There are many insole/footbed products available in the market, but it is important to clearly understand what you are purchasing. Many over-the-counter footbed products will use the word “customized”, “heat moldable” or have a machine that tells you the support you need. This terminology can make the consumer think the product is custom-made, when in fact, it can only, at the very most be considered customized. To simplify things, we can divide insoles/orthotics down into 2 categories: over-the-counter insoles and custom-made foot orthotics.
A pre-fabricated insole is a product with pre-formed arch support. An example of this type are Superfeet insoles. These products are available in retail stores and come in size ranges similar to shoe sizes. Often they are not available in half sizes and need to be trimmed to fit into your shoes. This style of insole is usually available in a variety of designs to suit specific footwear including dress shoes, runners, skates, and ski boots.
A customizable insole includes products that are heat-moldable and/or heat-conformed to your foot from a pre-made material. An example of this type are SOLE footbeds. Similar to pre-fabricated insoles, they are also available in retail stores and come in sizes similar to shoe sizes. These products can give a more customized fit to your foot’s arch shape and can also come in different styles to fit varying footwear.
The positives of over-the-counter insoles are that they are convenient and affordable. However, the negatives are that they do not fit all foot types, are only supportive enough for minor biomechanical abnormalities, and have a lifespan similar to a pair of shoes (6-12 months).
These insoles can be a great option for people when it comes to minor foot, knee, or back aches and pains, but everyone’s needs are slightly different.
These types of insoles are designed and made specifically for you following a thorough biomechanical and gait assessment of your lower extremities. This type of assessment is performed by a trained healthcare professional, such as a Canadian Certified Pedorthist. For foot orthoses to be considered custom-made, it must be made from a 3-dimensional model of your foot and manufactured from raw materials. The healthcare professional casts your feet through plaster casting (wrapping the foot in plaster), foam box impressions, and/or 3-D laser scanning of the foot. Once a model of the foot is obtained, a pair of foot orthoses can be manufactured. Raw materials are heated and molded over the casts, hand ground to fit the client’s footwear and biomechanical needs, and then covered with a cushioned top cover material. Custom foot orthotics can be made with a variety of materials and can either be accommodative, functional, or a combination of the two.
The benefits of custom-made foot orthotics includes a more accurate biomechanical assistance, having a product that is custom-made to fit a person’s specific needs, a variety of materials to choose from for specific functions and comfort, and a longer life span than over the counter insoles.
The challenge of custom foot orthotics for most clients is the price, although a large number of extended medical plans do provide coverage for custom-made foot orthotics.
With all these options available, there is always confusion over which one is best for you. Each over-the-counter footbed/insole is different and every custom-made foot orthotic is unique. If you are unsure, it is best to ask a Canadian Certified Pedorthist.
By Stephanie Taylor, BHK., C. Ped (C)
Canadian Certified Pedorthist / Shoe Store Manager
Questions? Contact us at 250-448-5908