What are foot supports?
Foot supports generally fall into three categories. They can:
• Provide comfort and a little protection against common foot problems such as blisters
• Support the ankle joint, either to protect against injury or to help an injury recover better. These range from mechanical supports for sprains and strains to plaster casts for fractures
• Help with anatomical problems in the foot. Sometimes called podiatric biomechanical orthotic devices, these aim to improve foot function to help stop further problems developing
Comfort supports can usually be purchased from your pharmacy. They are simple, cushioned insoles that you can slip into your shoes. They can help to ease pain in the soles of your feet and can be helpful for people whose work involves standing for long periods of time. However, they need to be changed fairly regularly because they can wear out.
Other comfort support options include cushion supports to wear with high-heeled shoes. These can help to protect against pain in the balls of the feet.
If you're suffering from blisters, blister plasters can also offer comfort and support. These should also be changed regularly in order to prevent infection. If the blister becomes red, hot or more painful, it may be infected. See your pharmacist or your GP if this happens.
If your feet hurt after sport or exercise, this could mean that you're not wearing the correct shoes for the activity or they don't fit properly. To reduce the risk of injury to your feet and ankles during exercise, make sure:
• Your shoes are suitable for the sport you’re practising and they fit properly
• The bend in your shoe matches the bend in your foot
• There are no areas that rub on the inside of your shoes
• Your laces are tight enough
If you need extra protection for your ankle, an ankle support could be a useful option. This is a piece of material that sits tightly around your ankle and the bottom part of your foot.
If you have a sprain or strain, using a support can help to stabilise the tissues in your foot, allowing them to heal. Your doctor, pharmacist or injury specialist can advise whether you would benefit from using a support.
Orthotic devices are designed to help with anatomical problems in the foot. Sometimes the bones or ligaments in our feet can become incorrectly positioned when we walk. This can cause foot, ankle, knee, hip or even back pain.
If you have any of these pains but you haven't had an injury, your doctor may wish to refer you to a podiatrist. A podiatrist can check the way you walk and the shape of your feet. They may then recommend an orthotic device to put in your shoes, which could help to ease your symptoms.
When to seek help
If you have diabetes and experience problems with your feet, you should always seek advice from your GP, as having diabetes increases your risk of developing foot problems. You should also see your GP if you have any signs of infection in the feet, such as:
• A high temperature
• Pus around the site of a wound
• Swelling, pain or redness in the affected area
• Malodour (a bad smell)
If you have an injury that stops you from putting weight on one foot, or you have pain over the bony parts of the ankle you should seek medical advice.