One of the most common questions I am asked when people are thinking about orthotics is;
Should I invest in custom-made ones or are off-the-shelf ones good enough?
In this blog we will run through the pros and cons of custom made and off the shelf generic orthotics, and how you can choose the right one for you.
The main differences come down to quality of the materials used to make them. This affects the lifespan of a product, how customised they are for your individual needs and the price of each insert.
Off-the-shelf orthotics tend to be much cheaper than custom made orthotics, this is because they are a generic insole which has an arch that is designed to help as many people as possible. So, if you are the right fit for this orthotic it may work well for you.
However as it is made to suit many people it may not provide you with the correct shape or support you need. This means it may give you some benefit but not as much as a custom orthotic would.
Off-the-shelf orthotics also seem to be made of materials that are not quite as long lasting as a custom orthotic;
- A TOG gaitscan custom orthotic will last at least 7 to 10 years and has a lifetime guarantee against fitting or cracking.
- A generic off the shelf orthotic will last between 18 months to 2 years best and there are generally no guarantees if it breaks before then.
Custom-made orthotics are tailor-made for your individual needs. They will have an examination process or a scanning process that comes with them which allows your practitioner to get an orthotic that is bespoke to you.
I tell patients to think of it like buying glasses for your eyes. We know there is a vast difference between the glasses you get at the opticians compared to ones that you can buy in a high street shop. Our custom made orthotics are not about generic off the shelf arch support, they are comfortable bespoke shoe inserts specifically designed to your precise foot print. To not only support your arch but to guide your foot through each part of it’s step.
So how do you decide which type of orthotic is correct for you?
When I’m discussing this with my patients we generally break it down into 3 factors;
1) How severe is the pain you are having and how much is it affecting your life?
2) How much you are willing to invest in orthotics?
3) How much you likely to wear them?
One of the main factors is how much pain are you in and how much is it affecting your life? If you are in a lot of pain or maybe in a low level of pain but experiencing it constantly then I would generally recommend the custom-made orthotics. They are likely to work much better for you and be a lot longer lasting than the off-the-shelf ones.
Custom made gaitscan orthotics are designed to help minimise fatigue and increase muscle efficiency which helps to reduce muscle strains and aches and pains.
The initial investment in bespoke insoles is understandably higher than off the shelf orthotics but over their lifespan the custom made orthotics are much better value. A much more individualised and higher quality product, that rather than generic off the shelf arch support, they are bespoke shoe inserts made to your precise footprint.
The only time I generally recommend off the shelf orthotics is when I think people really do not want to invest in a custom made pair. Or if they are borderline as to whether they need orthotics or not and they are not keen to invest in something that is not an absolute necessity for themselves.
I also have patients who are not sure they are going to be happy putting them in their shoes and how they will get used to wearing orthotics. In these cases I generally suggest them to buy off the shelf orthotics and see how they get on.
This often helps to improve people’s confidence of investing in the cost of orthotics. Generally we find that if you had an improvement in whilst wearing off-the-shelf orthotics then you will get more improvement when wearing custom-made orthotics, which also will last you a lot longer.
You also need to be committed to wearing your orthotics everyday.
The more regularly you wear them the better they will work (they are just like glasses in that way). If you think you will never wear them due to your choice of shoe style, or you think changing them from shoe to shoe is something you just won’t do, then you may not want to invest in custom orthotics. Even if they would be good for you, you may want to try the off the shelf ones to get used to wearing them, and then when they come to the end of their natural lifespan you can change to bespoke orthotics.
If you would like to book a free orthotic chat with me then you are welcome to contact me through email on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone on 01635 791 301.
If you have any questions or comments then do let me know, or alternatively post them in the comments below.