Custom-made shoe inserts (orthotics, also called orthoses) are often prescribed for plantar heel pain, but they are no more effective than prefabricated or even sham inserts or than other conservative treatments, according to a recent review of 20 clinical trials, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The trials looked at eight types of foot orthotics in a total of 1,756 people with heel pain. Most of the studies found similar improvements in pain and function in people treated with various kinds of orthotics as well as with other conservative treatments (such as stretching, physical therapy, or taping), probably because plantar heel pain tends to improve by itself over time.
A 2008 review by the Cochrane Collaboration had similar conclusions.
A version of this article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see What to Do for Heel Pain.