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Custom vs. Over the Counter

| July 3, 2014 | Reply


One of the common foot pain questions is this:  are custom orthotics better than pre-fabricated (over the counter) orthotics?  This question is important not only from a clinical point of view but also from a financial one, as custom orthotics most often cost more.  My personal blog opinion is that while pre-fabricated orthotics can be better than no orthotics for managing foot pain, custom orthotics are most often the better way to go and are really worth the investment.

 To begin explaining myself, here is some background information:  I have personally experienced firsthand the difference between wearing off the shelf orthotics and custom orthotics.  I work with a company that provides both.   I am not here to disrespect any company that provides only over the counter commercial orthotics.  I believe that foot pain may also require other interventions, such as Radial Shockwave, K-Laser, manual therapy, and therapeutic exercise.

 We Are Not Perfectly Symmetrical.  Most people’s feet are not exactly the same size and do not have the same biomechanical contours.  For example, although I buy size six shoes, my right foot is actually almost a half-size smaller and my arch contour is different.  An off the shelf orthotic does not account for the asymmetry.  

One Shoe Does Not Fit All.  Just because my feet are a women’s size 6 and I have plantar fasciitis does not mean the next woman with size 6 feet and plantar fasciitis requires the same pair of orthotics.  There are other factors that must be considered.  For example, your activity level, weight and gait dynamics (the way you walk) all contribute to the needs that are place on a pair of orthotics.  When an individual generally suffers from plantar fasciitis it is caused by over-pronation.  When a foot over-pronates the arches collapse and supporting muscles are required to stretch and elongate to lengths that are not optimal, thus causing pain.  Now the degree of over-pronation or collapse from my left foot to my right foot may not be the same.   A pair of custom orthotics can recognize this and can be manufactured to fit the exact needs of each foot.  Because my left foot over-pronates more it may have caused a heel spur on my left foot and not my right.  Again this is a specific need that can be addressed by custom orthotics.

What About the Static Measure Systems?  When you are purchasing a pair of Orthotics from a home show vendor or at a local drug store, you may have stood stationary on a platform and had pressure sensors read your feet and then tell you what orthotic you would benefit from.  While this may be better than nothing, the problem lies in the biomechanical fact that you do not stand perfectly still all day long.  Very few people work guarding Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace! As you walk, run or even move from side to side, the stresses put through your feet at the different stages in your step cycle will require different support.  That is why a dynamic scanning system, especially the ones that have a 3 Dimensional component, can actively and more accurately scan your feet as you walk.  Capilano uses a state-of the-art sensor platform that scans your feet 30 times per second.  This detailed biomechanical information, along with your Pedorthist’s analysis, can help determine the specifications for the custom orthotics that will be tailored for each foot and your specific gait pattern. 

You Get What You Pay For.  Like with many things we purchase as consumers, we tend to get what we pay for.  Again this is not disrespecting over the counter orthotics, but custom orthotics are made from superior polymer products so they can last longer.  As orthotics age, the strength and structure of it tend to break down and therefore, over time the support and benefits of the orthotic decrease.  By purchasing a custom orthotic you not only get a product that is fitted exactly to your feet and your needs, you are also get a product that can last longer than an over-the-counter competitor. 

30 Day Trial.  At Capilano Rehab Centre, we offer a 30 day trial to ensure your satisfaction.  What this means is that after you have purchased your orthotics, if you are not happy with them, you can return them for the full amount (minus a $75.00 administration fee) and/or you have the option to be able to modify your orthotics if you find that they are not just right.  This modification is sent away and built right into your orthotics so the structure, strength and quality remain extraordinary.

JSP_Heather_14_022214-LO RESOur Pro Staff.  Our certified Pedorthist, Heather Kassian, is a University of Alberta graduate with over 20 years’ experience with Footmaxx Orthotics.  She offers a complementary Gait Analysis to ensure that custom orthotics are right for you.  Call Capilano Rehab Centre today at 780-466-1104 to book in to see Heather, and be on your way to Pain Free living!




Capilano Rehab Centre | Physical Therapy Capilano physical therapists have provided state-of-the-art physical therapy, sports physiotherapy, back pain, WCB, accident, whiplash and injury rehab to clients in Edmonton for over 10 years.

5832 Terrace Rd Edmonton, AB. T6A 3Y8

(780) 466-1104

Category: Clinic News, Community, Healthy Living, Orthotics, Physiotherapy, Running, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

I am Capilano Rehab Centre’s Community Care Coordinator. I have been with Capilano Rehab for 9 years primarily as a Physio Assistant, but also as a Receptionist. I have a Physical Education Degree from the University of Alberta, which I will eventually use when my two young children are grown up. In the mean time I am enjoying helping people in the Community through my role as Community Care Coordinator and bringing awareness to how a Physiotherapist can help you get back to the activities you love the most!

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