Custom Fit Insoles - Custom Orthotics Vs Store Bought Comfort

by Cassia Roth May 30, 2018


Custom orthotics and after-market insoles

In the last several posts, we have explored what custom orthotics are, how they are made, and their costs. In the final part of this series, we will consider the difference between custom and over-the-counter insoles. Is there really a difference between custom orthotics and after-market insoles in comfort and support?

The Difference Between Custom Orthotics and Over-the-Counter Insoles

The key difference between custom (or prescription) orthotics and over-the-counter (or aftermarket) insoles is that custom orthotics are fitted to your individual foot while over-the-counter insoles come in generic molds.

    • Custom Orthotics – These are insoles that have been prescribed by your doctor (often a podiatrist, sports medicine physician, or orthopedic surgeon). They are built for your specific foot and gait. To do so, your physician or podiatrist needs to undergo a thorough examination of your feet and stride and take a non-weightbearing cast of your foot.
    • Over-the-counter inserts - As we have outlined elsewhere, the category of over-the-counter insoles includes a variety of different products like arch supports, insoles, heel liners, and foot cushions.


    Who Needs Prescription Orthotics?

    While research has proven that insoles help treat and prevent leg, foot, and other lower-extremity injuries, scientists have not found a significant difference between pre-fabricated versus custom orthotics. In other words, for most people, after-market insoles like Tread Labs work just as well as prescription orthotics – at a fraction of the price. In fact, many podiatrists believe prescription orthotics should be a last resort.

    That being said, there are specific groups of people who will need prescription orthotics. These include:

    1. Diabetics – Diabetics are at a higher risk of foot ulcers and infections due to poor circulation. They will benefit from prescription, accommodative orthotics.
    2. High-performance athletes – Running 100 miles a week requires structure and support – and custom fit.
    3. People with serious biomechanical issues and reoccurring injuries – If over-the-counter versions don’t help with your injuries or pain, prescription orthotics may be a good option. However, you also need to rule out other causes of foot pain such as tight muscles and improper footwear. Seeing both a podiatrist and a physical therapist can help you determine the true cause of lower-extremity pain.

    If you don't fall into these three categories, after-market insoles might be a better option.

    How to Choose Over-the-Counter Insoles

    The most important thing to consider is that not all after-market inserts are made alike. Their quality and effectiveness varies greatly. Here are some of the choices out there:

      • Flat, cushioned insoles –The basic cushioned insoles you find at the drugstore may be cheap, but they lack any structure and they won't provide the needed support.
      • Heat-moldable insoles and stomp-boxes – These “do-it-at-home” models seem to provide a custom fit for your feet. Remember, however, that because these inserts take weightbearing casts of your feet, they build the biomechanical issues you are trying to correct into the very structure of the insert supposed to correct it. Moreover, if the materials are soft enough to heat, they are not going to provide the firm structure your feet need.
      • Structured insoles – Brands like Superfeet or the new electronically-fitted Dr. Scholls line provide more structured inserts with deep heel cups and arch support. But neither brand provides sizing options that accommodate every foot. That's where Tread Labs comes in.

        Tread Labs Works Like a Custom Orthotic – At a Quarter of the Price

        Why do we think our structured insoles stand above their competitors? Here’s why Tread Labs is your best option for after-market insoles.

          • Our insoles have medical-grade arch supports that provide even more comfort than soft, disposable insoles. This support controls overpronation and prevents and relieves plantar fasciitis.
            • They come in 4 different arch heights that guarantee a precise fit. Because of this wide range in sizes, you can get a custom fit without going to the podiatrist.
              • Our arch supports are guaranteed forever. The top covers can be easily replaced at $15, free shipping.
                • We have a 30-day fit guarantee. If you’re not satisfied within the month, we’ll issue a full refund.

                  At $75, our Stride insole uses the same materials as custom orthotics, provides the same structured support, and lasts a lot longer than other over-the-counter versions – and just as long as the ones your podiatrist prescribes. In fact, the arch support is guaranteed for life. It’s like getting a prescription insole for a quarter of the price.

                  We want to know what you think. Have our insoles proven as good as – or better – than custom orthotics?

                   Custom Orthotics Shoe Inserts

                  Custom Orthotics, Shoe Inserts or Insoles? - A Helpful Analogy

                  Nearly everyone can benefit from arch supports of some kind. But with a variety of products on the market, it can be difficult to know what type of arch support you need. Are you a good candidate for custom orthotics, shoe inserts, or insoles? How do you know?

                  Think about arch supports, feet, and walking the way you think about eyeglasses, eyes, and seeing. Most people (especially as they get older) benefit from some kind of corrective lenses to improve vision. In the same way, most people benefit from arch supports to optimize their stride.

                  Shoe Inserts

                  Depending on your eyesight, you might need a specific prescription or a simple pair of generic reading glasses found at the drugstore. Generic reading glasses are similar to shoe inserts that don't have much variety in sizing and fit.

                  Shoe Insoles

                  If you require more than drugstore reading glasses, you will need an eye exam, after which you get a prescription for lenses. The prescription is written in a detailed scale because added precision enables better sight.

                  Like with glasses, having precision sizing with insoles enables a higher level of support and better biomechanics. For many people, an eye exam and simple prescription is enough, much like after-market insoles with precision sizing works for most people in relation to arch support.

                  Custom Orthotics

                  Let's continue the analogy between vision and forward motion. Sometimes, a prescription for lenses gets very complicated. It may have a basic correction for distance vision, a correction for astigmatism, and a correction for reading.

                  A complicated diagnosis for your feet might point towards a custom foot orthotic, which is an insert for your footwear that is made especially for you based on the exact needs of your feet. It would be smart to seek out this kind of custom orthotic if you weren't achieving comfort and performance in footwear using simpler methods. 

                  Tread Labs Can Help

                  If you feel that you need a complete custom solution, give us a call (781) 435-0662. We may be able to help you find a good provider, or at least give you the tools to evaluate the options.

                  If your needs are less complicated, Tread Labs provides excellent foot support for most people. High arches or flat feet, we have insoles to support your active lifestyle.

                  FIND YOUR FIT

                  Cassia Roth
                  Cassia Roth

                  10 Responses

                  Dan, Tread Labs
                  Dan, Tread Labs

                  June 08, 2018

                  Hi Rosanne,
                  Our High arch supports offer an arch height of 20 millimeters. The Extra High offers 23mm.
                  The length of the orthotic depends on the size. For instance a 7-8.5 would offer an orthotic (heel to ball of the foot) 148mm long. A 9-10.5 would offer a length of 158mm.
                  The top covers are made of an open cell polyurathane foam, and have a low friction, anti-bacterial nylon material on top.
                  Please let me know if you have any other questions. I can be reached at 781-435-0662.

                  Heather Hughes
                  Heather Hughes

                  June 06, 2018

                  I have size 5 (7 US) feet and a high arch, which type of inserts do you recommend please?

                  Rosanne Johnston
                  Rosanne Johnston

                  June 06, 2018

                  What is the height of the arch in your high arch insole and very high arch? How long is the shell of the orthotic from the heel to the first metatarsal head area? What is the top cover made of? I have sensitive skin on my feet as well as sensitive metatarsal head bones so my feet need cushion and not a lot of friction/texture on the top cover.


                  March 18, 2018

                  I have MS mad neuropathy from my MS. Would your insoles help my pain?

                  Dan LeFleur
                  Dan LeFleur

                  July 21, 2017

                  Hi Patricia,
                  Thanks for reaching out to us.
                  An easy method to determine arch height is the Wet Test:

                  1. Fill your tub with a small layer of water.
                  2. Take two pieces of cardboard or heavy paper and set them on the floor.
                  3. Step into the tub with one foot to wet the bottom of your foot.
                  4. Lift up your foot and step onto one cardboard piece. Make sure to stand with your full weight on
                  that one foot.
                  5. Step off the cardboard and look down.
                  6. Determine your arch height. If you see your entire footprint, you have a LOW arch. If you see half of your arch—like the typical “footprint in the sand” image—you have a MODERATE (normal) arch. If you see just your heel, the ball of your foot and almost none of your arch, you have a HIGH arch.
                  7. Repeat steps 3 through 6 for the second foot to confirm that your arch heights are the same on both
                  If you’re still unsure of your arch height you can always send us a picture of your wet test results and we’ll use our best judgement to determine the height.
                  Also, sometimes it takes trying a few different height to figure out which is right for you.
                  Give us a shout if you have any other questions.

                  Patricia E. Mazzella
                  Patricia E. Mazzella

                  July 17, 2017

                  Do you send anything that you can see the actual foot imprint ?

                  Dan LeFleur
                  Dan LeFleur

                  March 23, 2017

                  Hi Ralph,

                  Thanks for taking an interest in Tread Labs.

                  Sorry to say, but we do not work with Blue Cross Blue Shield to cover the orthotics.


                  March 22, 2017

                  Do you guys work with blue cross blue shield to cover the orthotics?

                  Mark Paigen
                  Mark Paigen

                  March 20, 2017

                  Thanks for your inquiry. I am sorry, but we do not offer direct billing with Greenshield Insurance.

                  Genevieve Morgola
                  Genevieve Morgola

                  March 09, 2017

                  Do you have direct billing with Greenshield Insurance?

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