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Family Foot Care & Surgery, LLC

The Difference Between Custom Orthotics and Over-the-Counter Inserts

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OrthoticsOver-the-counter insoles are a big business these days. You’ve probably seen dozens of varieties on store shelves, at the pharmacy, or even in TV advertisements, each one making big promises about their “performance gel” or “impact-absorbing air bubble” technology. So, we often get asked the question: do these inserts really work? And what’s the difference between what I can get at the store and a custom orthotic fitted by a podiatrist?

As it turns out, there’s a big difference.

We’re not saying that over-the-counter insoles can’t or won’t work for you, necessarily, but there’s a limit to what they can do and what you can expect from them. Because they are mass-produced, basic inserts are made to support a limited number of average foot shapes and sizes and fit inside fairly standard shoes. And because of the materials they use and the way they are constructed, they can’t be expected to deal with severe pain or biomechanical issues.

What over-the-counter insoles can do is provide a little extra cushioning, support, and stabilization that works best for relatively mild foot pain, on relatively normal feet. If you find that they work for you and provide acceptable pain relief, great! You can even bring them in to us, and we may be able to make a few adjustments or ensure that you’re wearing them properly.

By contrast, custom orthotics can provide far superior treatment for more serious foot pain, or even control abnormal walking motion, because they are designed by a foot expert to fit your feet exactly and because they can be made in a wider variety of shapes and in a wider variety of high-quality materials.

Custom orthotics are, of course, more expensive up front than insoles you can buy off the rack. However, this is mitigated by some important factors. First, custom orthotics are built to last, and with care and occasional maintenance can provide years of pain relief. Second, some insurance providers provide at least partial coverage for the cost of orthotics, making them even more affordable over the long term.

If stubborn foot pain is keeping you from enjoying the activities you used to love, custom orthotics may be the answer. In fact, since feet are so foundational, the right pair of orthotics can even solve lingering pain in knees, hips, and back, too! To learn more or to schedule your appointment with Dr. Sanjay Patel in Milford or Hamden, CT, please call our office today at (203) 876-7736.
Dr. Sanjay V. Patel
Dr. Patel has over 20 years of experience in the field of podiatric medicine and podiatric surgery.
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