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:
- Diabetics – Diabetics are at a higher risk of foot ulcers and infections due to poor circulation. They will benefit from prescription, accommodative orthotics.
- High-performance athletes – Running 100 miles a week requires structure and support – and custom fit.
- 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?