There are typically two choices when it comes to shoe inserts (also called insoles or orthotics): prefabricated, over-the-counter insoles and custom orthotics. Most podiatrists will have both options available for their patients. Here's the skinny on what makes them different and which is better.

Different options of shoe insertsAre Custom Orthotics Better Than Over-The-Counter Inserts?

The truth is that both devices serve a specific purpose and can benefit different patients. At the end of the day, the best way to make an informed decision is to know the facts. Additionally, you should consider your unique condition and use your foot and ankle specialist as a tool to help you do so. We are here to help you get better in a way that suits your lifestyle, budget, and goals. 

Pros and Cons of Custom Orthotics

Custom orthotics are just that: uniquely crafted insoles that are made specifically for your anatomy. Your podiatrist will take a cast of your feet (in just the proper position), and a specialized lab will use this perfect mold to create a pair of orthotics just for you. With the help of your provider and a little time, you'll follow specific break-in instructions to become accustomed to the devices. We recommend custom orthotics for chronic or occasional heel pain; diagnoses of plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and posterior tibial tendinitis; gait abnormalities; leg-length discrepancies; and other foot deformities.

Pros of Custom Orthotics

Here are a few things we think are pretty cool about custom orthotics:

  • They last between 3 and 5 years.
  • They are billable through your insurance, pending a coverage check (which our office staff will take care of for you!).
  • Since they're molded specifically for your feet, you won't find a more perfect fit. 
  • After you receive them, your podiatrist can make additional adjustments to make them even more effective.

Cons of Custom Orthotics

If you're interested in orthotics, here are a few things to take into account:

  • The cost without insurance is around $500, and some insurance won't cover them (here's some more info on the cost of custom orthotics).
  • Most insurance companies that cover orthotics only allow one pair every few years, so if your feet are still growing (or your little ones' feet), you may need to pay out of pocket when the orthotics no longer fit. 
  • There is a break-in period when you get a pair of custom orthotics lasting anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks. 
  • Your weight is considered when we create the orthotics, so if you gain or lose a significant amount, they may need to be replaced.

Pros and Cons of Prefabricated or Over-The-Counter InsolesPure stride orthotics

Prefabricated orthotics, also known as over-the-counter insoles, come pre-made and are fitted based on your shoe size. Since shoe sizes vary across different brands, we will try a few sizes to ensure you get the most accurate fit. We carry Pure Stride Rx Insoles, which have been podiatrist-approved. We recommend prefabricated inserts for those who spend a lot of time on their feet to prevent heel pain from emerging; anyone with mild or moderate heel pain; and athletes or runners who want to protect their feet.

Pros of Prefabricated Inserts

Over-the-counter insoles might be the right choice for you if you want an insole that:

  • Supports your foot without being too noticeable in your shoes.
  • Offers support at an affordable price of only $40 (we recommend checking with your HSA or FSA to see if you can use those dollars to pay for them).
  • Can be replaced on a budget if your feet or your child's feet change in size. 
  • Is vetted by a professional foot and ankle specialist (Sorry, that means no $15 drugstore inserts. We promise, the gel only feels good for a few days).

Cons of Prefabricated Inserts

While prefabricated inserts aren't necessarily inferior to custom orthotics, here are a few things they lose points on:

  • Over-the-counter orthotics are not of the same quality as customs and often must be replaced in a year or less.
  • They aren't billable through insurance.
  • They are made to be "one size fits all," which really translates to "one size fits some."
  • Some cases of heel, ankle, or back pain can't be taken care of by prefabricated orthotics alone, and sometimes customs are the better choice depending on your condition.

Whichever You Choose...

Hey, we see you. We see you reading this, trying to make the decision to get help for your heel pain. And we applaud you for it. If there's one thing we believe, it's that you don't have to live with any form of heel pain, as mild or severe as it may be. So no matter which orthotic you choose, we'll be there to guide you through the process and fight for your foot health. So fill out our appointment request form today, and let us help you get rid of heel pain for good.