Tread Labs

Custom Orthotics – Can Insoles Provide the Same Comfort?

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.

                  Can Stride insoles provide the same comfort as custom orthotics?

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


                  Mar 18, 2018 • Posted by Ann

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

                  Jul 21, 2017 • Posted by Dan LeFleur

                  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.

                  Jul 17, 2017 • Posted by Patricia E. Mazzella

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

                  Mar 23, 2017 • Posted by Dan LeFleur

                  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.

                  Mar 22, 2017 • Posted by Ralph

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

                  Mar 20, 2017 • Posted by Mark Paigen

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

                  Mar 09, 2017 • Posted by Genevieve Morgola

                  Do you have direct billing with Greenshield Insurance?

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