Should I Buy Custom Orthotics?

The question of whether a ready-to-wear (or over-the-counter) insoles, orthotics, or arch supports are as effective as a custom orthotic is a good one, and one that we field often. Our hope here is to give you as concise a breakdown as possible in regards to when a ready-to-wear insole is appropriate and when you should seek a custom-made orthotic from a podiatrist.

Do You Need to See a Podiatrist?

If you have foot pain, instability, or are seeking an arch support for another reason and the reason is not severe enough to warrant a visit the podiatrist, there's a good chance that an over-the-counter insole will work just fine for you.

Typically, custom orthotics are recommended for very severe foot pain, severe foot conditions, deformities, or complex foot issues where a ready-to-wear option just won't be sufficient or suitable to correct the issue(s). However, if you're dealing with common foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis or over-pronation, experiencing general discomfort or fatigue, are looking for additional cushioning, or wanting an insole for athletics, an over-the-counter option is likely completely fine for your needs.

Please note: While a ready-to-wear orthotic is sufficient and appropriate for many individuals, you should always seek a medical professional's opinion if you experience severe pain, discomfort, or other such severe issues.

Is Budget a Concern?

Custom orthotics are expensive, generally in the ballpark of $200-500, and sometimes aren't even covered under insurance plans. Compare this to an over-the-counter orthotic that typically runs between $40-60 and you can see that a ready-to-wear option is easily the more affordable option.

The other thing to address here is that over-the-counter orthotics are not sub-par in terms of quality when compared to custom orthotics. In many cases, the major difference is between how closely the shape of the insole conforms to the shape of your foot from the get-go. Ready-to-wear orthotics have a shape that will work for most individuals and will conform to the shape of your foot over time with wear; custom orthotics will be made to match the shape of your foot, but this often isn't necessary unless you have a severe, unusual, or multiple foot problems.

Have You Tried an Over-the-Counter Orthotic Already?

If you've tried an over-the-counter orthotic and it just didn't work for you, there's two options that we consider:

  1. Is there a different over-the-counter product that might work better for your needs? With so many options to choose from, we can always evaluate the product you're using and see what pain or discomfort you're continuing to experience and then see if there's a different option that might work better.
  2. Should you seek a podiatrist's opinion? If your pain or discomfort is severe, or if you have multiple issues that you're experiencing, sometimes seeing a podiatrist and inquiring about a custom-made orthotic might be best.

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