When should you get a prefabricated orthotic and when should you invest in a custom orthotic?
There isn’t a straight answer to this question because there are advantages and disadvantages to both. But in general, we think you should choose the least expensive treatment that gives you 100% of the potential relief that you could get from any orthotic.
There are many good prefabricated orthotics on the market and we think it’s very logical to start there.
Prefabricated Orthotics are a Cost-effective Beginning Treatment Option in Most Situations
The purpose of any orthotic, whether it’s prefab or custom, is simply to get stress off of tissue that’s causing pain or damage to that tissue. The first thing we want do is to use an orthotic that will reduce abnormal stress on that tissue, and in most cases a prefabricated orthotic is a good way to start.
Good store-bought orthotics will cost in the $40-$60, maybe $70 range.
You can find our Recommended Prefabricated Orthotic List here. On this page we recommend our favorite prefabricated orthotics for specific shoes foot types. You can also find recommendations for specific conditions by finding your condition here.
Custom Orthotics Are Sometimes Necessary for Optimum Pain Relief
Sometimes, however, a prefabricated orthotic does not provide enough relief. In those cases custom orthotics can do a lot that a prefabricated orthotic cannot.
Custom Orthotics Can Address Specific Pathologies
We can prescribe custom orthotics in a manner to take very specific forces off of tissues. So, for example, let’s say your posterior tibial tendon is injured. We can design an orthotic specifically to reduce tension on that tendon.
In addition, custom orthotics tend to be made out of better materials, so they last much longer if they’re well made.
Custom orthotics will cost more, however, and they can range anywhere from $400-$600 depending on the part of the country you’re in, how involved the production is, and where you get them.
Custom orthotics are sometimes covered by insurance. You can find out if your insurance covers orthotics by contacting your insurance and asking the orthotic coverage questions found here.
Use the Least Expensive Orthotic That Provides 100% of the Potential Relief
So, again, there’s not a general answer to whether a store-bought orthotic or a custom orthotic will be best in your specific situation.
We do think, however, that a logical thing to do is to start with prefabricated orthotics and if you get 100% relief you can stick with those.
If you don’t get 100% relief, then move on to seeing a professional who specializes in orthotic therapy and see about getting a custom orthotic or possibly just get your prefabricated orthotic modified.
Modified Prefabricated Orthotics Will Work Better Than Standard Prefabs at Less Cost Than Custom Orthotics
Often, we will add modifications to prefabricated orthotics to improve their function. These modified off-the-shelf orthotics are an in-between option that costs less than a custom orthotic and are more effective than a standard prefabricated orthotic.
If you are in the Seattle area you can make an appointment to see us if you think you might be a candidate for custom orthotics.
If you do come to see us bring all of your prefabricated orthotics with you as we often find that a modification to the prefab orthotics will provide complete pain relief. We will always try to do the least expensive treatment that provides maximum relief.