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Custom Orthotics Versus OTC Inserts: Making an Informed Choice

Comparing the Benefits of Custom Orthotics to Retail Alternatives

Foot comfort and support are vital for overall comfort and well-being. Think back to a time when you had to walk in shoes that weren’t the right fit or lacked support. Ill-fitting footwear can make something as simple as grocery shopping nearly unbearable.

For those who have foot conditions like high arches or flat feet, the issues of pain and discomfort can be exponentially worse. Chronic medical conditions that affect the feet can make finding the right footwear a challenge. Fortunately, custom orthotics and over-the-counter shoe inserts (aka OTC inserts) address this problem, although in different ways.

In this blog, we will address the important task of choosing between custom orthotics and OTC inserts, breaking down the pros and cons of each.

Custom Orthotics vs. OTC Inserts – What Is a Customized Fit?

Custom orthotics and OTC inserts are both designed to provide relief and support to those who have foot deformities or medical conditions that cause foot pain and balance issues. However, there’s one big differentiating factor: their fit.

Think of OTC inserts like a suit or gown that you buy off the rack. It’s an approximate fit, but it may hug too tight or too loosely in certain areas. By comparison, custom orthotics are like a suit or gown that’s been tailored to your specific figure and body contours. Every aspect has been customized specifically for you.

Keeping that in mind, there are some significant differences in the benefits that OTC inserts provide compared to custom orthotics due to the fit and customization aspects. We’ll examine both, starting with OTC inserts.

OTC Insert Pros

  • Affordability and availability: OTC shoe inserts are readily available at a lower cost than custom orthotics. You can find them at practically any drug store or pharmacy for $20 or less.
  • Convenience: OTC inserts can be purchased without a prescription or professional consultation. You can even buy them online and have them shipped to your home overnight.
  • Variety: OTC inserts come in various styles and sizes, allowing you to choose one that suits your needs, whether it’s for arch support, cushioning, alignment, or athletics.

OTC Insert Cons

  • Lack of customization: OTC inserts are not customized to your feet, so they may not address your specific foot issues effectively or provide full pain relief. They provide general support, but wearers usually notice problematic nuances in how they fit that are hard to ignore.
  • Limited effectiveness: OTC inserts are a one-size-fits-all solution. While they can provide some support and pain relief, they will never deliver the precise support required for chronic or severe foot conditions.
  • Short-term solution: OTC inserts offer temporary relief but usually fail to address the underlying issue. Additionally, they are more prone to wear and degraded performance, so you’ll likely need to replace them sooner than you’d expect.

Custom Orthotics Pros

  • A perfectly tailored fit: Custom orthotics are individually crafted to match your unique foot shape and specific medical conditions, such as flat feet, high arches, or pronation problems. These customized orthotic solutions can alleviate pain, accommodate foot deformities, and improve overall foot function. This personalized approach ensures optimal support and comfort that OTC inserts simply cannot match.
  • Medical expertise: A certified orthotist typically designs custom orthotics. Orthotists understand the range of medical conditions that affect the feet and how orthotics can help relieve them.
  • Long-term benefits: Custom orthotics is an investment in your long-term foot health. They can help prevent or manage chronic conditions, potentially reducing the risk of future complications.

Custom Orthotics Cons

  • Cost: Custom orthotics are more expensive than OTC inserts. However, it’s worth noting that the many benefits of custom orthotics make them a worthwhile investment for those who have medical conditions that cause them pain, discomfort, or mobility issues. Further, many health insurance plans cover custom orthotic solutions.
  • Turnaround time: The process of getting custom orthotics involves consultations with a certified orthotist followed by a fitting and design process to create the orthotic solutions. Depending on your orthotist, the entire process from consultation to getting the final product can take up to three to four weeks.

Which Option Is Right for You?

The choice between custom orthotics and OTC inserts predominantly depends on your individual needs, what medical conditions you have, and budget. If you simply need some additional cushion or support in your shoes, an OTC insert may be able to get the job done.

However, if you have a chronic medical condition that affects your feet, custom orthotics are the only way to effectively address the issue. Granted, you will pay more and the turnaround time is longer, but that’s a small price to pay for long-term comfort and relief. Additionally, custom orthotics help prevent foot conditions from getting worse, thereby saving you visits to your healthcare provider in the future.

Ultimately, the decision should be made in consultation with a podiatrist or certified orthotist who can assess your foot health and recommend the most suitable option for your specific condition and lifestyle.

Those who wish to get fitted for custom orthotics in Kansas City should contact Cotton Orthotic and Prosthetic Associates. With over 25 years of industry experience, Dan Cotton is happy to walk you through the many benefits of custom orthotics and how the fitting and design process works.

To arrange a consultation, call us at (913) 338-2672 or use our contact form to send us an email.

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