Are Custom Orthotics Worth The Extra Cost?

Custom orthotics are expensive and far more so than standard off-the-shelf orthotics used to treat common conditions.

While most people with minor issues can use cheaper orthotics, custom orthotics are required for more advanced and chronic conditions – but are they worth that extra money?

Custom orthotics are worth the extra cost as the increased comfort and elimination of pain when walking, running, or playing sports will significantly benefit your overall health for years to come, reducing the risk of orthopedic disorders and injuries throughout your life.

It’s important to understand the difference between the severity of orthopedic conditions and the impact that these have on the quality of life, as well as the differences between standard and custom orthotics.

There are different processes involved in the fabrication of a custom orthotic. And this is why they’re so much more expensive.

Why Custom Orthotics Are Worth The Money

Are custom orthotics worth the extra cost?

There are several compelling reasons why custom orthotics are worth the extra cost, and most of them have to do with the noticeably improved stability in the foot over the short, medium, and long term. 

From a health perspective, having custom orthotics will reduce the effect of painful medical conditions that inhibit normal movement and allow people to walk, run or be otherwise active without the pain they would typically have.

Custom orthotics also reduce the risk of further injury or worsening of the existing condition by providing greater support specifically for that condition. This will lead to lower chances of medical intervention over time.

Because inserts are cheaper, don’t last as long, and aren’t as effective, you would need to replace them more frequently. Over a year or two, you would likely have wasted more money, and still not found the pain relief and rehabilitation benefits that are possible from custom orthotics.

How Orthotics Work 

Orthotics are the inserts that fit into your shoes and assist with positioning the foot inside the shoe. They are designed to support the feet, ankles, legs, and back by correcting misalignment or other issues.

This, in turn, assists with the walking or running position and action of the feet and allows for the relief of foot or leg pain, lower back pain, and leg pain caused by improper alignment or other biomechanical foot issues.

Orthotics come in different types, from the over-the-counter inserts to custom-designed orthotics that would fit your feet. 

Inserts Vs Custom Orthotics 

There is a big difference between inserts and orthotics, the main one being that inserts are a ‘one-size-fits-all’ device. In contrast, orthotics are more precise and designed to treat a specific disorder or condition in your feet.

Inserts add support to the feet and are placed inside your shoes. They are generally made from foam, plastic, or gel and can be found at most stores that sell shoes, or they can also be found at sporting goods stores.

Orthotics work by altering the Ground Reaction Force or the pressure running from the ground through your feet as you are walking or standing, and this helps your feet achieve better function and reduce pain.

Custom orthotics are made from specialized, durable, and expensive materials, so they will last much longer than inserts – while inserts need replacing every few months.

Putting in a custom insole

How Much Do Custom Orthotics Cost? 

Inserts are much cheaper than orthotics and cost between $20 and $80, while custom orthotics normally cost in the $200-$800 range. The price difference relates to the diagnostic and manufacturing processes involved.

Custom orthotics involve a detailed and comprehensive examination of the feet and a complete medical history taking into account other aspects like height, posture, weight, biomechanics (how the joints and limbs operate mechanically while walking and running), and foot anatomy and your level of activity.

Before custom orthotics are made, several medical examinations involve extensive assessments of your feet so that the inserts match the contours of your feet perfectly and they address the medical condition for which they are required.

This would include their anatomy, how they function during walking and running, the identification and diagnosis of existing conditions, the optimum design of orthotics, and the materials needed that would be the most effective for your ailment.

Once all of these different factors have been assessed and determined, the actual design and creation of the orthotics would commence, and here is where the cost factor comes into play.

Four Reasons Why Custom Orthotics Are More Expensive 

  1. Firstly, you have medical appointments and visits, and more than one may be required. A proper assessment of the affliction should take at least 30 minutes to an hour, and there will also be other health and medical history visits.
  2. The materials used are the next factor that adds to the cost. Unlike inserts that usually use low-cost materials, custom orthotics may use a variety of superior quality materials designed to effect the necessary support for your feet and be durable and reliable. 

    Many biomechanical factors determine the type of material used in orthotics, such as the degrees of rigidity, cushioning, and support required. Custom orthotics often use materials like graphite or plastic in their manufacture to ensure that your orthotics are medically accurate and durable.
  3. The manufacturing process involves taking casts of your feet and converting those into the custom orthotics that you will eventually wear in your shoes. This process is integrated with the examinations of your feet, and several may be done before the proper mold is approved for use.
  4. Customization of the orthotics happens once the orthotic is produced, which is the final stage in the process. The edges and contours of the orthotic are trimmed and cut to perfectly match the podiatrist’s prescription, which takes time and skill to achieve.

Who Would Need Custom Orthotics? 

Some people think they need custom orthotics when they don’t. In many cases, it could be a quick and straightforward remedy of an insert or changing the shoe type and brand that can often eliminate shoe discomfort.

While not required for many conditions that affect the feet, custom orthotics are needed for specific medical conditions. One of the most common afflictions is plantar fasciitis, which causes painful inflammation on the sole, especially in the morning.

This condition is very uncomfortable and painful.

While many might ask whether custom orthotics are worth it, not having to suffer from this when you finally have them fitted will justify every cent spent! 

This is the case for most people when they experience that immense relief for the first time, and even though they may have had some doubts regarding the expense of custom orthotics, as soon as they have a day or even a few hours without that pain, they know that their investment was worth it.

Other medical conditions that often require custom orthotics are arthritis and diabetes. Arthritis affects the joints of the feet and makes walking in regular shoes painful and difficult without the proper cushioning and support that orthotics offer.

Diabetes affects the blood circulation in the feet, and again, custom orthotics can relieve much of the discomfort, allowing for relatively normal mobility with significantly reduced pain.

Any person who has experienced the pain caused by either of these conditions will vouch for the money paid to not have the pain daily.

This is one of the primary reasons that custom orthotics are worth the extra cost.

What Is A Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

This occurs when the same biomechanical action is repeated, such as running, hiking, or walking, and there is a recurring injury. The problem with RSIs is that it is the action causing the pain in most cases, and it can often be fixed without needing custom orthotics.

Where people do these activities competitively, they have already spent substantially to acquire top-quality shoes, and the advent of an RSI will hinder their enjoyment and ability in their training.

To participate without discomfort or the back-of-mind concern of whether the injury will flare up again would be worth the extra cost of custom orthotics.

Will Custom Orthotics Work For An RSI?

While custom orthotics may sound like the perfect solution and cure, the truth is that there are only some instances where they will do the job. To determine whether or not custom orthotics would be required, you need to consider the following :

  • The biomechanical condition must be diagnosable and diagnosed as the same issue by two medical professionals. If the problem is not diagnosable, then orthotics are not the solution.
  • The problem diagnosed must be relevant to the complaint or injury, and the prescription of custom orthotics must be able to correct the problem in principle.

If any of these conditions are not met, then the chances are that custom orthotics will not work to remedy an RSI.

Are Custom Orthotics Worth It? 

Where they are justified and effective, there is no doubt that custom orthotics can provide a priceless boost to quality of life. Many of us would pay a large sum to say goodbye to that chronic injury that keeps us from performing at our best.

Whether it be to tackle a niggling injury that won’t disappear, or to provide foot stability for optimal performance, custom orthotics are much more reliable than a standard insole.

But, of course: they are more expensive, too.

Author Profile

Alex Randall

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Alex is the editor at Revel Sports. It was his idea to take our post-club-run chats and build a website out of them. He is responsible for dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s when any of us have something to post. (Basically: it’s all his fault). A ferocious 5K powerhouse on his day, Alex is known for not understanding the meaning of the term ‘negative split‘.
Alex Randall

Revel SPorts Contributor

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