I'm trying an over-the-counter shoe insert for the first time. How can I tell if it's working?

Shoe inserts come in all sizes, shapes, and materials. They can be soft and flexible or rigid. They can come in standard shoe sizes or made and adjusted for each person.

Knowing if the orthotic is having the desired effect depends on the underlying problem. Inserts, sometimes called orthotics, can be used to correct foot, ankle, or knee problems.

The usual measure of success is relief of pain. Some doctors suggest at least a 50 percent reduction of pain to be considered a success. Some patients are happy if they can do more with the orthotics in place, such as running farther or walking longer without pain.

Try the shoe inserts for three weeks and see if your symptoms improve, get worse, or change in any way. If you need further help, see a podiatrist or physical therapist. Sometimes an orthotic is the right treatment, but a custom designed insert may be needed. The off-the-shelf type doesn't work for everyone.