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The Ultimate Guide to Orthopedic Shoes: Everything You Need to Know

Unlocking the Secrets of Foot Health with Orthopedic Footwear

Updated on May 29, 2024

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What are Orthopedic Shoes?

Orthopedic shoes are footwear designed to offer quality support and place your feet in the proper anatomical position to promote optimal foot health.

Custom orthopedic shoes are often designed specifically to treat foot pain conditions such as plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, hammertoes, bunions, and neuropathy. They are typically built with wide toe boxes, arch support, and shock absorbency to support your feet and reduce impact on your joints and ligaments.

So exactly what are orthopedic shoes good for? The list is long. From orthopedic hiking shoes to orthopedic shoes for plantar fasciitis to diabetic orthopedic shoes to help care for swollen feet, orthopedic shoes bring health from the ground up for a wide variety of foot pain conditions.

  • Woman wearing KURU ATOM orthopedic shoes.
Common Foot Problems Addressed By Orthopedic Shoes
  • Achilles tendonitis
    Achilles tendonitis, or tendinopathy, is an overuse injury common among runners and basketball players. The main symptom is aching and pain at the back of your leg, just above your heel.
    Achilles tendonitis
  • Bunions
    Bunions occur when your big or pinky toe bones are out of their proper alignment and extend at an angle rather than a straight line. This can cause painful swelling and irritation, and make the bunion extra sensitive to pressure from tight shoes.
    Bunions
  • Flat feet
    While injury can sometimes cause flat feet, the main risk factors are genetics and the way your feet develop during childhood. Flat feet are often associated with overpronation, or an excessive rolling inward at the ankle.
    Flat feet
  • Heel spurs
    Every step you take starts with your heels. Overtime, this strain can result in foot pain conditions such as heel spurs, which are tiny growths of bone at the heel that can cause irritation to surrounding tendons, muscles, and tissues.
    Heel spurs
  • Metatarsalgia
    Regular stress and impact can lead to painful swelling and irritation. The main symptom of Metatarsalgia is a sharp, aching pain in the ball of your foot—but you may also experience numbness, tingling, or a feeling like you’re standing on a lump.
    Metatarsalgia
  • Morton’s neuroma
    A neuroma is a benign tumor of nerve cells. When one forms in the ball of your foot between your third and fourth toes it’s called Morton’s neuroma. The main symptoms are pressure, numbness, burning or pain in that area.
    Morton’s neuroma
  • Plantar fasciitis
    Repeated stress on the band of tissue underneath our feet—our plantar fascia—can lead to tightness, inflammation, and micro-tears. This overuse results in the characteristic symptom of plantar fasciitis: heel pain.
    Plantar fasciitis
Benefits of Orthopedic Shoes
  • Pain Relief
    Specifically designed to alleviate discomfort from foot conditions like plantar fasciitis, bunions, and hammertoes.
    Pain Relief
  • Improved Posture
    Proper foot alignment can lead to better overall posture, reducing strain on the back and joints.
    Improved Posture
  • Enhanced Mobility
    By reducing foot pain, wearers often find they can walk or stand for longer periods without discomfort.
    Enhanced Mobility
  • Customized Support
    Many orthopedic shoes come with customizable insoles or arch supports tailored to individual needs.
    Customized Support
  • Increased Stability
    Features like wide toe boxes and reinforced heel areas provide better stability, reducing the risk of falls or missteps.
    Increased Stability
  • Accommodation for Orthotics
    Many designs can accommodate custom orthotics, allowing for personalized foot care solutions.}
    Accommodation for Orthotics
Shop orthopedic shoes from KURU today!
Features of Good Orthopedic Shoes
  • Superior arch support
    Shoes with adequately contoured insoles can help lift and support your arches to help guide your feet to a healthier gait.
    Superior arch support
  • Deep heel cup
    A deep heel cup that’s rounded to match the shape of your heel can help encourage healthy alignment and provide proper support.
    Deep heel cup
  • Wide toe box
    A wide toe box allows for plenty of room for your toes and feet to move naturally.
    Wide toe box
  • Shock-absorbing cushion
    Premium foams, such as EVA foam, can help absorb shock and reduce impact with each step.
    Shock-absorbing cushion

Orthopedics vs. Orthotics

Discover the differences between orthotics and orthopedic shoes, so you can make a smart choice when shopping for your next pair.

Foot pain can come with a long list of expenses—from doctor’s visits to custom orthotics. But exactly what shoes do orthopedic doctors recommend? Many podiatrists recommend supportive, comfortable orthopedic shoes for men and women to help maintain and treat a wide variety of foot conditions. 

Let’s break down the difference between orthotics and orthopedic shoes.

  • Orthotics. Orthotics are a pre-made or custom-built shoe insert designed to relieve pain or pressure from foot conditions or gait abnormalities.
  • Orthopedic shoes. Orthopedic shoes are footwear designed to help support or correct the natural biomechanics of the body. Orthopedic walking shoes are made to help relieve pain, improve alignment, and offer support for foot conditions.

With KURU, you can get the best of both worlds in one shoe. Every pair of shoes we make comes with our signature built-in technology (including premium inserts!) so you don’t have to spend extra money on expensive orthotics.

You’ll just get Pain Relief Beyond Belief.

Caring for Your Orthopedic Shoes

  • Always keep your shoes free of moisture, and store them in a dry, cool environment, free of direct sunlight.
  • If you need to clean your shoes, choose a shoe cleaning gel that is suitable for the material you wish to clean. Remember to spot-test the cleaner as sometimes it can alter the color of the materials. 
  • You can also clean your shoes using a moist (with water), lint-free cloth, and/or a soft-bristled brush. When cleaning mud or other debris, allow the mud to fully dry, then with a soft-bristled brush, lightly remove the dirt.

FAQs

  • What are orthopedic shoes?

    Orthopedic shoes are footwear designed to offer quality support and place your feet in the proper anatomical position to promote optimal foot health.

    Custom orthopedic shoes are often designed specifically to treat foot pain conditions such as plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, hammertoes, bunions, and neuropathy. They are typically built with wide toe boxes, arch support, and shock absorbency to support your feet and reduce impact on your joints and ligaments.

  • What does an orthopedic shoe do?

    Apart from supporting the arches, orthopedic shoes can also help cushion the whole foot and provide support. Orthopedic shoes can also correct issues with foot alignment while minimizing pain and preventing any existing problems from getting worse.

    However, if you wish to wear other shoes for particular events or occasions, you may also opt for an orthotic insert. These have molded arch support that will accurately fit your foot. They can also be placed in all kinds of shoes to allow for daily wear and versatility.

  • What is the difference between orthotics and orthopedic shoes?

    Prescription orthopedic shoes are made with features such as extra arch support and cushioning on the sole, a deep heel cup to help stabilize your foot, and extra room for your toes. They also work to minimize pain and discomfort, which makes them great for those with sensitive feet.

    A custom orthotic insert, on the other hand, is a useful tool that can treat and prevent lower body issues. It is placed inside a regular or orthopedic shoe and can be available over-the-counter without the need for a specialist’s prescription. Custom options can also be constructed according to an individual’s needs and measurements.

  • Are my orthopedic shoes FSA eligible?

    Orthotic shoes can be eligible for FSA and HSA if you have a Letter of Medical Necessity from your doctor and they are considered to be a qualifying product. Visit hsastore.com for more information.

    *Note: At this time, KURU doesn’t accept insurance, including FSA or HSA. We accept all major credit and debit cards, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and Diners Club.

  • Does Medicare cover orthopedic shoes?

    It is possible for Medicare to cover orthopedic shoes but not in every case. Medicare will cover orthopedic shoes if the doctors and suppliers are enrolled in Medicare. 

    Do you need a prescription for orthopedic shoes? To get them covered by Medicare, yes. You can still buy orthopedic shoes in many cases without a prescription, but you would have to pay out of pocket without insurance. Learn more at medicare.gov.

  • Can I use custom orthotics with KURU shoes?

    Due to the anatomical shape of the KURUSOLE, custom orthotics with a rounded heel fit best inside our shoes. If the underside of the custom orthotic (the part that sits on the footbed) is squared off, then it may not fit into our deep heel cup—which is rounded like your foot.

    That said, many of our customers tell us the KURUSOLE technology offers better support and stability than they expected, and that they don’t need to wear their custom orthotics with KURU shoes.

  • Which KURUs are best if you need arch support?

    Your search for the best arch support shoes is over! Every KURU shoe—sneakers, sandals, and boots alike—comes with featuring our patented heel-hugging KURUSOLE technology and superior arch support and cushion for Pain Relief Beyond Belief.

  • I just received a pair of your shoes and my feet are sore/hurt after wearing them. Why is that?

    Some customers experience tenderness when they first start wearing a new pair of KURUs. That’s ok! Your body may need time to adjust to the new levels of anatomical support you experience with our patented KURUSOLE technology. Our comfortable shoes are also designed to mold to your unique foot shape for the perfect fit, which takes a bit of a break-in period.

    To help mitigate this, we suggest you follow our break-in procedure, including wearing your KURUs for a couple hours per day around the house in the first couple of weeks as they break in and form to your foot.

About 8 in 10 Americans experience ongoing foot pain, with 47% describing their foot pain as debilitating.

Explore the latest foot pain trends, common causes of pain, treatment and prevention plans for maintained foot health in our 2024 Foot Pain Trends Report!

Choosing the Right Orthopedic Shoe

Understanding Foot Type

There are a wide variety of foot shapes and types—from high arches to flat feet, wide metatarsals to narrow heels. Knowing your general foot shape can help you choose the right orthopedic shoes for you.

To determine arch height, get your bare foot wet and step on a dry piece of paper—preferably one that can absorb a bit of water. You likely have a high arch if you see only a thin line at the outer edge of your foot, or little to no imprint of the middle of your foot. You likely have a low arch or flat foot if you can see the outline of your entire foot, including the full arch.

To discover your foot’s width, grab a piece of paper, stand on it with your whole weight, and trace an outline around your foot. Use a tape measure at the widest width of your foot and compare the number with Brannock’s shoe width chart. You’ll discover whether you’re a standard width, extra wide width, or a narrow fit.

The Importance of the Right Fit

The American Heart Association recommends a finger width of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.

When considering a pair of new orthopedic shoes, try fitting them for the first time at night. Feet tend to swell throughout the day, so you’ll get the most accurate picture of how you’ll feel toward the end of your day by testing them in the evening.

When to Replace Orthopedic Shoes

Podiatrists recommend replacing footwear every six months to one year, or every 300–500 miles. Cushion and support start to break down over time, so this timeframe helps ensure you are getting quality support and a spring in your step every time.

Comparing Footwear Brands

See how KURU raises the footwear bar for foot health:
FEATURES
See how KURU Footwear compares to some of the top brands for the best orthopedic shoes!
See how Orthofeet compares to some of the top brands for the best orthopedic shoes!
See how Atoms compares to some of the top brands for the best orthopedic shoes!
See how HOKA compares to some of the top brands for the best orthopedic shoes!
See how Brooks compares to some of the top brands for the best orthopedic shoes!
See how Skechers compares to some of the top brands for the best orthopedic shoes!
See how Adidas compares to some of the top brands for the best orthopedic shoes!
See how Dr. Scholl's compares to some of the top brands for the best orthopedic shoes!
See how Dansko compares to some of the top brands for the best orthopedic shoes!
See how Vionic compares to some of the top brands for the best orthopedic shoes!
Curved Foot Bed
Built-in Orthotic
Use Case Specific
All-in-One Orthopedic Solution
Wide Toe Box
Arch Support
Heel Support
Free Shipping
Free Returns
Free Exchanges
Warranty

Heel the Difference™ of KURUSOLE.

Every step you take starts with your heels—and it can get painful, fast. In fact, 77% of Americans experience foot pain, with heel pain at the top of the list.*

That’s why at KURU, we believe health starts with heel. Our patented KURUSOLE technology dynamically flexes with each step to hug and protect your heels. This heels-first focus paves the way for holistic foot pain relief and whole-body wellness, so you can live a life you love.

Every pair comes built with three layers of pain-fighting technology:

  • 1

    KURUSOLE

  • 2

    KURUCLOUD

  • 3

    ULTIMATE INSOLE

  • How KURU brings relief

    KURUSOLE

    It’s the world’s first dynamic heel-hugging technology. Our patented KURUSOLE technology dynamically flexes with each step to hug and protect your heels to help alleviate foot pain conditions such as plantar fasciitis.

Our Secret

Animated GIF showing KURUSOLE tech in KURU shoes vs. typical flat interiors for plantar fasciitis pain.
Why Others Love KURU

Why Others Love KURU

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ratings.

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Comfortable and cute! I have AS which gives me a lot of heel pain due to inflammation. These shoes have helped immensely! My pain has been greatly reduced and I’m able to walk much longer. I’m still in my twenties so I was looking for cute orthopedic shoes, these are the best-looking ones out there! I’ve actually received numerous compliments on my cute shoes. Little do they know, they are orthopedic shoes! Would definitely recommend!

Char20

The best and most comfortable orthopedic shoe around. I Love Kuru shoes I have 3 pair they are awesome…They have a wide shoe that gives your toes plenty of room to be comfortable. The most comfortable orthopedic shoe and lots of support for your heels. For an orthopedic shoe I am impressed that have so many styles to choose from and they dont look like orthopedic shoes which is what I like.There customer service is awesome . Tney are very helpful and friendly with all your questions. Will be ordering another pair soon.I recommend Kuru Shoes 100%

Christina46

Great slipper for around house. I developed plantar faciitis two years ago…the options were surgery or orthopedic footwear. I started buying my shoes at Kuru two years ago and over time my foot is healed. I do not walk barefoot on hard wood floors in the house, so I am always in my Kuru Drafts. All the KURU products are great, but the Drafts are a very comfortable shoe to wear around the house as a slipper….don’t even realize they’re on my feet !! If you suffer from Plantar, then the KURU Draft is your best friend !!!

dewda

Super comfortable. I have plantar fasciitis and I’m on my feet all day at work because I manage a large daycare. These shoes are so comfortable and supportive. My feet used to ache all night after coming home from work until I starting wearing them. Plus, they are super cute! They don’t look like athletic shoes or traditional orthopedics. I can still pair them with jeans and a blouse or sweater for a business casual dress code.

RHEZ

Great look with a orthopedic goal! I’ve been suffering from plantar fasciitis and have been seeing a podiatrist. He referred me to a store to purchase arch support inserts. Did that. But having to move the inserts from shoe to shoe is not what I want to do. I ordered these Atomic shoes in pink. I started wearing them and the podiatrist wanted to see them. He really likes them for proper arch support and he likes how they look. I introduced this brand to him. I’m so happy that I purchased them. They are cute for sure!!!

Ingrid D.

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Recommended Orthopedic Shoes

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