It’s about more than cost - custom orthotics vs. over-the-counter insoles

It’s about more than cost - custom orthotics vs. over-the-counter insoles

Millions of people suffer from foot pain each year, ranging anywhere from the ankle, big toe, top of the foot, ball of the foot, and heel. If you are one of them, you probably have asked yourself the following question: what are the options to tackle the root cause of my problem? And an even more important question: what is the best solution for me? Can I solve the problem with specific exercises? Or do I need accommodations to my footwear in the form of orthotics? 


What is an orthotic?

An orthotic is a device used to align, correct, or support a moving part of the body. Specifically, foot orthotics treat a wide variety of functions, mainly focusing on pain relief and posture improvement. When using an orthotic, it allows you to reduce the amount of stress on the foot and surrounding tissue, in return your body can heal back to normal function more quickly. 


Orthotic devices may be recommended for several reasons, including:

  • aligning and supporting the foot or ankle
  • preventing, correcting or accommodating foot deformities
  • improving the overall function of the foot or ankle

Orthotics generally come in two ways; custom designed by a trained medical professional to fit your foot and meet your physical needs, or over-the-counter, trimmed to fit.


Over-the-counter insoles

Over-the-counter orthotics are usually matched to your shoe size and then trimmed to fit. They offer cushioning, a generic arch profile and some heel support.  They come in a variety of materials, are relatively low cost and easily available. You can expect them to last around 6-12 months depending on the quality of materials used and the intensity of use. They can be beneficial when you require more comfort, when your feet show symmetry between left and right, and when you have no major biomechanical concerns.

Over-the-counter orthotics can serve the needs of some people adequately, particularly when combined with a stretching and exercise program. The trick is to understand who will benefit. 


Custom orthotics

Custom orthotics are individualized and made to your feet and shoes. They can incorporate specific support and control features that are not included in over-the-counter orthotics which are a one-size-fits-all approach. With a variety of material choices, your individual needs and biomechanical properties can be addressed. Due to the uniqueness of these orthotics, there is an associated manufacturing turnaround time and the costs are higher than over-the-counter ones, as expected.

The new generation of custom orthotics can be made from a digital footscan of your feet and are specifically designed to the movement of each foot; holding them in a more stable position and guiding them through the gait cycle more efficiently.

A good pair should last at least 2 years, depending on the materials used and the patient wearing them. It should not be fitted to another person, as it has been designed and manufactured to meet the biomechanical needs of the individual. Therefore, a clinical assessment and consultation by a foot expert will ensure that your entire body posture and movement is assessed.


Still, let’s talk about the cost : it’s not merely a product, it’s also expertise...

The reason there is such a difference in price, is on one hand related to the customization of the product itself: it is on demand. The quality and durability of the materials, coupled with the custom production process contribute to the expense of custom orthotics. They cost more, but last longer and can be far more effective. On the other hand, there’s an easily overlooked aspect: the time the foot expert spends examining you and designing the orthotics: those services and that expertise will be included in the total cost of the treatment.  



If you are serious about finding an answer for your foot problem, consult a foot expert! If they think the best solution for you would be a custom foot orthotic, then it would be sensible to follow their advice. Although they are more expensive than over-the-counter products, they are far more durable and, most importantly, they will address your individual needs. All information on