What Are The Differences Between A Custom And An Off-The-Shelf Orthotic?

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This is a question we get asked every time we recommend orthotics as a treatment plan for painful feet and legs.  Depending on the condition we are treating sometimes can can offer one or the other. The main difference people think about these devices is the cost.  Off-the-shelf orthotics are often half, sometimes a quarter of the price of a custom. In this blog post I will explain the differences between them.

Off-The-Shelf Orthotics
  • These type of orthotics are generic, and are based on shoe size rather than your foot.
  • They have a shorter life span of approximately 1-3 years due to the types of materials that are used to make them.
  • There are different types, softer more cushioned devices and harder, more corrective devices, depending on their intended purpose.
  • Are slightly bulky than custom orthotics which makes them a little trickier to fit into certain footwear. However, fitting them into joggers and boots are generally not a problem.
  • Suitable for people with a lower arch type.
  • Due to their mass production by machines and the cheaper materials used to make them, they are cheaper.
Custom Orthotics
  • Are specifically made for your feet by your Podiatrist based on the prescription they formulate.
  • Have a longer life span of approximately 4-7 years depending on their intended use.
  • There are different types, softer more cushioned devices and harder more corrective devices. And because they are hand made, you can get a combination of both types of orthotics.
  • Are generally less bulky which makes fitting them into shoes a lot easier.
  • Great for people with flat feet and high arches.
  • Suit people with unusual shaped feet, or can be altered to accommodate nodules, bumps and lumps.
  • Are hand made, they can take up to 3 hours to make, and use superior materials, hence more expensive.

Like eye glasses, you can purchase them at the petrol station or you can get a pair from your Optometrist.  I have a very weak left eye, so the petrol station glasses will not suit me at all. I need prescription eye glasses.  The same can be said for orthotics. A proportion of the population will be fine with off-the-shelf orthotics. They will do they job, getting you out of pain.  But some people have more complicated issues going on with their feet, and that is why we do a biomechanical assessment when you come into the clinic.  It is from this information we can determine if you need orthotics, and what type.

Podiatrists spend 4 years learning how to do this at university, and believe me, many more hours at conferences and workshops to get better at assessing and orthotic prescription writing. Other health professions who issue orthotics after a weekend workshop do not have the in-depth training that Podiatrists do to utilise orthotics properly.

If you have any questions about orthotics, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 9542 3491.

Til next time

The Team from Sutherland Podiatry Centre

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Glad you are recovering after your Covid family sharing .
    Take care .
    Freedom is good for the soul .??

  • Melissa Page
    June 30, 2022 6:24 pm

    I was always an otc orthotic person and they generally did the trick until They didn’t. After an MRI that confirmed a split tear in my Prosterior Tibialis Tendon, James hooked me up with a Richie Brace and a matching orthotic. I completed a 35km walk on the weekend. I have done a few long distant walks in the past but this one was a real achievement. My goal now is to adjust it so, I can walk without issue in the next one.


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