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Phone: 630-834-3668
Prairie Path Foot & Ankle Clinic

What’s the difference between inserts from the store and prescription custom orthotics?

This is an all too common question we are asked all the time when patients are trying to decide what type of support they need.  Usually by the time someone comes into our office, they have already tried a laundry list of home remedies, including over-the-counter inserts, so it’s important to understand the difference between the two. There are some similarities, such as the style of shoe they’re to be worn in; dress inserts are usually narrower and not as supportive, where a sport orthotic is more supportive and has extra cushion for high-impact activities. That’s about where the similarities end when it comes to a properly made functional custom foot orthotic and your basic over-the-counter insole.

Over-the-counter inserts are typically made of a very flexible plastic, gel or rubber that lose their support once you stand on them.  The arch is structured to fit the masses and does not offer a custom support.  The size is determined by the size of your shoe and not by the size of your arch, which could be a whole size difference!  Imagine a bell curve…the drug-store insoles are attempting to fit most of the people within the bell curve, but there are outliers who can never see improvement with a basic insert, which is where we come in. While they offer nice cushioning and may feel comfortable initially, they are not addressing the underlying biomechanical problem that is leading to the pain. 

Most custom orthotics are made of a semi-flexible polypropylene plastic, copolymer, of graphite material that is custom molded to your foot; it does not collapse under the weight of your body and places your feet in optimal alignment to help your lower extremities function properly.  I have never seen 2 feet that were the exact same, so when a custom molded foot orthotic is made, it is truly made for each individual foot. There are endless options for additions, modifications, support, and cushion for custom orthotics that only a professionally trained practitioner would know to include. 

Your feet are custom to you and deserve to have individualized attention to help create the sturdiest foundation for your body and help put your best foot forward! If you have any other questions regarding our custom orthotics or other services offered, feel free to call us at (630)834-3668.