Hard vs. Soft
What is the difference between hard and soft orthotics?
Don’t be afraid of “rigid” or “hard” orthotics. It is true that a hard device (if made incorrectly) can worsen your symptoms and be unbearably uncomfortable. The key to comfort in a hard orthotic is that it is made from a non-weightbearing cast of your foot. From that position, the practitioner can position the joints of the foot in the most stable position and hold it there while the cast hardens. Because the foot is casted with precision, and the orthotic is hard – it is possible to change the way the foot functions. The orthotic made from such a cast will hold your foot (for the most part) in the corrected position.
“Hard” orthotics today are actually not rigid. Now, we are using polypropylene, and usually in thicknesses that are very pliable, especially when the body weight lands on it.
Generally speaking, the more flexible the foot, the harder the material needs to be.
Feet that are already tight and inflexible tend to need softer, shock-absorbing materials. If a hard orthotic is not comfortable, there are many possible reasons why. The practitioner can determine if it is incorrect casting, improper balancing of the orthotic, poor decision making regarding materials, improper break-in of the devices, or wrong foot wear. Some people simply cannot tolerate hard orthotics – often those with fibromyalgia, arthritis, soft tissue disorders or “sensitive” feet.