Custom orthotics are among the flat-out most effective tools we have for long-term treatment of chronic conditions like heel pain, flat feet, diabetic wounds, and many more. There’s a reason we prescribe them often to our patients!
That said, we understand you may have many questions about custom orthotics. What are they? Do they really work? Are they going to fit my shoes—or my lifestyle?
We tackle these questions (and more) below. But of course, if you have any burning questions about orthotics that you don’t see answered here, be sure to reach out! We’re happy to fill you in at your next appointment with us.
What Are Custom Orthotics?
Custom orthotics are specialized inserts that you put into your shoes, taking the place of the original insoles. Unlike default shoe insoles or even prefabricated arch supports you can buy at the pharmacy, custom orthotics are made to spec to fit your exact foot shape and meet your biomechanical needs.
Our office prescribes Go 4-D orthotics, an advanced new orthotics technology that uses the latest biomechanical science, digital scanning, pressure sensing, and 3D printing to make, in our opinion, the highest quality and most precise orthotics currently available.
Why Would I Need Custom Orthotics?
The short answer is that a wide variety of foot and ankle problems can be traced, at least in part, to faults in your underlying foot structure or gait mechanics. Take a foot that isn’t quite as good at distributing weight and pressure as it should be, combine that with hard and flat surfaces everywhere and the pace of modern life, and all sorts of problems can result.
Orthotics provide a simple, cost-effective, and non-invasive way to solve that problem. The right pair of orthotics can give your feet the extra support, cushioning, and stability they need to do their jobs correctly. Think of them like wearing prescription glasses or contacts, but for your feet.
What’s the Difference Between Custom Orthotics and Over-the-Counter Arch Supports?
To continue the previous analogy: over-the-counter insoles you can get at the pharmacy are kind of like a pair of off-the-rack reading glasses, whereas custom orthotics are more like prescription glasses.
Store-bought insoles offer generic support and cushioning and are designed to be “adequate” for people with relatively mild pain and relatively normal foot shapes. Custom orthotics are precisely tailored to the specific needs of an individual, and as a result can treat a much wider range of foot problems with superior results.
That’s not to say that OTC arch supports are useless! We carry a selection of high quality, medical-grade, prefabricated arch supports and are happy to distribute them if we feel that they will be sufficient for your needs.
What Makes Go 4-D Custom Orthotics Better Than Other Custom Orthotics?
There are many reasons why Go 4-D is widely and rightly considered to be the next evolution in orthotics technology. Here are some of the major ones:
- They incorporate the latest biomechanical research. Older orthotics technologies are often still based on decades-old understandings of biomechanics. Go 4-D is cutting edge.
- They’re more precise. Digital scanning, pressure sensing, and 3D printing allow unprecedented levels of precision and specificity. Older orthotics were fit from a plaster cast or foam impression (which required the foot to be in a specific position for best results) and made from pre-cut materials. Simply put, the Go 4-D system not only gives us better data to work with from the start, but also allows us to turn that data into a finished product with essentially perfect accuracy.
- They’re more comfortable and adaptable. The 3D printed “lattice” structure allows Go 4-D orthotics to offer the exact comfort, cushioning, and support you need while minimizing weight and bulk.
The bottom line? Go 4-D orthotics work better, they feel better, and they require fewer adjustments or follow-up appointments (for most people, none) because they are far more likely to already be exactly what you need right out of the box.
What Shoes Are Compatible?
Go 4-D orthotics are designed to be highly compatible with a wide variety of shoe styles, including casual shoes, athletic shoes, diabetic shoes, and even sport-specific shoes.
Compared to most traditional custom orthotics, Go 4-D orthotics are particularly thin, lightweight, and flexible without compromising support, so they not only fit in a lot of shoes, but they also are comfortable to wear for even high-intensity activity. They don’t feel bulky or awkward.
That said, when we distribute your orthotics, it’s a good idea to bring along a few pairs of your most commonly used shoes so we can test the fit in all of them.
You also might consider ordering one or more extra pairs of orthotics in order to optimize each set for specific activities. Go 4-D offers styles of orthotics specifically for dress shoes, for example, as well as sports like running, soccer, cycling, golf, and skiing.
How Do I Break Them In?
Go 4-D orthotics, on average, require a much shorter break-in period than previous types of custom orthotics.
However, it may still take your feet and legs a few days to a few weeks to get fully accustomed to wearing your orthotics full time. That’s because custom orthotics are “resetting” your lower body biomechanics, and your feet and muscles are being used and stressed in slightly different ways than they are used to.
(In other words, it’s not really the orthotics that are breaking in. It’s your body!)
When we distribute your orthotics, we’ll provide detailed break-in recommendations. Typically, you’ll start out wearing your orthotics for only a couple of hours per day, then gradually increase that day by day until you’re wearing your new orthotics full time, usually by around the 2-week mark. We may also recommend that you not exercise while wearing your new orthotics for the first couple of weeks.
Are They Covered By Insurance?
In most cases, the answer is yes!
If you have Medicare, orthotics that have been determined medically necessary by your healthcare provider (i.e., us) are generally covered at 80% after you’ve met your deductible.
Most private insurance carriers also offer some level of coverage, typically covering a new set at least once every 3 years, although of course this varies from plan to plan.
We are happy to answer any specific coverage-related questions you may have.
How Long Do Orthotics Last?
On average, you can expect a single pair of Go 4-D custom orthotics to last you about 3-5 years of regular use before they need to be replaced.
That said, this is just an average, and there are a number of factors that could influence the lifespan of your orthotics, including:
- How many pairs you own. If you have multiple pairs and rotate them regularly, the lifespan of each pair will naturally increase.
- How heavily you use them. People who have more athletic jobs or hobbies may wear out their orthotics slightly faster, along with patients who are overweight. (That said, these people also usually have more to gain from wearing their orthotics!)
- Whether you experience any significant lifestyle changes. Gaining or losing a lot of weight, surgeries, pregnancy, and other factors can alter the way you walk significantly enough that getting new orthotics would be appropriate.
If at any point you feel like your orthotics aren’t providing you with the same level of support and symptom relief that they used to, give us a call. We also encourage you to schedule a checkup appointment and get a new pair as often as your insurance allows, even if your current orthotics are still working great. More pairs are always better!
I’m Interested. Where Can I Learn More?
For more information about orthotics in general (and Go 4-D orthotics in particular), you can check out our detailed orthotics service page. And if you’re ready to take the next step toward relieving any current foot or ankle problems you may be experiencing—whether custom orthotics are the answer or not—give us a call at (269) 373-1019, or request an appointment online.
We look forward to serving you!