Orthotics are medical devices used to treat foot, ankle, or leg problems. Orthotics can either be a special shoe or heel insert. There are several types of orthotics. Of these, over-the-counter (OTC) orthotics are the most accessible.
However, are they any good?
To help you make an informed decision, here are some things that are crucial to know about custom vs OTC Orthotics.
Why do you need to wear orthotics?
A podiatrist may recommend you to wear orthotics for the following reasons:
- Align or support your foot or ankle
- Prevent, correct, and accommodate foot deformities
- Over-all improve your foot or ankle function
- Reduce the risk of further injuries
Why are OTC orthotics not good?
OTC orthotics have their advantages. They are widely available in pharmacies, department stores and online stores. The price starts at about $30. This is relatively cheaper compared to custom orthotics which can cost up to $1200.
Despite these advantages, as a podiatrist, I concur with Dr. Richard Hayes, a Board Certified Ankle and Foot specialist at Great Basin Orthopaedics, who warned that OTC orthotics can do more harm than good.
Here are the reasons why.
Price, quality and durability
OTC orthotics are usually made from foam, gel, plastic, rubber or silicon. This explains why they are cheaper. Custom orthotics utilise leather, cork, carbon fibre, polypropylene, or rigid plastics, instead.
They usually last for only about six months, depending on the frequency and manner of usage.
But since OTC orthotics are not durable enough, you are likely to buy more frequently. Also, you may need to buy one for each shoe you own. This is to ensure that your OTC orthotics perfectly fit.
Meanwhile, custom orthotics may fit more than one pair of shoes. This is because custom orthotics are designed to fit your foot, not your shoe.
Related read: Orthotics Making Your Foot Pain Worse?
OTC orthotics are readily available in local shops and various sizes. Whilst they may provide relief by cushioning your foot, this may be only short-term.
Conditions vary from one person to another. In the long run, your condition may worsen as it was not addressed properly.
Addressing the root cause
Since OTC orthotics are readily available, you do not need a podiatrist’s prescription to buy one.
However, this also means that your condition is not properly diagnosed.
In comparison, podiatrists prescribe custom orthotics. These are specifically designed to correct or help the root cause of your foot, ankle, or leg problem.
To make custom orthotics, the podiatrist uses 3D technology to create an image of the patient’s foot. This technology ensures that the custom orthotics is accurate and a personalised fit.
Health Insurance Rebate
Another thing to remember is that, as OTC Orthotics are obtained without a prescription, health insurance companies do not cover such expense.
Meanwhile, custom orthotics are prescribed by a podiatrist and as such, can be covered by your health insurance provider. Check with your private insurance company if they can cover these expenses.
Custom-made orthotics may be more cost-effective compared to OTC orthotics in the long run.
Can you buy orthotics over the counter?
Yes. They are available in pharmacies, department stores and even online.
Are over-the-counter orthotics any good?
No. Whilst they may provide relief, this is may only be short-term. OTC orthotics do not address the root cause of your problem.
Do I need a prescription for custom orthotics?
Yes. A podiatrist will diagnose the cause of your foot, ankle, or leg problem. Here at Adelaide Foot and Ankle, a laser scanner creates 3D images of your foot. This ensures that the 3 D printed orthotics are accurate and personalised fit for you.
Are Dr. Scholl’s Custom Fit Orthotics worth it?
Dr. Scholl custom fit orthotics averages at about $50. This is still cheaper compared to custom orthotics. However, these are just like the standard Dr. Scholl arch support.
The price increase still does not guarantee that your foot, ankle, or leg problem will be supported or corrected properly.
Which insoles do podiatrists recommend?
Our podiatrists recommend custom orthotics.
Are custom-made orthotics worth the money?
Though pricey at first, custom-made orthotics save you money in the long-term. For one, it addresses your foot issue with precision, not worsen it which is possible with OTC orthotics.
Custom-made orthotics use more durable materials. They are designed to properly address your problem. Custom-made orthotics saves your body from incurring more injuries in the future.
Why do my orthotics hurt?
Your orthotics may hurt if they are:
- no proper fitting
- worn out
- used with improper footwear
- improper break-in
The Takeaway on OTC Orthotics
Whilst OTC orthotics are more accessible and cheaper, they may not be as effective as using custom orthotics.
Orthotics are used to treat and correct foot, ankle, or leg problems. But OTC orthotics do not guarantee this, especially since they are made to fit the general population using only shoe size as a reference.
It is best to see a podiatrist. Proper diagnosis and treatment are the keys to ensure that the root cause of your problem is addressed properly.
Contact us at Adelaide Foot and Ankle and set an appointment today!