Store-Bought Vs. Custom Orthotics: We Settle the Debate


If you suffer foot pain, you have a lot of company. More than three-quarters of Americans experience some type of foot pain in their lifetimes. That doesn’t even count the ankle, leg, or back issues that can be the result of a problem with your feet.

Many foot problems — both simple and complex issues — can be successfully treated with custom orthotics, inserts designed to provide support and comfort for your unique foot issues.

Unfortunately, far too many people mistakenly believe they can get the same benefits from over-the-counter shoe inserts — and that’s just not the case.

With locations in the Near Southside and West Town neighborhoods of Chicago, we at Gelbmann Podiatry offer custom orthotics using state-of-the-art design principles to help our patients find relief for all sorts of foot-related problems.

Here’s how custom orthotics from our team at Gelbmann Podiatry outshine store-bought inserts.

It starts with design

While you might be tempted by the lower cost of a store-bought orthotic, that lower price comes at a big cost. Store-bought orthotics are cheap for a reason: These inserts are made for the general population, relying on some very basic principles about foot shape, size, and malady.

In fact, they’re so generalized, many over-the-counter products have to be trimmed or modified in other ways in order to fit your foot, your shoe, or your problem.

Because it’s not designed for your unique foot shape and size, a store-bought orthotic can cause additional pressure points and balance issues that can weaken your foot or cause painful symptoms in other areas, not to mention making your existing issues even worse.

In fact, an ill-fitting orthotic can often wind up being a lot worse than having no orthotic at all.

Custom orthotics are crafted one patient at a time using 3D scanning technology to take many factors into account, including your symptoms, your foot shape, your gait pattern — even your preferred type of shoe.

The result is a medical device that’s made just for you and designed for better health and function.

Better materials

Mass design is one way store-bought inserts keep costs low. Using low-cost materials is another. Over-the-counter inserts are designed for short-term wear, which means you need to replace them fairly often.

Our custom orthotics use high-quality, durable materials, so they last a long time. Plus, those materials make it possible to craft orthotics that provide just the right amount of support to specific areas of your foot, so you can enjoy long-term relief of your symptoms.

They’re cost-effective

Yes, custom orthotics do cost more than store-bought products. But because over-the-counter products can be ineffective and even lead to more (costly) problems, the initial investment is worth it.

Add to that the durability of materials, and it’s easy to see how custom orthotics can be the cost-effective choice.

But there’s more to it. While you pay out-of-pocket for over-the-counter orthotics, the cost of custom orthotics may be covered by your insurance, which means even more savings over time.

Styles for every need

Finally, it all comes down to fashion. Custom orthotics can be designed for specific types of shoes, including athletic shoes and high heels, so you can get the support and comfort you need, regardless of the shoes you’re wearing.

To learn more about custom orthotics and how they can help you, call one of our two Chicago offices or use our online form to schedule an office visit today.

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Gelbmann Podiatry

Wednesday: 1:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Friday: 8:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Saturday: 7:30 AM - 1:00 PM

Monday: 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Tuesday: 1:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Thursday: 8:00 AM - 1:00 PM

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S. Michigan Avenue W. Chicago Avenue