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Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic

Buying the Right Orthotics

I’m gonna talk to you a little bit about arch supports and orthotics and help you make a wise decision and not make any mistakes when it comes to getting things that help your feet. Now orthotics, in my mind, are custom made devices that support your foot in a certain way, support your foot in a mechanically different position so that it functions better, and that can control a lot of symptoms, primarily symptoms like: heel pain, forefoot pain, leg pain, hip pain, back pain. All of those can be treated fairly successfully if you have the right arch support in many cases, but not in all cases by any means, but certainly they are an adjunct if not the primary treatment for many different things.

Sometimes, something as simple as over the counter arch support can solve the problem. The thing I want to talk about today is not making a mistake. I’ve had patients who have gone to big box stores where they advertise a lot on the radio and television, and they’ll go buy a device like this, or this, or this, in fact these came from one of my patients. This patient was unfortunate in that she payed over $1,200 on these devices and literally you can find these on the internet for $15. If you look at them, they’re about as supportive as . . . well nothing.   They’re just thick enough so that they have some support, but I can move this with my finger!  Okay, so what do you think is going to happen if you put a full body weight on this device, what’s going to happen? This thing is going to collapse down and be completely flat or dependent on the shape of the shoe.  It may provide some little arch support but it’s basically dictated by the thickness of the material. So this is just a very cheap - cheap in the sense that it’s cheap to make, but certainly expensive for this lady who spent $1,200 on these three arch supports – but literally all they do is there’s just a little bit of support and nothing more advantageous than something you can get at Walmart for $15. Anyway, this is another one, it’s a little stiffer, uh, goes inside a little finer shoe and is a much thinner device. But there’s no reason to spend $500-$600 on a device like this. It’s certainly not worth $500-$600. There’s other devices that work just as well. In fact, if you compare these two: we sell this one for $35, it’s fairly stiff, it’s got a much deeper heel cup, it’s very thin, goes inside a dress shoe, it’s quite supportive, and every bit better than this. It’s also a little bit wider so it’s more supportive. $35 to $500, you make the choice.

Now sometimes with arch supports, orthotics, and insoles, we’re trying to do something else. If it’s a patient with diabetes, we’re trying to take weight off certain areas. We use these kinds of insoles for diabetics as well as others, but these are just a very soft, flexible arch support. We heat them up, we can mold them, we can grind them off, we can cut things out of them to try and take pressure off certain areas. And that’s just a glorified insole with a little protection to it. You can make custom ones out of this by molding the foot and it will come looking just like the foot which is very good for decreasing pressure in certain areas. And that is another type of device. Here’s another over-the-counter arch support that is much stiffer than these. Again, $35 and we sell these in our office. It’s a durable device that will last you forever and not very much money.

If you go to buy an orthotic, you’re going to spend $400-$500 on a device, do not . . .  if you go to a store and they bring you something there, that’s not a custom orthotic device. That is just an over-the-counter device and you probably could have just as well gone over to Walmart, gone to the Dr. Scholl’s department, and bought some good arch supports. You would probably have the same effect. You can get New Balance which have great arch supports there. There’s lots of devices around that are just built for people’s feet. If you want to get a custom device, if you’re going to shell out $300-$400, if they’re not taking a mold of your foot and telling you to come back later, or they send it off to a lab, or they go back in the back and manufacture the device, then run away! Because all they are selling you is an over the counter device. They say it’s custom, but it’s not made for you. . . they all look the same. In fact, if you go into the backroom you’ll see size 7, size 8, size 9, size 10, and they’ll have flexible, rigid, stiff, and they’re all just the same. It’s just like pulling something off the shelf. If you look on the website, this device called “WalkFit” costs $15 and it’s the same device. There’s a little difference in that they have an insert here, but there’s no reason to spend a lot of money on something you just get over the counter. You’re just throwing your money away. And that can be testified by the patient who bought one of our $35 arch supports because she was having heel pain – she had spent $1,200 at the store and she said, “you know those $1,200 arch supports were doing nothing for me and I do much better in your little $35 arch supports.” She didn’t even need a custom device, she just needed a good over the counter device and now she’s pretty happy.

Anyway, that’s my spiel on orthotics, don’t waste your money. If you need a good orthotic, come and see us, and do visit Icon Orthotics website when you’re looking at orthotics. They’re kind of a small company but they work on a different biomechanical principle and they are great. They have actually been a real “game changer” in our office. I used to make orthotics all the time that were not satisfactory for my patients, they were not as satisfactory as I would have liked. This company has changed all of that. So, thanks for listening!