Custom Orthotics: Why Drugstore Insoles Just Don’t Cut It
If you’ve ever spent any time walking through a decently sized drugstore, or pharmacy section at a general retailer, you’ve probably seen shelves full of “orthotics.”
These off-the-rack insoles and arch supports probably make spectacular claims on the packaging. They’re using “next gen” technology. Those ones over there say they’re “great for arch pain,” while this pair here is “perfect for running.” Maybe a few even say that they’re “custom fit.”
Well, we have a word of advice for you: Don’t believe the hype. And definitely don’t believe the word “custom” for something you’re buying straight off the rack! These are most definitely not custom orthotics.
At Texas Foot & Ankle Center, we’ve never recommended or provided prefabricated insoles for our patients.
That’s not because these devices are always useless, or that they can’t ever work in certain limited capacities.
It’s because, at the end of the day, they absolutely pale in comparison to what can be achieved with a set of truly custom orthotics. Not only will you get better results in terms of your symptoms, but in the long run you often end up saving a lot of time, headaches, and sometimes even money, by getting the best treatment the first time.
Let’s break this down a little bit. Just why are custom orthotics so much better, and so worth it in the long run?
They Fit Your Feet Exactly
No two feet are precisely alike. Sure, the general shape might be the same—heel, arch, ball, ten toes. But there’s a lot of individual subtlety.
For starters, unlike most off-the-rack shoes and orthotics, your feet are not perfect mirror images of one another. In fact, it’s not that rare to see people with one foot half a size larger than the other.
Beyond that, your feet in general (as well as each foot independently) may vary a little (or a lot) from the “normal” foot shape in terms of foot length, foot width (at the heel, at the midfoot, at the ball, etc.), arch height, metatarsal length, toe length … you get the idea.
No matter how much searching you do, you will never find a prefabricated “orthotic” that fits your feet better than “approximately.” And the greater the degree of difference, the less effective they can be.
And without an examination from a foot and ankle specialist, you might not even get an “approximate” fit, but the wrong prefab for your needs entirely! In the worst-case scenario, they could even make your problem worse.
By contrast, custom orthotics are made to fit your feet with astonishing precision. At Texas Foot & Ankle Center, we use a sophisticated computer scanner to measure each foot independently, including all of its various contours, in a biomechanically efficient position. We’ve been using the system for about 8 years now, so you can feel confident in the process!
Those measurements, along with our additional specification requirements based on your diagnosis, are sent to the lab where your orthotics are fabricated. Then, when you come back to pick them up, we’ll make sure you try them out and make any final modifications that may be necessary.
They Can Do More
As we said, getting a precise, exact fit means you get better results for pain relief—an “approximate” match for your arch and sole dimensions just can’t offer cushioning and support with the same degree of efficiency.
But it’s not simply a matter of degree here, either. Custom orthotics can just flat out do more, in terms of the kinds of problems and conditions they can treat.
With a prefabricated insole, the best you can really hope for is a little bit of cushioning and support. It’s not going to change the position of your foot inside your shoe. It’s not going to address the underlying causes of your pain. It’s just going to give you a little bit of temporary relief—if that.
But custom orthotics are substantially more versatile. They can be customized with different kinds of features and made from a wide variety of materials—from soft, cushioning foam to lightweight, thin, and semi-rigid graphite that flexes with the natural movement of your feet.
Because of this, custom orthotics can actually reposition and realign your feet—and because your feet are your foundation, this will further correct the biomechanics throughout your entire body. This can help you achieve pain relief not only in your feet, but in your knees, hips, and back, too!
Custom orthotics are an effective treatment tool for a wide range of painful diagnoses—much more so than off-the-shelf insoles.
They’re Built to Last
Your standard off-the-rack drugstore insole is built to be replaced—frequently.
Typically, the best you can hope for out of a pair is about six to nine months, tops. And that’s for the “high-end” prefabs, with what the manufacturers consider “typical wear and tear.”
But what if you work on your feet all day? What if you run or play sports? What if you’re obese? What if you haven’t selected a “top-of-the-line” model?
In our experience, an estimate of three to six months is more realistic for most people. Which means you’ll be buying new pairs 2-4 times per year.
On the flipside, a good set of custom orthotics that you take good care of can last you for years. Generally speaking, we’ll check in on them every year or so to make sure they’re still fitting you correctly and providing the biomechanical correction you need.
Often during these appointments, we’re able to make minor tweaks and adjustments to your orthotics, or even refurbish them if necessary, so you can continue to use them instead of having to get a new set.
They Might Even Save You Money
On the surface, the biggest downside to custom orthotics is the “sticker price.”
Now, that being said, they’re a lot less expensive than you might think, and often covered by insurance. But we also understand why someone might be tempted by that pair of “custom-fit arch supports” with snazzy box art for $20 at Wal-Mart.
But that’s only looking at part of the “cost” of prefabricated orthotics.
For starters, as we said, prefabricated orthotics will need to be replaced a lot more frequently. If you’re buying 4 pairs per year, that adds up.
But there may be other hidden costs. If you aren’t getting the performance you require from your prefabs, you might end up spending more time at the doctor’s office to deal with your chronic pain. Over time, you might exercise less (since it’s more difficult and painful), which can lead to a greater risk of expensive chronic conditions and diseases.
As with many other things, getting the right treatment right away can have lifelong benefits—physical, mental, and even financial.
Head to Texas Foot & Ankle Center for the Foot Care You Need
Now that you know a little bit more about the value of custom orthotics—and how they can help—we hope you’ll consider a visit to Texas Foot & Ankle Center if you’re currently dealing with painful feet or ankles.
Custom orthotics aren’t always the answer, of course. But in addition to being one of the best around for custom orthotics, we also provide a comprehensive range of advanced treatments for all kinds of foot and ankle conditions. We promise to give you the personalized care and attention you deserve!
To schedule an appointment with us, please call (214) 660-0777 today or fill out our handy request form online.
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1151 N. Buckner Boulevard, Suite 201
Dallas, TX 75218
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