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The Cost of Custom Orthotics - Are They Worth the Money?

by Jessica Hegg March 29, 2017

Senior running

Custom orthotics are a common treatment to foot problems like fallen arches, flat feet and plantar fasciitis. Before visiting a podiatrist it is important to understand; how much do custom orthotics cost? And, are they really worth the price?

How Much Do Custom Orthotics Cost?

The cost of custom orthotics typically ranges between $300 and $600.

Tip:
Check with your medical insurance provider to see how much, if any, coverage they provide for custom orthotics.

Why are custom orthotics so expensive?

Custom orthotics are often associated with the use of higher quality and more expensive materials, but what are you really paying for in custom orthotics?

Inflated Cost- Naturally, being a business the cost of orthotics and meeting with a podiatrist will result in higher charges.

Examination - Preformed during your consultation, a podiatrist will conduct a complete analysis of lifestyle, body type, and gait; along X-Rays and diagnosis of any identified foot issues.

Mold - Receiving prescribed custom orthotics is a process that includes your podiatrist making a cast or mold of your foot that is used to develop your orthotics.

The Cost of Talking to a Podiatrist:

While most medical insurance companies cover most of the cost of a visit to the podiatrist — if your deductible is already met — you will probably have to pay a small copay, usually in the range of $20 to $40.

If you are uninsured, however, check with your doctor’s office before visiting to find out all of the costs involved, which could be hundreds of dollars or more. This amount can go up, however, if the podiatrist takes an x-ray or you have lab work during your visit. 

podiatrist making a mold

Image Reference

Are Custom Orthotics Worth the Money?

When considering if custom orthotics are worth the money it's important to take into consideration factors; such as advantages and disadvantages, longevity, and off-the-shelf alternatives.

Advantages:

Custom orthotics are specially designed to make sure that the bones in your feet, ankles, and knees stay in the proper position. Orthotics do this through the resistance of the materials used and the angle and height of the various surfaces. Reported advantages of orthotics include:
  • Helping to reduce muscle fatigue by supporting stretched connective tissues. Stretching of the tissue can cause instability in your foot and lead to over-pronation and fallen arches.
  • Custom orthotics also come into play if you are active in sports or are overweight. Orthotics can help to increase your endurance, strength, and performance when it comes to a favorite sport. They may also relieve the stress that excess weight places on your body, especially on the ligaments of your feet and legs.
  • Custom orthotics also reportedly help reduce the pain associated with a variety of ailments, including diabetes, arthritis, and chronic pain sufferers. In addition to relieving pain, custom orthotics also enhance mobility.

Disadvantages:

Cost is the most prohibitive factor for those deciding whether or not to buy custom orthotics. Other disadvantages include:
  • Some doctors claim that extended use of an orthotic can cause more problems than they solve. Problems can arise from the stresses caused by some orthotics, which experts say can actually weaken your foot, ankle, or knee.
  • Custom orthotics can keep costing you, even after you get them. As you age, your feet can change and your orthotics may need to be updated from time to time. If you plan on wearing orthotics over an extended period of time, make sure to have your podiatrist check your foot, ankle, and knee alignment on a regular basis.
  • On average it takes up to 2-weeks or more to finally receive your pair of custom orthotics. Delaying relief for someone who, most likely, is experiencing pain or discomfort.
  • Discouragingly enough, after investing all that time and money, there's always a chance that custom orthotics will fail to provide the relief or support that you were looking for. 

Why you Might Consider Off-the-Shelf Orthotics:

Some say custom orthotics offer a more custom fit compared to standard orthotics because the podiatrist makes the orthotic from a mold of your foot.

But does the customization really make a big difference when comparing custom orthotics to off-the-shelf orthotics? 

With the high price mark on custom orthotics, it's only natural to consider the alternative...

  • Lower Cost - On average off-the-shelf orthotics will only cost around $80 or less. Making it much less of a daunting commitment, you may even consider getting multiple pairs for your other shoes.
  • Large Variety - There are several companies that offer over the counter orthotics leaving you with endless options. There's a variety of choices when it comes to materials, hardness, and size to fit specific needs.
  • Easily Fitted - Orthotics designed to be sold off-the-shelf are sized based off of shoe size, which makes it easy to pick out the appropriate size. Since all feet aren't equal, additional length is provided so that length of insole can be trimmed down to best fit.
  • Convenience - With multiple online suppliers and retail stores offering orthotics, the convenience of picking up a pair or getting a replacement is only 2 clicks away. The hassle of appointments, molds, and waiting for your orthotics to be made is all eliminated.
Some physicians feel that Podiatrist may misprescribe custom orthotics and believe that often times foot issues may exist due to other underlying conditions. Meaning proper solutions are often overlooked and the use of orthotics may be masking the real issue. However, a reputable podiatrist should know to examine for such other issues.

How Long Do Custom Orthotics Last?

Custom orthotics last anywhere from two to five years, depending in large part on the materials used in the orthotics' construction, the type of activities you perform, your weight, and orthotic care.

Tip:
Getting the orthotic refurbished occasionally, usually every one or two years, can increase its lifecycle.

    What are Orthotics?

    a foot without and with an orthotic

    Foot orthotics come in a variety of types, from heel and arch supports to full-foot insoles that fit in your shoes. Depending on the problems you have, there is more than likely an orthotic to fix it.

    Orthotics are said to work by correcting alignment problems in the body, but this isn’t exactly proven.

    Regardless of how they work, orthotics may reduce pain and prevent injury in the short term. There are some medical professionals, however, who cast doubt on the long-term effects of orthotics and whether they cause more problems in the long run.

    Making Prescription Orthotics

    Getting a custom orthotic requires more than just going to the podiatrist and picking one up. It is a multistep process, with a visit to the podiatrist just the first step. It takes roughly two weeks to make a mold for custom orthotics.

    Casting the Foot

    Casting the foot

    Image Reference

    The first thing a podiatrist does after examining and determining your particular foot problem is to make a cast of your foot, or both of your feet if necessary. A podiatrist usually has you sit down so they can wrap wet plaster strips around your foot. Or, they may have you lie down so they can scan your foot with a machine made for this purpose.

    Another way to make a negative of your foot includes using what is called a stomp box. With a stomp box, you step into a mold material, which forms an imprint of your foot. From this mold, a casting of your foot is made at the lab.

    The Lab

    The mold, scan, or stomp box is then sent to the lab, where the cast or scan data of your foot is used to make a life-size cast. This cast of your foot is then pressed against heated graphite or a plastic material, leaving an imprint on the material. For areas that require more hardness, a harder material, such as a thermoplastic, is attached to reinforce the area.

    In addition to harder materials, softer, cushioning materials are added in the lab to the custom orthotic where needed for additional comfort. When finished, the lab sends the orthotic back to your podiatrist who has you come in to check and make sure that the orthotic works as it should.

    Finding Out the True Cost of Custom Orthotics

    When treating a foot, ankle, or knee problem, make sure to talk with a podiatrist to see what your options are. If they determine that you need an orthotic, they will recommend one that works best to alleviate your specific problem.

    As part of the custom orthotic process, the podiatrist makes a mold of your foot. This helps determine the shape of your foot and which type and shape of orthotic can best work with your particular situation. Once the proper orthotic type is determined, taking into consideration type and materials, your orthotics are then custom created.

    Ultimately, the goal of the podiatrist when making a custom orthotic is to improve your overall quality of life and make it easier for you to get around with as little pain as possible.

    Jessica Hegg
    Jessica Hegg


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