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What Is the Difference Between Custom and Customized Orthotics?

“Orthotics” can be described as "eyeglasses for the feet". They work to balance your feet while you walk or exercise. People accept the fact that they usually will need glasses/contact lenses for their eyes as they get older. I would like people to also accept that once you get to a certain age (I like to say "around 40"), that it would be a good idea to give your feet a similar "assist" that eyeglasses do for your sight. Be aware that orthotics can be made from a variety of materials and can range from being firm to flexible, with a combination of the two being the most easily tolerated by my patients. Just because you had a bad experience in the past with them, don't think you will not be able to use a different pair that is more flexible. Orthotics work best when placed in a shoe that has a few requirements. The first is a lace or velcro to hold your foot firmly in the back of the shoe. Speaking of the back or "counter", you want that to be firm and not flimsy, to hold your foot secure. And finally, you want a shoe with an inner sole that is easily removable so you can "swap" them out for your own personalized orthotic. There is more to an orthotic than just being an "arch-support". This is why you need to be careful with those self-diagnosing "kiosks" that you see in some retail stores. The "foot-print" that your foot makes does not tell the whole story. An orthotic will properly balance both the rearfoot and forefoot to give proper alignment, support and motion-control and thus requires a prescription to optimize foot function. A person's medical history also needs to be factored into the equation. A "custom orthotic" is made from a direct impression of your feet and should match their contour, while also holding them in a more stable position. These are the best product for your feet however they require an office visit. They will usually last around 10-20 years, depending on the materials used.

A "customized orthotic" (a term that I use) is not made from a cast, but a prescription correction is still able to be added to the device to match up with your biomechanical requirements. This is still far more favorable to any "over-the-counter arch support" that you buy at the retail stores or online. I estimate about 3-5 years of use for these devices.

I have also designed an economical “universal” orthotic” with 2 prescriptions that I have found to be very important for foot function. These “Doc Rick’s Orthotics” can be easily accessed via my online store and do not require an office visit nor teleconsultation. They also last about 3-5 years, similar to the “customized” devices. In conclusion, I feel that most people can benefit from some type of orthotic in their shoes after the age of 40. They can help your feet function more efficiently while also reducing the risk of many lower extremity problems such as "heel spur/plantar fasciitis", "tendonitis" and "arthritis". They also have the potential to help lower back problems that are not severe, such as spinal stenosis. I practice what I preach and I transfer mine from shoe to shoe so I can maximize their use. I love having them inside my shoes. They enable me to walk "stronger", "longer" and "taller".

Climb aboard the “Wellness Wagon” and remember to “Start With Your Feet”.

Walk Strong…with orthotics,

Doc Rick DPM


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