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Houston podiatrist discusses the difference between an insole and a custom foot orthoticYou can find them in many pharmacies and in stores, such as Walmart. A scanner that you stand on. It analyzes your feet and recommends an insole. Isn't that the same thing as a custom orthotic? My name is Dr. Andrew Schneider, and I'm a podiatrist in Houston, Texas. When I recommend an orthotic, some question why they wouldn't just go to the store and pick up an insole there. In today's video, I'm going to discuss the difference between an off-the-shelf insole, a medical grade insole, and a #CustomOrthotic.

When we talk about insoles and orthotics, I'm going to be referring to three different things: store-bought, off-the-shelf #insoles, medical-grade insoles and custom foot orthotics. 

When it comes to store-bought insoles, they run the gamut. You can find a floppy pair of insoles that will truly do nothing for you. You can also go to a specialty store and spend a thousand dollars. I don't recommend that you spend that kind of money for something that's off the shelf, but people do it every day. When most people think of off-the-shelf insoles, however, they usually think of Dr. Scholl's. 

Whether they're the insoles in the foot care aisle of the pharmacy or the ones that are recommended when you stand on the scanner in the store, they simply don't provide enough support to be effective. That's the problem with most off-the-shelf insoles. They're usually made of foam and fold in half with little effort. Even the ones that have some plastic to support is too flexible to make a meaningful difference. 

The next category of insoles are medical grade. Most of the time these are available in a podiatrist's office, but there are some that are available online or off-the-shelf. You'll often find these insoles in a specialty athletic or running shoe store. These insoles are not just foam. They have a plastic support for the arch. I dispense these insoles when they're appropriate for people who need more arch support. 

There are times when a medical grade insole is all you need. Other times they're a stepping stone before a custom orthotic. Regardless, it gives me the ability to add support to my patient's shoes immediately when it is needed. In no case should a medical grade insole cost more than $80. If you're in a store where they're trying to sell you an insole without taking an impression of any sort, please use that as a rule of thumb. There are stores, like The Good Feet store, where they'll try to sell insoles... good insoles, but still-off-the-shelf insoles, for hundreds of dollars. Instead, look for brands like Powersteps, Superfeet, or Spenco. In my office we use medical grade insoles called #Redithotics with excellent results. 

I generally only recommend an off-the-shelf insole for someone who has a flat foot. While there are medical grade insoles for people with high arch feet, they're not as readily available. 

And that's where custom orthotics come in. I'd like to say that all custom orthotics are equal, but that's far from the truth. There are different philosophies as to the science behind a custom orthotic. The method of taking a mold, whether they should be hard or soft, or even if they're better than an-off-the-shelf insole. That's a good place to start. What's the difference between an insole and a custom orthotic? 

An insole is purely supportive. It's there to buttress up the arch. It also offers the same support to anyone who wears it. A custom orthotic is corrective. When I evaluate you for a custom orthotic, I take a series of measurements called the biomechanical examination. That allows me to understand how your foot and ankle are functioning. I then watch you walk so I can analyze your gait. You can't believe what I can see simply by watching you walk. The information is invaluable. 

Most importantly, I take the information from the biomechanical examine and gait analysis and formulate a prescription to make the custom orthotics. My goal is for them to make your feet work as stable and as efficiently as possible. 

Think about it like eyeglasses. You can get the reading glasses from the pharmacy rack, which will help magnify the words when you're reading. Or you can get custom lenses, which corrects your all around vision. This way you don't have to squint or strain your eyes. Similarly, a custom orthotic will allow your foot to work as efficiently as possible. Since the orthotic handles the correction, the mechanics of your foot will be as stable as possible while you're wearing them.