Custom Orthotics vs OTC (Over-the-Counter) Insoles
“What are the main differences between custom orthotics and over the counter insoles?” and “Which ones are best for me?”
If these questions sound familiar, read on.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Insoles
There are a variety of OTC insoles sold commercially at pharmacies, retail stores, and sports equipment and running stores. These are mass produced and can come in differing levels of support.
- Easily accessible and can be bought on the spot
- Can help with mild foot conditions
- Can be a temporary option and thus a good option for growing children, or as a ‘first step’ solution to see if custom orthotics will help
- Generic and do not fit all foot types
- Not supportive enough for more significant conditions
- Lifespan of 6 months to 1 year, depending on usage
As OTC insoles come with varying arches and support levels, you want the most suitable insoles for your foot and the type of shoes you wear. Small modifications can also be done to OTC insoles if necessary, such as adding in a metatarsal pad for forefoot pain. However, this does not improve the strength of the insole nor replace custom orthotics.
While you’re looking to get custom orthotics, you usually need an appointment with a foot care specialist, such as a Canadian Certified Pedorthist. Typically, a Pedorthist will do a biomechanical assessment and gait analysis test. Next, they will take a 3D cast of the foot so they can manufacture the custom orthotics. They are made from raw materials, and turnaround time can take at least a week to two depending on the establishment.
- Customized support for the patient’s foot, right and left
- Longer lifespan ranging anywhere from 2-5 years (depending on materials), which can offset the initial greater cost
- More adjustability which allows fine tuning if necessary with follow up appointments
- Stronger materials mean that they can achieve more support if necessary
- This usually takes a couple weeks to make
- More expensive
Over time, your custom orthotics will experience some general wear and tear. Often, you can replace top covers for a fee if the shell is still supportive and appropriate to wear. Top cover durability depends on the actual materials, and also on the activity you wear your orthotics for.
Most extended health benefit programs cover for custom orthotics, not OTC insoles. It is always best to give your insurance a call to get more details on your coverage if you are looking to submit a claim. You may also require a doctor’s prescription to submit a claim.