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Person placing their foot on an orthotic mold

Custom Orthotics and Shoe Inserts: Which One Is Right for You?

Custom orthotics and shoe inserts (i.e.: over-the-counter insoles) have a lot in common. Both inserts provide support and cushioning to your feet and aim to correct the biomechanics that can lead to certain foot conditions. Custom orthotics and over-the-counter shoe inserts also have their differences. So, how do you know which one is best?

Well, the most appropriate option depends on your specific feet, the foot condition, the issue you’re trying to correct, and more. This article discusses the differences between custom orthotics and shoe inserts to help you choose the best option.

What are custom orthotics?

Variety of orthotics in a circle

Custom orthotics are shoe inserts designed to fit you. The personalized fit comes from a mould of your foot, meaning the orthotic matches the foot’s unique size and shape. Custom orthotics aim to address structural issues like flat feet or high arches, which, if left untreated, can cause a wide range of foot and lower limb conditions. 

There are four stages to getting orthotics:

  1. The orthotic assessment
  2. Casting
  3. Fitting
  4. Repairs

What are Over-the-Counter Shoe Inserts?

Superfeet insole

Over-the-counter shoe inserts (or off-the-shelf insoles) are pre-made insoles for your footwear which add cushioning and support. Shoe inserts are available in various materials, including foam, gel, and cork. They can relieve foot pain caused by plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, and metatarsalgia. The critical difference with shoe inserts is they are pre-fabricated and sold as-is. One of the most common brands of over-the-counter shoe inserts is Superfeet.

Which one is right for you? Custom orthotics vs. over-the-counter shoe inserts

Foot specialist measuring person's foot on an orthotic

The choice between custom orthotics and over-the-counter shoe inserts comes down to your specific needs and the nature of your foot or lower limb condition.

The case for off-the-shelf shoe inserts

If you have a mild foot condition, such as flat feet or plantar fasciitis, over-the-counter shoe inserts may provide sufficient support and cushioning to alleviate your symptoms. They are also a more affordable option compared to custom orthotics. If you prefer multiple pairs of shoe inserts, for instance, for your hiking boots, skates, or ski boots, shoe inserts may be a better option as they are more disposable. Shoe inserts can also be beneficial for lower-impact activities like walking as they provide additional support to your feet.

The case for custom orthotics

If you have more severe foot or lower limb conditions, such as severe flat feet, bunions, or diabetic foot conditions, custom orthotics may be the better option. They provide a higher level of customization and support and can address the specific needs of your feet to help alleviate pain, improve gait, and prevent further damage. Custom orthotics can also be beneficial for higher-impact activities like long-distance running.

Do you still have questions about shoe inserts and orthotics? Talk to a chiropodist

Consult a chiropodist to determine if shoe inserts or custom orthotics are best for your situation. The foot experts at Feet First Clinic offer a biomechanical assessment as part of the orthotics process to determine whether they fit you.

Book your appointment online. Our simple-to-use online booking process makes booking an appointment with a chiropodist for any of our services easy. No referral is needed! 

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Carolina Charles

Patient Relation Coordinator (She/Her)

If you’ve been to the clinic before, chances are you had the pleasure of meeting Carolina! Carolina’s daily goal is going above and beyond to make sure patients are always completely satisfied. Having worked in the podiatry industry for 22 years, Carolina brings a wealth of knowledge pertaining to client service, insurance policies, and procedures.​ She steers the ship to make sure everything runs smoothly on the daily. Carolina is known for spicing up every outfit with her signature costume jewellery.