Customized insoles are big money and typically insurance doesn't cover them. So before you hand over the $200 to $800 they cost, make sure you really need them. And if you do, find out how to get the most for your money.
Customized insoles are expensive, running anywhere from $200 to $800. Additionally, the office visits from initial evaluation to follow-up can add to the total quickly.
Making custom orthotics is a multi-step process that includes a thorough exam by a podiatrist, taking a cast of your foot, and the manufacture and fitting of your orthotics.
While the sticker price for customized insoles runs from $200 to $800, you should also factor in additional costs. While these devices can last for years, the top cover will wear out and have to be replaced. This can cost $50 to $100.
WHAT PHYSICIANS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT CUSTOM INSOLES
While podiatrists often promote the need for custom orthotics, some sports medicine doctors aren’t convinced they are worth the cost. Dr. William O. Roberts, a sports medicine physician in St. Paul, Minnesota says:
“If your main business is feet, and part of your income is prescribing orthotics, then you might prescribe them 90, 100 percent of the time. It’s a financial issue, and I don’t think there's a huge need for custom orthotics.”
Orthopedic surgeons often agree with this line of thinking about custom insoles for shoes. Dr. John G. Kennedy, an orthopedic surgeon in Manhattan contends:
“There is a big problem with orthotics out there and people are not aware of it. The number of orthotics that I see prescribed in this city is far greater than is warranted by the number of pathological reasons.”
One factor in this difference of opinion between medical doctors (MD) and podiatrists (Doctors of Podiatric Medicine, DPM) is their training:
Physicians attend school for four years, where they learn many general concepts before doing three years of highly-specialized residency.
Podiatrists go to four years of school, learning specifically about the foot and ankle before doing one more year of podiatric residency. While this can make them experts at anything foot- and ankle-related, they might miss other larger structural problems that a sports medicine or orthopedic physician will consider. Nevertheless, a good podiatrist will consider the overall picture before prescribing custom orthotic inserts.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CUSTOM VS. OVER-THE-COUNTER ORTHOTICS?
A 2009 study came to the following conclusion: "At two to three months and at 12 months, prefabricated orthoses were as effective as custom orthoses ... There is no evidence that custom orthoses are more effective than prefabricated ones."
With so many doctors and studies questioning the need for custom orthotics, you're probably asking yourself if you actually need them. The truth is, there are some people who absolutely do need custom orthotics. Dr. James Ioli, DPM, Chief of Podiatry at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, says this population includes those with:
Complex foot disorders
Diabetes who have loss of feeling in their feet
Severe foot deformities caused by arthritis
But for the majority of people, particularly those suffering from Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, arch pain, heel pain, and kinetic chain pain, over-the-counter orthotics are the option that makes sense.
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