I can`t believe how many times per day i have answered this question in 30+ years of clinical practice and teaching. The answer is simple, your footwear are the foundation of your structure!. Without a stable solid foundation the best orthotic in the world will do little to improve your functional control or stability. It's a bit like a race car team struggling to adjust the suspension on their car while running street tires on the track. In the modern world we have chosen to live in, the surfaces our feet deal with every step are hostile, unforgiving and repetitive. Like or not we are completely dependant on the use of footwear as a result of our environment. The shock absorbing nature of the footwear has won over the popular vote in both manufacturing and retail versus structural stability. As a result of this structural integrity and functional design has seen a rapid decline in the last 10 years. Innovation appears rampant in the market place, however when examined even briefly, reveals that most designs are intended to appeal to the eye or allude to an advanced but unrevealed technology. The real beneficiaries of these changes are the manufactures and the retailers. So as per usual its a case of buyer be beware, or buyer be better informed. If we as clinical specialists don't arm you with the necessary information you need to purchase the correct footwear for your specific feet then we have failed to perform our most fundamental of tasks.
So back to the question, shoes versus orthotics. Good stable foot footwear is vital and in many cases all that may be required. Where symptoms prevail or the severity of the condition demands orthotics are often a superb next step and must be designed appropriately with consideration for the condition, individual and the activities intended.