The custom orthotic is one of the most powerful tools in a podiatrist’s arsenal. We’re sure you’ve heard plenty about store-bought insoles or other shoe inserts you can pick up at the drug store or supermarket—maybe you’ve even tried one in the past, or are using one right now.

A custom orthotic is different. These shoe inserts are specially created to fit the exact contours of your feet, and because they’re precision-engineered to your foot shape, they usually provide superior results compared to OTC inserts or prefabricated orthoses, and can help with a wider range of problems.

Types of Custom Orthotics

Custom orthotics typically fall into two broad categories: functional and accommodative.

A functional orthotic is one that is designed to control or fix problems with abnormal foot or ankle motion. For example, an athlete who severely overpronates when they walk or run may greatly benefit from a functional orthotic that helps keep their feet aligned in a more normal position. This promotes a healthier gait.

Functional orthotics are often made from semi-rigid materials, like plastic or graphite. They may be combined with an ankle-foot orthosis (AFO), which is a brace that extends above your ankle joint and can greatly assist with conditions such as arthritis, adult-acquired flatfoot, drop foot, and some neuromuscular disorders.

By contrast, the primary role of an accommodative orthotic is to add extra cushioning or support, deflecting weight and pressure away from overburdened location. A good accommodative orthotic can help with uncomfortable problems such as ulcers, plantar fasciitis, neuromas, bunions and hammertoes, and more.

How Custom Orthotics Are Made

We start with an examination at our office, where we make a mold of your feet. That mold is sent to a lab, which creates the custom orthotic according to the specifications of the mold and instructions from your doctor, based on what type of orthotic you need for the particular symptoms you’re experiencing.

Do You Really Need a Custom Orthotic?

Although a custom-made insert will generally provide superior results compared to prefabricated supports, they are not always necessary. While cheap drugstore insoles generally have low odds for success (or at least won’t help you nearly as much), we do offer a range of adjustable, high-quality prefabricated arch supports at our office.

They won’t be appropriate for everyone and they’re not as durable as a custom orthotic, but a good prefabricated support, carefully selected by a trained podiatrist, may be sufficient for your situation, especially if your symptoms are less severe or you have more common or ordinary foot shape. They also come in at a much cheaper price point, usually $50 or less.

If your condition can be adequately addressed via a quality prefabricated piece rather than a fully custom orthotic, we’ll happily let you know and help you get the correct fit.

To Fix the Right Foot Problem, You Need the Right Tool

There is simply a dizzying array of shoe inserts out there, from the cheapest of the generic pharmacy insoles, to prefabricated arch supports, heel cups, wedges, metatarsal pads, and fully custom functional or accommodative orthotics in a wide variety of materials, shapes, and styles. It’s no surprise that many people find it all confusing, or wonder if such things really work.

While the right orthotic can provide major pain relief or mechanical improvement for a multitude of foot conditions, the wrong tool might provide little benefit, make the original problem worse, or even introduce new problems.

That’s why it’s important to see Dr. Keith McSpadden at North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute for a thorough evaluation, before you make any decisions about what kind of shoe insert (if any) is right for you. As a licensed podiatrist, he understands the intricacies of proper foot and ankle biomechanics and can make a recommendation for an orthotic device—whether custom or prefabricated—that will give you quality results at the best possible price point.

To schedule an appointment with us, or to learn more about whether custom orthotics may be right for you, please call 512-593-2949. You can also request an appointment online.