Generally, no. Off-the-shelf or non-customised orthotics from the chemist are made for a 'normal' foot type. People with a ‘normal’ foot type generally do not develop foot problems nor need to be worried about their long term foot health.
If a Podiatrist has recommended custom orthotics for you – it is because you do not have normal (I prefer to say ideal) foot posture. You may have a very high arch, rigid foot-type which is poor at shock absorbing. Or you may have a broad flat foot (pancake foot) which acts like a floppy spring. Your feet may even differ from one foot to the other, which is often the case.
WHAT DO ORTHOTICS ACTUALLY DO?
Custom orthoses are designed to alter how your foot functions – whether it be changing alignment to stop your foot rolling in or out, altering the force at which your foot rolls in or out, deflecting pressure away from high-pressure areas, increasing cushioning ability of the foot etc. This direct adjustment within the feet can affect the function of your ankles, knees, hips and lower back (ie. a whole body adjustment).
WILL I NEED TO WEAR MY ORTHOTICS FOREVER AND EVER?
This answer is different for each person. What is the reason you are getting orthotics for in the first place? Is it because you are injured, or because you have benign joint hypermobility (double-jointed) allowing your arches to collapse?
Many of our kids at Foundation Podiatry Townsville have worn orthotics for 2-4 years and then no longer require them as they have developed ideal foot posture and strength. Some of our patients have to wear their orthotics all of the time (not to bed) – but they are happy with this because they can run, jump, garden, play with their grandkids etc. pain free. Others may only wear their orthotics in their training shoes.
Have a read of our more detailed article on Foot Supports (Orthotics).
Every human foot is different, even from left to right. Therefore if orthotics are recommended for you it is important that they are customised to your feet!