Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
Orthotics, or foot orthoses, are a type of insole that is placed inside footwear to provide support for the foot. They can be purchased over the counter or are individually customised by a chiropodist or podiatrist.
What claims are likely to be acceptable?
Conditional sensorial claims about the support or comfort of insoles and orthotics are likely be acceptable provided claims do not go so far as to make unsubstantiated claims that they can relieve discomfort.
What claims are likely to be problematic?
Ads for orthotics that make medicinal claims are likely to render that product a medical device. The ASA and CAP would be likely to expect marketers to hold an appropriate CE certification for the device being advertised.
CAP recommends that marketers seek advice from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) regarding Medical Devices in the first instance to check whether their product falls within the definition of a medical device. Also see CAP advice on Health: Medical Devices.
Marketers often refer to medical conditions in ads for orthotics. Claims can range from pain relief to prevention of various other conditions. All medicinal prevention and treatment claims would need to be supported by robust documentary evidence in the form of clinical trials.
The ASA has previously upheld complaints about ads which claim that orthotics can treat various conditions where evidence was either lacking, or was not sufficiently robust. Treatment claims have included references to ulcers, varicose veins, infections, blood flow, joint pain, and diabetes (Express Newspapers, 12 August 2009, Blakefield LLP t/a Windsor Products, 13 May 2009). The ASA has also upheld complaints that orthotics “works all over the body”, “dramatically eases discomfort”, (Express Newspapers, 12 August 2009) can “increase stride length”, “reduce pain”, “muscle fatigue" (Anatom Ltd, 2 September 2009) and that it can “naturally reposition the foot so you could walk away from pain...Walk straight” (Reckitt Benckiser Healthcare (UK) Ltd, 15 February 2012).
In 2017, the ASA considered claims about the an in-sole product which included “Your feet can now heal your body … Helps with weight loss … Improves your concentration … Reduces your blood pressure ... Strengthen the heart and immune system”. The ASA ruled that the ads breached the Code because the insoles were not CE Marked and the testimonials on which the claims were based, were not sufficient to substantiate the medicinal and weight loss claims (Aquil Ltd, 25 October 2017).
CAP understands that there is no such thing as a “correct” alignment of the feet and legs, and that unqualified claims about “improving” posture are very unlikely to be acceptable without a robust body of clinical evidence.
What about conditions for which medical supervision should be sought?
Marketers should not discourage consumers from seeking essential medical treatment. Practitioners who do not hold suitable qualifications are advised to avoid referring to conditions for which medical supervision should be sought; the diagnosis of or treatment for which requires the supervision of suitably qualified health professional (Rule 12.2).