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  • Teresa M. Propato DPM, FACFAS

What are prescription custom orthotics and how are they different from store bought inserts?

Prescription custom orthotics are crafted for you and no one else. They match the contours of your feet precisely and are designed for the way you walk.

Orthotics are manufactured based upon a complete evaluation of your feet, ankles, and legs, so the orthotic can accommodate your unique foot structure, foot problem and biomechanics of your individual gait.

Prescription orthotics are divided into two categories:

Functional orthotics are designed to treat foot pain caused by abnormal motion by correcting the abnormality in the same way that eye glasses correct imperfect vision. They can treat injuries such as shin splints, tendinitis, plantar fasciitis/heel pain. Functional orthotics are usually made of a semi-rigid material such as plastic or graphite.

Accommodative orthotics are softer and meant to provide additional cushioning and support. They can be used to treat diabetic foot ulcers, painful calluses on the bottom of the foot and arthritic conditions.

Custom molded orthotics, typically cost more than shoe inserts purchased in a retail store, but the additional cost is usually well worth it. Unlike shoe inserts, custom orthotics are molded to fit each individual foot, so you can be sure that your orthotics fit and do what they're supposed to do. Prescription orthotics are also made of durable materials and can last many years compared to most over the counter inserts such as those seen in a grocery store, walmart, or amazon that often need to be replaced every 6 months.

Shoe inserts are any kind of over-the-counter foot support designed to be worn inside a shoe. Pre-packaged, mass produced, arch supports are shoe inserts. While these inserts can be very helpful to cushion your feet, aid shock absorption and offer some support to your arches, they can't correct biomechanical foot problems or cure long-standing foot issues. Again, in comparison to prescription eyeglasses, these would be the equivalent to over-the-counter reading glasses.

So which one is right for you?

  • Consider your health. Do you have diabetes? Problems with circulation?

  • Think about the purpose. Are you planning to run a marathon, or do you just need a little arch support in your work shoes?

  • If you are simply looking for extra cushioning or support, you may wish to try an over-the-counter shoe insert first.

If you have serious pain or are not sure what might be right for you, schedule an appointment with us at Warrington Family Foot Care. We will examine your feet and how you walk, as well as listen carefully to your concerns. The information gathered during the exam will help us determine if shoe inserts might be helpful or if you need a custom prescription orthotic.


Call for an evaluation today at 215-491-1963

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