In the last few posts, we have discussed what custom orthotics are, who may need them, and how they are constructed. Here we will look at the cost of prescription insoles.
Custom Orthotics Are Expensive
Prescription devices can run from $200 to $600. And insurance often doesn’t cover them. These devices can last for years, however. Even if the cover wears out, you can get them re-fabricated for around $50. If the plastic or hard materials are bending, however, it is time to get new orthotics.
What Are You Paying for in a Custom Orthotic?
The manufacturing cost of custom orthotics (including materials) is normally $100 or less. So where does the hefty price tag come from?
- Examination – Remember, the podiatrist is doing a thorough analysis of your lower extremities, gait, and lifestyle. This can include X-Rays or other tests.
- Casting – A podiatrist should be taking a non-weightbearing cast of your feet.
- Mark-up – Feet, after all, are still a business.
As the podiatrist Dr. Robert Eckles of Manhattan contends, “It's hard to see the value in the plastic.” But he reminds us that we’re “paying for a comprehensive diagnosis of present and future problems,” and not simply the orthotic itself.
It is helpful to ask your podiatrist to break the cost down for you, so you can understand the exact cost of each element. Be wary if the price of the orthotic is high, and your podiatrist isn’t thoroughly examining your feet or even taking a cast.
Some Physicians Aren’t Convinced Custom Orthotics Are Worth the Cost
While podiatrists often promote the need for custom orthotics, some sports medicine doctors aren’t convinced they are worth the cost. Dr. William O. Roberts, a sports medicine physician in St. Paul, Minnesota argues that “If your main business is feet, and part of your income is prescribing orthotics, then you might prescribe them 90, 100 percent of the time. It’s a financial issue, and I don’t think there's a huge need for custom orthotics.”
Orthopedic surgeons often agree with this line of thinking. Dr. John G. Kennedy, an orthopedic surgeon in Manhattan argues that “There is a big problem with orthotics out there and people are not aware of it. The number of orthotics that I see prescribed in this city is far greater than is warranted by the number of pathological reasons.”
One factor in this difference of opinion between medical doctors (MD) and podiatrists (Doctors of Podiatric Medicine, DPM) is their training.
- Physicians attend school for four years where they learn many general concepts before doing three years of highly-specialized residency.
- Podiatrists go to four years of school, learning specifically about the foot and ankle before doing one more year of podiatric residency. While this can make them experts at anything foot- and ankle-related, they might miss other larger structural problems that a sports medicine or orthopedic physician will consider. Nevertheless, a good podiatrist will consider the overall picture before prescribing custom orthotics.
Tread Labs: Top Quality at a Fraction of the Cost
Scientific research has not proven that prescription orthotics are better than over-the-counter insoles like Tread Labs for the majority of the population. Made with the same materials and designed like most custom orthotics and coming in at $75, our insoles might prove the better option for your feet—and your wallet.