Photo of Man StretchingRoot Lab is a prescription foot orthotic laboratory that provides custom foot orthoses, ankle foot orthoses (AFO’s), prescription footwear, and other orthopedic products and services to licensed medical practitioners. This section of our web site is intended to provide basic patient information on foot orthoses (orthotics) and their use.

Root Lab does not provide treatment advice to patients. The following is for patient educational and informational purposes only and is not intended for diagnostic or treatment purposes. If you are in need of medical care or advice, please consult your doctor or a qualified heath care professional.

Questions Covered
1. What are foot orthoses?
2. Do you need an orthosis and if so, what type of orthosis is best for you?
3. An orthosis is an orthosis, or is it?

What are foot orthoses?

Good question! Foot orthotics are referred to by many names. Some common names used to describe foot orthoses and related products are arch supports, shoe inserts, orthotics, orthoses, custom orthotics or orthoses, prefabricated orthotics or orthoses, just to name a few! Needless to say, this can all be very confusing to patients or consumers who are interested in understanding prescription and non-prescription foot care products and devices.


Foot orthosis defined: The most accurate definition: A foot orthosis is a device that is used to brace, support, or protect the foot or a part of the foot.

The term orthosis is the singular form and means one orthotic device whereas the term orthoses is plural and means more than one orthotic device.  While the preceding definition of a foot orthosis is simple and concise, one can use an adjective to add further meaning.  For example, an orthosis made specifically for sports activity might be called a sports orthosis or might be a sport specific device such as a ski orthosis.

Categories of foot orthoses: There are many types of foot orthoses and there are different ways that we can attempt to categorize them. It is somewhat difficult to categorize foot orthoses due to variations in orthotic device design and manufacturing.

One method of categorizing foot orthoses is to divide them into groups according to prescription and non-prescription foot orthoses. Non-prescription foot orthoses are often referred to as “over-the-counter” devices and may be obtained with or without the assistance of a licensed healthcare professional. Non-prescription orthoses are sometimes custom made but are typically pre-manufactured. Prescription foot orthoses are prescribed by a licensed healthcare professional and are not available without a prescription. Prescription foot orthoses are typically custom made but there are some varieties that are pre-manufactured and not custom made.

Another way to categorize foot orthoses is by their method of manufacture. Foot orthoses may be custom or non-custom made. Custom foot orthoses are individually made, and are typically manufactured using the patient’s own foot anatomy by creating a model of the foot (a cast, impression, impression foam, scanner, etc.).  The anatomical model serves as the foundation of the form used to produce the orthosis.

Non-custom foot orthoses are manufactured using predetermined shapes or pre-made models, or are made by injection molding or computer milling. Non-custom foot orthoses are not made from the patients own foot anatomy and are more generic or general in shape.

Types of prescription foot orthoses: There are basically three types of prescription foot orthoses. The two most common types of prescription foot orthoses are accommodative orthoses and functional orthoses.

Accommodative orthosis: An accommodative orthosis is a device that is designed to pad and protect the foot or a part of the foot.  An accommodative orthosis supplements the foots natural padding and may be designed to reduce pressure by accommodation, in certain areas.

Functional orthosis: A functional orthosis is a device that is designed to influence the position and/or motion of the foot through the application of biomechanical principles.  A functional orthosis is the most biomechanically advanced type of foot orthosis and is only available by prescription. It influences the position or motion of the foot altering the forces acting on the foot. A functional orthosis requires a significant degree of expertise to prescribe and manufacture.

Functional Hybrid Orthosis:  In some cases, the characteristics of an accommodative orthosis are combined with those of a function orthosis to create a hybrid orthosis.

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