Remember the days when you had to go to a physician to be fitted for orthotics? Well that’s a thing of the past. These days over-the-counter orthotics are so prevalent, getting a pair is as easy as driving down to your local pharmacy or running store. Though, while over-the-counter orthotic kiosks certainly make it convenient to find some needed foot support, they’re a controversial topic for doctors and physical therapists as finding the right pair is essentially a crap shoot. Get the right kind and you’re golden. Get the wrong ones and you could just be making things worse.
The good news is, if you know what to look for, you can save a lot of money and hassle by finding some OTC orthotics compared to prescribed ones, which can rack up in cost once you factor in doctor’s visits. To help you out, we’ve put together the following comprehensive guide on how to pick out the best OTC orthotics for you.
Before we delve into how to choose a perfect pair of OTC orthotics, let’s back up for a minute to define what an orthotic actually is.
An orthotic is essentially a device that is inserted into a shoe that lacks proper foot support. In other words, the main goal of an orthotic is to amp up the support--whether its in the heel, arch or another part of the foot--in order to help prevent injuries such as foot and back pain.
Types of Orthotics
While there are various types of orthotics devices ranging from inlays to heel cups to silicone pads, the most common type of orthotics--particularly for athletes--are insoles. While they look similar to the insoles that come with your shoes to the untrained eye, orthotics insoles feature a more custom design meant to give your foot support where it needs it the most.
Hard > Soft
Some over-the-counter orthotics are made from soft materials that go flat as soon as you step on them--these are the ones you want to avoid. Instead, go with ones that are made from plastic polymer or a hard plastic, as these are more rigid and offer greater support underfoot. Another option is going with a moldable insole that blends the best of both OTC and custom-fit orthotics. These allow you to mold the precise shape of your foot using heat treatment. The problem with moldable orthotics, however, is that if you don’t get a proper imprint, your insoles will be virtually useless.
Custom made easy
Whether or not you know anything about orthotics, chances are you’ve still heard the name Dr Scholl’s. As the leading brand of OTC insoles, Dr Scholl’s has completely redefined what it means to receive customized orthotics without the help of a specialist. Case in point the Dr. Scholl’s Custom Fit Kiosk system.
This automated system can be found at places like grocery and drug stores all over, and allows consumers to simply step on its FootMapping unit to get an instant recommendation on what type of orthotics will work best for your foot type. The kiosk uses 2,000 sensors to pick up the shape of your feet, including your arch type, foot length and pressure points. After just a few minutes, you have an orthotics insert that works specifically for your feet.
On average, over-the-counter orthotics will cost you far less than custom ones. The downside, however, is that OTC orthotics only last a fraction of the time. While custom ones can last upwards of a few years, OTC orthotics tend to last roughly six or so months before they begin to lose their structural integrity.