Ask Dr. Mahmood: Over the Counter vs Custom Orthotics

Dear Dr. Mahmood,

Do orthotics have to be custom made or can I just buy some over the counter ones? What kind of orthotics are used for different types of foot problems?



Dear Laura,

Thank you for being our first question in the Ask Dr. Mahmood segment of our blog! In short, over the counter orthotics sold in big boxed stores do not provide the same relief as a custom orthotic. The reason this is is because they are typically geared towards providing a sensation of immediate comfort and relief. With their soft gels, heel cups and cushy arch supports, it all sounds wonderful when you’re in search of fast relief. The purpose of an orthotic is to control the motion being transferred from your leg to your foot. Just like wearing glasses, once you have a muscular imbalance, some amount of control is required to bring that back into balance. If there is some type of deformity, muscular imbalance or problem that you are trying to address by getting an orthotic, then the generic over the counter ones are not for you.

Prescription or custom orthotics are not always necessary, and there are certainly alternatives when insurance does not cover them or are financially inaccessible. There are many medical grade, non-prescription, semi-custom orthotics that can achieve 85-90% of what a custom orthotic can achieve. These are typically very cost effective and still provide the support and control of a custom orthotic. I recommend calling your insurance company and understanding your coverage options for custom orthotics. If they do not cover custom orthotics, please call our office and we’d be happy to assist you with our medical grade, non-prescription, semi-custom orthotic options.

Dr. Mahmood

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