for your specific footcare needs. These are best suited for people with moderate to severe pain or concerns, specific foot conditions or for a less typical foot type. Custom orthotics are also suitable for someone who has tried an OTC insert and gained some relief but would like more customized support. Custom orthotics are built from scratch to specifically fit you and target your issues. Additional time and expertise is required for the creation and fit of custom orthotics. The custom orthotics process includes a full evaluation, manufacturing of the custom orthotics (preferably on-site), a customized fitting appointment, and any necessary adjustments.

There are many things to consider when choosing a custom orthotics provider. We put together a list of things to look for when selecting one.

What About Gel Inserts?

Gel inserts are also available over-the-counter, but you’re typically tasked with finding one on a wall of very similar products in a store or pharmacy, with no consultant there to help you choose which one is right for you. Sometimes, a machine is there to tell you what you will need, but this doesn’t consider your input when making a recommendation.

Gel inserts are soft and pliable, essentially adding additional cushioning to your footwear. While these can initially make your shoes feel more comfortable, they often lack support, which is important to help alleviate foot pain or discomfort. It is important to ensure you are in the correct supports.

So, if you’re looking for a little added cushioning, gel inserts could be right for you. But, if you’re experiencing more moderate to severe foot pain, or have more serious symptoms, a custom orthotic may be a better choice!

Visit one of our 80+ locations to meet with one of our Canadian Certified Pedorthists who can help!