The Difference Between Custom and Over-the-Counter Orthotics

by | Dec 27, 2017

When comparing over-the-counter arch supports or insoles to custom orthotics, the first difference most people notice is the price. Don’t worry—we get it! If you’re going to spend a couple hundred bucks extra (although you might not have to depending on your insurance), you want to be sure you’re getting your money’s worth. (We’ll circle back to that idea later in the blog.)

Of course, the other obvious difference is right there in the name. “Custom” orthotics are called what they are because they’re manufactured to fit the exact specifications of your feet. Unlike over-the-counter supports, you can’t get them without a prescription and you can’t get them in a day. The process begins at our office, where we’ll conduct a physical exam and measure your feet using either a foam box or plaster slipper cast. Once we have all the information we need, we’ll send the mold and diagnosis to the orthotics lab, who will make your orthotics.

Custom orthotics also have a lot more versatility in terms of shape, style, construction material, and even the types of conditions they can treat. Almost all over-the-counter inserts are “accommodative,” meaning that they provide cushioning and improve weight distribution, but don’t really correct the alignment or motion of your feet and ankles. Some custom orthotics are accommodative as well, but you can also be prescribed a “functional” custom orthotic made from more rigid materials. These help reposition the feet during standing and walking and they can treat many conditions much more effectively.

Another advantage? Because custom orthotics are generally made with higher quality materials, they can last a lot longer too—especially if they are well cared for, and periodically adjusted or refurbished to remain in top shape.

Just because you can buy an over-the-counter orthotic off the rack yourself doesn’t mean you necessarily should. In either case, we do recommend you come see us first. Not everybody needs custom orthotics; for many people with more minor aches and pains, prefabricated arch supports will do the job just fine. But you still need to be sure you get the right product with the right fit!

At Freeland Foot Clinic, we carry a selection of high quality non-prescription insoles. During your exam, we can help you determine whether one of these would be appropriate and make sure you walk out with the correct insert. If you need more support than what a prefabricated device can provide, we’ll fit you for custom orthotics.

For more information or to schedule your appointment, please call us!

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7305 Midland Rd #2
Freeland, MI 48623


Phone: (989) 695-6788

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