Why Over-the-Counter Orthotics Don’t Work

Why Over-the-Counter Orthotics Don’t Work

If you have looked for relief from foot pain, you have probably noticed the orthotic shoe inserts that are available over the counter (OTC) in drug stores, shoe stores and other retail establishments. You may even have tried one of the in-store kiosks that purport to choose the perfect insole after measuring your feet’ pressure points.

These products are expensive and convenient, but are they good enough for your condition? Should you upgrade to custom orthotics? Let’s explore the benefits of custom orthotics and their advantages over OTC insoles.

Why Get Orthotics?

Orthotics are used to improve gait and to alleviate discomfort in the feet, ankles, knees, hips, and even the lower back. There are a range of conditions and concerns that might lead someone to choose orthotics, including:

·       Plantar fasciitis

·       Metatarsalgia

·       Foot pain, joint pain in the legs, or lower back pain

·       Flat feet or fallen arches

·       Overpronation

·       Bunions or hammertoes

·       Diabetic foot complications

·       Arthritis affecting the feet

·       Sports injury prevention

·       Leg length discrepancy

·       Gait Abnormalities

Why Custom Orthotics Are a Better Choice

OTC orthotics may provide temporary relief, but they can also lead to worse problems down the road by disguising underlying problems with your feet or your gait.

Here are the reasons why custom orthotics are superior to OTC orthotics:

·      Foot Complexity and Variation


Feet have 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments that work together to support and propel you forward while helping you maintain your balance. Due to their complexity, they vary considerably from person to person. OTC orthotics only come in limited models and sizes and do not fit as precisely as custom orthotics. Custom orthotics are made from a cast or a 3D digital model of your actual feet. This ensures a better fit and greater therapeutic value.


·      Quality of Material

OTC orthotics are made of materials that are not as durable or high quality as custom orthotics. OTC orthotics may also lose their shape more quickly because they are not made to last as long or endure various conditions.

·      Support and Structure

OTC orthotics may feel comfortable and therapeutic initially, but they generally do not provide support or cushioning in the right places for the individual wearer. While they may provide some relief from pain, they do not address the underlying biomechanical issues that caused the problem in the first place. Custom orthotics are designed to correct these biomechanical issues by distributing the wearer’s weight evenly, providing adequate arch support, and cushioning the foot in the right places.

·      Professional Assessment and Fitting

When you get custom orthotics, an expert in foot anatomy, structure, and biomechanics thoroughly analyzes your feet and how you use them. This includes a gait analysis and foot mapping. They will look for specific issues to ensure that your custom orthotics help address the root cause of the pain or discomfort you are experiencing. With OTC orthotics, you only have your symptoms to guide you in your choice, and, as we know, the location of the pain is often far removed from what is actually causing it.

·      Follow-up and Further Evaluation

A custom orthotics provider will typically touch base with the patient to determine if the orthotics have the desired effect. They will already have a record of their previous evaluation as a point of reference, and the effectiveness of your custom orthotics (or lack thereof) will guide them to any needed adjustments or additional treatment. If you choose OTC orthotics, you will be back to square one if they do not resolve the problem.

·      Activity-Specific Wear

Custom orthotics can be constructed to support you through the different activities you engage in. For example, if you use running for exercise but have severe gait problems affecting your stride and your comfort, your orthotics can be made with your love of running in mind. If you have a job where you wear steel-toed shoes and are on your feet all day, orthotics can be designed to support you and add cushioning to your work shoes. In contrast, OTC orthotics cannot be customized to suit your lifestyle or work requirements.

·      Preventing Further Injury

The wrong OTC orthotics could exacerbate existing problems or lead to new ones. They may even do this while masking pain and forcing your feet to compensate for their inadequate support or poor fit. The optimal solution is to have your feet, your gait, and your pressure points professionally evaluated to correct the problem.

·      Investment in Health

OTC orthotics are less expensive than custom ones, but it is important to consider how vital your feet are to your overall health. Custom orthotics protect your health by correctly aligning each foot and improving your biomechanics. Like healthy foods, gym memberships, sunscreen, and clothing that protects you from the cold, custom orthotics support your health and engagement with life.

Although custom orthotics are inexpensive and can provide immediate relief for some conditions, custom orthotics are a superior choice: they are tailor-made to your feet, your activities, and your lifestyle, and they help to prevent existing problems from getting worse while improving your overall health. As we age, we tend to have more problems with balance and gait, and we are at greater risk for foot pain. The sooner we get used to addressing those problems with quality custom orthotics, the more mobile we will be and the more active we can remain.

Where to Get Custom Orthotics

Chiro-Med Chiropractic and Physiotherapy Clinic offers assessment and fitting of both functional and accommodative custom orthotics. Our medical practitioners will evaluate your feet and your gait for devices that will fit you perfectly and address the root causes of your foot, ankle, knee, hip, or lower back pain.

If your assessment indicates that a complementary treatment can help, we will suggest them to you and explain how they might further improve your mobility and functioning. On-site, we provide physical therapy, massage therapy, recommendations for stretching and exercise, acupuncture, and chiropractic care.  

We are conveniently located at 10520 Yonge St., Unit #1, in Richmond Hill, Ontario, just south of Elgin Mills Rd. E. Call us today at (905)918-0419 to find out how custom orthotics can help you get back on your feet, pain-free!


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