If you’re a Costco shopper, you may know that foot orthotics are being sold at some stores.  Since many of our patients have inquired about these foot orthotics, I’d like to explain how these are made so that you can make an informed decision.

First, it’s important that if you are experiencing any foot problem, discomfort or pain, you should see a podiatrist first.  As a medical professional, the podiatrist will let you know if you would benefit from over-the-counter arch supports or custom orthotics – and help you find the best device for your foot.

A foot orthotic purchased from Costco is not customized for your foot.  You do stand on a scanning device, but this device only sizes your foot.  An arch support that matches the size of your foot is then pulled from a shelf and shipped to your Costco store for pick up.

Costco uses a scanner manufactured by PedAlign (San Diego, CA) and marketed at Costco as OrthotixRx.  Using a technology called “grayscale pixilation”, the scanner takes an enhanced, two-dimensional black and white photograph of the bottom of your foot.  The scanner does not provide the 3-dimension information necessary to create an orthotic that is custom to your foot.

Although these units were marketed to podiatrists for a number of years, they could not be used to create a truly 3-dimensional custom orthotic device. The other problem with the units is that they required the foot to be weight-bearing. Several studies have shown that orthotics made from weight bearing images result in an orthotic that does not work well for the majority of problems that orthotics are used to treat. More information on this, and a list of the studies, is available here.

In my opinion, Costco’s foot orthotics are 20% – 30% overpriced.  Good over-the-counter orthotics are available for $40 to $60. One of our favorite ones is the P3Full Length Orthotics. arch supports for foot pain - costcoThese are just about the most supportive non-custom orthotics you can get and they are particularly good for plantar fasciitis and ball of foot pain.

Costco charges about $90 for the scanner based arch supports. Given that, they are not a bad over-the-counter arch support and you may want to give them a try. They are certainly a far better deal in our opinion then you get at places like Good Feet where you are charged several hundred dollars for an arch support worth about $30. When making price comparisons you should compare these to OTC devices like Superfeet, not to the custom orthotics you get from a medical practitioner.

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