Are Custom Orthotics For Pain Management Worth The Money?

Custom Orthotics Intro

Whether or not custom orthotics are worth the money is up for debate. It has been my experience that 9/10 people who have tried both receive greater benefit in the custom orthotic over time. In fairness though, I do also meet the very occasional person who experiences an increase in pain with custom orthotics and ultimately couldn’t make the transition to them. We are still in the full history of time waiting to find a medical device or procedure with a 100% hit rate. 

Image of a foot to remind reader what a precious asset feet are, and that the the best possible orthotics are essential.

Your feet are precious assets, choosing the right orthotic for your wallet and also for your body is an important topic!

No one (including me) can tell you whether or not custom orthotics are worth the money to you. We don’t  know because we don’t know how much pain you have, nor do we know what else you might need to spend your money on. But here are a list of the reasons why I believe that more often than not they are easily worth the extra money.. sometimes many times over. 

Footwear Choices Made Possible by Custom Made Orthotics 

Cheaper generic shoe insoles occupy a lot more space inside your shoe than modern custom made orthotics. People who choose generic insoles, rather than custom orthotics generally find that they can only fit them in training type shoes and occasionally a men’s business shoe also. 

With a custom orthotic prescription it is possibly to make a pair of orthotics that will go in fashionable shoes and even heels. At the other end of the spectrum if you weight 130kg and you live in work boots customisation is an advantage. Custom orthotics can be made that have the strength a durability to support your body weight in the same spirit as the work boot. For many this is a very practical way that they find custom orthotics to be worth the money. 

Flexibility of Custom Orthotics 

Gone are the days of completely rock solid, rigid custom orthotics.. praise the lord!!! 

The human foot is living tissues and as such it requires a flexible, dynamic correction and not a solid orthotic. A custom orthotic that is worth the money should prevent the arch from collapsing completely yet still be flexible to bend under the body weight. In addition to the mechanical support that flexible custom made orthotics provide, the ‘flex’ is thought to stimulate nerve endings in the arch which give feedback to all the other stabilising muscles in the leg. 

One thing is for certain whether you go custom or not, having an orthotic that is flexible makes that orthotic worth whatever money you might convievably spend on it. Conversely an orthotic that is rock solid is not worth anything let alone your hard earned money in my book.

Stiffness of Custom Orthotics (apparent contradiction alert) 

The primary issue with cheap generic insoles that we purchase ‘off the shelf’ is that they simply are not stiff enough to support your body weight as it drops through your arch at speed. There are even some custom made orthotics on the market that are not stiff enough to prevent the arch from dropping when depressed with the tip of a finger let alone your body weight.

 

Image illustrates a pair of custom orthotics that are probably far too flexible to help with back pain, knee pain or hip pain.

Knowing how to assess whether a pair of custom orthotics are stiff enough is essential if you want to be confident they will help reduce your pain.

An excellent test for you to use if you ever need to assess for yourself whether a custom made orthotic or generic insoles is worth the money in terms of sufficient stiffness is the following. 

Place the orthotic or insole on the ground and press on the highest part of the arch with your first 2 fingers. You should not be able to easily depress that orthotic or insoles with your fingers, it should be quite an effort to make it bend. There should be a sense of ‘flex’ but not the ability to flatten it out easily. Your entire body weight drops thought your arch 10,000 times per day, if you can depress a device with your fingertips it stands no chance. A custom orthotic that you can easily bend with your fingers is not supportive and not worth a fraction of the money that is usually charged for them. 

Durability of Custom Orthotics 

This quality of custom orthotics is a pretty straight forward one. At my clinic as an example we prescribe custom made orthotics, we also prescribe generic shoe insoles. On average custom orthotics last 5-10 years. On average shoe Insoles last a max of 18 months before they lose structural integrity and need replacing. 

Many people who try both custom orthotics and cheaper insoles find over the years that the insoles wear out so much quicker that the comparative spend over 5-10 years ends up being the same. Depending on your perspective things that last longer are often worth the extra money we spend on them. Of course from a cash flow perspective the cheaper insoles are a smaller upfront cost which can be very handy. 

Customisation of Custom Orthotics ..Go Figure.. 

The primary value of custom made orthotics is that they can be tailored to your specific foot anatomy, custom made orthotics also can be made appropriately for your specific movement patterns, body mass and pain complaints. The arch height can be specified by your healthcare professional, the heel control angle can be specified also along with the thickness of the orthotic and the size of its ‘footprint’. Having control over these parameters can be of great assistance if you have ankle pain, knee pain, hip pain or back pain. After your custom made insoles are manufactured, additional modifications can be made in post production to create customised cushioning in heel and forefoot. These kind of tweaks are particularly useful if you have a history of heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, heel pain or arch pain.  

The final aspect of your custom made orthotic that can be customised to suit your needs is the top cover. Top covers can be selected to suit the orthotics intended use. Neoprene top covers are ideal for work boots, slightly cushioned antibacterial materials are ideal for sports shoes, leather and vinyl are ideal for dress orthotics to go in business shoes. 

Closing Thoughts

So there we have it, those are arguably the 5 most significant indicators that often custom orthotics are worth the money. 

Image of shoes that can be fitted for custom orthotics.

Croc-Loafers… no problem! Whatever your footwear requirements are, custom orthotics have got your back.

It is my humble belief that the true value of a device that increases and enables the amount of comfortable movement in your life is measured in happiness and health more-so than in dollars. Or maybe it’s more appropriate to say it’s value is measured in the absence of certain things. The absence of pain, the absence of frustration, the absence of confusion and concern about the source of our pain, the absence of weight gain due to forced inactivity, the absence of a limp, these are the true value metrics of custom orthotics. These are the meaning they either do or do not hold for sufferers of plantar fasciitis, ankle pain, back pain, hip pain, knee pain, bursitis, heel pain & osteoarthritis. 

 

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