When it comes to addressing the root causes of foot and ankle pain—and in many cases, knee, hip, and lower back pain as well—a good set of custom orthotics can make a world of difference.
A lot of painful conditions are ultimately the result of feet that can’t handle the wear and tear of daily life, or are out of biomechanical alignment in some way. Muscles, connective tissues, and joints throughout the feet, ankles, and beyond are forced to deal with excess strain, which leads to pain. Rebalancing and restoring alignment to the feet using the right pair of inserts, then, can put everything back into place and alleviate the source of the discomfort.
But here’s the thing: not all orthotics are created equal. Since it’s easy enough to go to the pharmacy and buy a cheap pair of “arch supports” or “orthotic inserts” for $30 or less, you might wonder whether it’s really worth it to choose a custom solution instead.
The answer, as it turns out, does depend on your individual circumstances. But in most cases, the answer is yes. Here are a few of the main reasons why.
Custom Orthotics Get Better Results
Consider the difference between a pair of generic reading glasses, purchased at a pharmacy or department store, versus a pair of prescription glasses or contacts.
A pair of reading glasses may help your vision somewhat for certain tasks, but they almost certainly won’t be nearly as effective overall as a pair of prescription eyeglasses. The latter are prescribed by an expert who has taken careful measurements, can have varying strengths in each lens, and are generally made from higher quality materials.
The same sort of thing is going on with prefabricated arch supports vs custom orthotics. If you have mild foot pain, the extra cushioning and support of a generic insole may provide some modest, temporary relief. But because custom orthotics are made specifically and exclusively for you, they can work much better and do much more—especially if your pain or foot misalignments are more severe.
This is especially true now that we’ve introduced the state-of-the-art Go 4-D orthotics system to our practice! Rather than conventional foam molds and pre-cut materials, our new process uses high-definition digital scanning, gait sensing, and 3D printing technology to make custom orthotics with greater precision, flexibility, and customizability than ever before. It’s the new gold standard, and we’re thrilled to offer it to our patients.
Custom Orthotics Can Do More
Because they are more versatile, more customizable, and prescribed directly by a podiatric physician, custom orthotics are applicable in a wider variety of situations than prefabricated arch supports.
Basic over-the-counter insoles are not truly meant to treat specific, diagnosed medical conditions. Their job is merely to provide a little extra cushioning and support to the feet, and distribute forces a little more evenly. This may reduce wear and tear and help you feel a bit better, but it likely won’t accommodate a specific gait abnormality or foot deformity to the full extent that you would prefer.
Custom orthotics are a far superior choice in situations where there’s a more severe structural deformity or gait problem, and can be designed to counteract abnormal motion with greater success.
Custom Orthotics Are Built to Last
Shoe inserts withstand a ton of abuse. After all, you stand and walk on them all day, every day.
So do you really think a cheap pair of insoles is going to last particularly long? Consider that most pairs of shoes don’t last more than 8-12 months, and the generic insoles that they ship with often start looking (and feeling) flat and compressed long before that.
The truth is that even the “high end” over-the-counter inserts typically don’t make it much past the 6-month mark. Getting them to a year would be almost a miracle, especially if you wear them every day. And the cheapest ones off the shelf might give you 3 months or less.
By contrast, a pair of Go 4-D custom orthotics is expected to provide 3 to 5 years of effective support on average. Superior materials and a better fit make all the difference. Not only are you getting better results, but for a much longer period of time!
Custom Orthotics Can Save You A Lot of Time and Money in the Long Run
We’re not just talking about the cost of inserts here, although that’s a factor.
While custom orthotics are undeniably costlier upfront, as we mentioned earlier, they typically last much longer before they need to be replaced. Your insurance may also offset some of the costs, another nice benefit. So it’s possible (although not guaranteed) that, just on the cost of inserts alone, you’re better off going with custom.
But there’s more to consider here. Simply put, getting the job done right the first time can pay off in big ways down the line.
If you’ve ever dealt with foot pain before (and if you’re reading this blog post, chances are high that you have), you know that when your feet stop working properly, you stop working properly. It’s hard to find the motivation to exercise, play, or really do anything besides crash on the couch when each step causes you agony.
The cost of that pain can manifest in other ways—like more frequent trips to the doctor, or a greater risk of developing chronic medical conditions later in life.
But if you get the right pair of orthotics at the outset, and they allow you to return to a fully active lifestyle without restriction, you’ll not only feel better and be happier, but you may end up saving money, too.
So Are Custom Orthotics ALWAYS the Right Choice?
Not necessarily! At our practice, we do often supply our patients with over-the-counter inserts, even though we have the far superior Go 4-D system available as well.
Why? Well, again, let’s go back to those reading glasses. If your vision really isn’t too far off from 20/20, and there’s not a huge discrepancy between your left and right eye, a pair of readers for certain tasks might be all you really need to feel like you’re living life to the fullest.
Likewise, if your foot discomfort is relatively mild and there don’t appear to be any significant deformities, maybe a little extra cushioning and support is all you need. At the very least, we may distribute a pair to you and give you a few months to figure out if they work.
But here’s the thing to keep in mind. Even if prefabricated orthotics are all you need, you should still come to us first. Trying to pick out arch supports on your own at the supermarket is very likely to end in disappointment. Your chances of getting a good result are much higher when you begin with an expert evaluation. Let us help you get the right pair the first time!
Ready to begin that process? We hope so! Just give our office a call at (269) 373-1019, or use the form at the bottom of this page to request an appointment today!