The Difference Between Custom and OTC Orthotics

An over-the-counter (OTC) orthotic may be all you need if you want to make your shoes more comfortable or get a little extra cushioning for your feet. 

But if you have structural or biomechanical problems with your feet, a one-size-fits-all insert isn’t going to help. In fact, it could make the underlying problem worse.

Our orthotics expert at Prolete Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, Dr. Keith Steigbigel, works with you to determine the source of your foot pain and decide whether an OTC or customized orthotic is the best choice for preventing pain and keeping you in action.

What you should know about OTC orthotics

Today’s OTC orthotics come in many varieties that are designed for specific problems, from targeting heel pain in runners to making high heels more comfortable.

Some OTC products also have extra support for your arches. Others are designed to absorb shock in your heel to offset the stress of high-impact activities.

Despite the wide array of choices, OTC orthotics primarily add extra cushioning inside your shoe. While they can provide relief from foot pain, they won’t correct existing problems in your feet or ankles.

The best orthotic depends on the cause of your foot pain

The most important question to consider is this: Why do you have foot pain?

If your feet are healthy but hurt at the end of the day because your job keeps you on your feet, then the cushioning of an OTC orthotic can help.

If you’re dying to wear those beautiful stiletto heels for an evening out on the town, an OTC insert may protect your toes from the pain and damage of being forced into a narrow toe box.

But if your foot pain is due to one of the many potential problems in the joints, bones, ligaments, tendons, and nerves that make up your foot and ankle, an OTC product may cause more harm than good.

Inserting an OTC product into your shoe may relieve the pain just enough to allow you to keep moving, and that’s the worst thing you can do if you have a structural or biomechanical problem.

When you continue to stay active despite early symptoms like pain, the ongoing stress on your feet can turn a small problem into one that’s challenging to treat.

Custom orthotics improve foot function

Custom orthotics relieve your pain. They’re also therapeutic, which is something you can’t get with OTC orthotics.

What does it mean to have a therapeutic orthotic? It means that your customized orthotic can:

Custom orthotics cushion your feet with soft materials, while also using firm materials that control foot movement and function, correct faulty biomechanics, and eliminate strain.

Custom orthotics are precisely designed for your feet

When you get a customized orthotic, we take a cast using a special technique that captures your foot in the proper position and perfectly replicates its three-dimensional shape. These details are essential to create a therapeutic orthotic that’s designed for your feet.

Dr. Steigbigel is certified by Sole Supports and is trained in their casting technique to ensure you get exceptional support and results from your orthotics.

We chose Sole Supports because their orthotics are:

Sole Supports orthotics support your feet and arches throughout the gait cycle. By comparison, OTC orthotics only support your feet part of the time because they stick with your shoe, moving away from your foot as it bends and moves.

If you need help with foot pain and want to explore custom orthotics, call our office in Milford, Connecticut, or book an appointment online today.

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