There are two basic types of foot orthotics:
Basic over-the-counter devices are mass produced and sold through pharmacies, grocery stores and other retail stores. More supportive types of over-the-counter devices can be found at pedorthic facilities.
- Over-the-counter devices have the added benefits of convenience and affordability.
- Many over-the-counter devices bring satisfactory results in treating common foot conditions resulting from minor biomechanical abnormalities. For example, they can be used as a temporary device for a child who is rapidly growing or as a “first step” to provide insight into how a patient will respond to and tolerate an orthotic.
- They do not fit all foot types.
- They only support ‘moderate’ biomechanical abnormalities. More significant issues will likely require a custom-made device.
- They typically have a shorter life span than a custom-made foot orthotic.
Unlike over-the-counter devices, a custom-made foot orthotic is made specifically for the patient following an assessment of their feet and legs by a footcare expert such as a Canadian Certified Pedorthist.
A custom-made foot orthotic is made from a three-dimensional model of the patient’s foot and is fabricated from raw materials. It is designed to meet the patient’s unique and specific needs. A custom-made foot orthotic can be:
- “Accommodative” – where the primary goal is to deflect pressure away from ulcers, callosities and painful pressure points
- “Functional” – a device primarily designed to control foot and lower leg biomechanical function
- Custom-made foot orthotics include accurate biomechanical assistance.
- There is an ongoing ability to modify the device to create perfect fit and function.
- A vast variety of materials can be used to provide specific support and cushioning for increased function and comfort.
- Custom-made orthotics have a longer lifespan that may off-set the greater initial cost.
- Although many insurance programs cover orthotics, a custom-made orthotic costs significantly more than an over-the-counter device.