Your feet are literally the foundations for your body; if you don't take care of them, you can set off a chain reaction up your body from your ankles and legs, into your pelvis, spine and back muscles.
For this reason, making good choices when it comes to your feet is important. But how do you know what are the right products for your feet? One question we're frequently asked is- do I need custom orthotics? Why can't I just buy the cheap ones over the counter?
Let's unpack this in a little detail.
What are the main differences between over-the-counter orthotics and custom-made ones?
The most obvious difference is that custom made ones are just that - they are created based on a cast of your feet and will therefore fit your feet perfectly. Being custom made they are more expensive to produce. Over the counter products are generally a one-size-fits-all affair which means you'll need to trim the orthotic to fit the size of your foot and they won't necessarily fit the shape of your foot. This product is obviously much cheaper because it is mass-produced.
Why is it important for orthotics to fit your feet exactly?
Orthotics need to be custom-made because every foot is unique. Custom made orthotics are designed to cushion and support your feet in the exact places required to give you the best outcomes. Your custom orthotics will only be prescribed by your podiatrist after a thorough examination of your feet and gait. The orthotics can help redistribute weight across your foot and change the way you walk, thus relieving stress.
Buying cheap orthotics on the other hand, is more of a shot in the dark. They may help you but they may also make your feet worse because they are not specifically designed for your feet. They also might not do anything at all to address biomechanical problems or foot pressure problems because they aren't targeting the right part of your foot.
If your custom made orthotics cause you unexpected or ongoing pain you can return to your podiatrist for advice and for refinement of the product if required. However, if you have problems with your cheap orthotics, you have no such recourse and, no guidance as to what else may work.
Disadvantages of cheap orthotics
- Cheap orthotics are often made from inexpensive materials like rubber or silicon and they generally won't last very long. Custom-made orthotics in contrast are made from a wider variety of materials (like cork, leather, carbon fibre or rigid plastic) which are designed to last much longer.
- Cheap orthotics aren't designed take individual lifestyle factors into consideration. When you purchase a pair of custom-made orthotics, aspects like your activity levels, whether you favour high or low impact exercises, and the amount of time you spend standing can be taken into account and influence the final design.
- Cheap orthotics will often only fit one pair of shoes (once you've cut them to fit). Custom-made orthotics can be tailored to fit a number of different pairs of shoes.
A word of caution
Custom made orthotics can be expensive. If you're concerned that you're being asked to pay too much, ask a couple of podiatrists for quotes and for a list of the benefits of the types of orthotics they prescribe. If the benefits don't stack up compared to the price, take your business elsewhere.
Not everyone needs orthotics. Contact us today to talk about your foot problems before self-treating with over-the-counter products.