Custom Orthotics vs. Over the Counter Inserts

Have you recently discovered that your feet need some extra support? Whether you need more cushioning or want to correct ongoing pronation or gait issues, you have two choices in what product you buy: shoe inserts or custom orthotics.

Today, let’s define each product and what they do, plus review the benefits of each.

What you should choose will depend on need, pain management, comfort, or ongoing issues you may experience with your feet that impact your daily life and activity level.

What is a Shoe Insert?

At its core definition, a shoe insert is something that goes into your shoe to improve the fit or make it more comfortable for walking or running. Over the counter shoe inserts can be purchased at most pharmacies, grocery stores, or shoe stores, and are made in a small range of sizes to ensure they fit in most shoes.

What is an Orthotic Device?

A custom-made orthotic device is specifically made to fit your feet and can work to correct foot issues instead of just padding them. This means you feel less short-term discomfort.

Each device is crafted based on your unique measurements and takes your food conditions and your unique foot shape into account. For example – if you have a stiff, high arch as well as bunions, your custom orthotics can be crafted so that both of these issues receive the attention and treatment they need.

Comparing Custom Orthotics vs Off the Shelf Inserts

When you’re comparing custom orthotics vs over the counter shoe insoles, the details are most important.

When you look at them side-by-side, they can look fairly similar.

However, once you examine each of their characteristics, you can see how different they are when it comes to fit, utility, durability, and price.


When you buy OTC shoe inserts, they’ll come prefabricated in a standard size, and the customer must then trim them down to fit their shoes. If you’re not an expert, this can get tricky - or result in running back to the store to buy a new pair if you trim too generously.

As well, all of our shoes are slightly different sizes. Once your insoles are trimmed to fit into one pair of shoes, you may find that they don’t work with any other pair.

Custom orthotics are made to fit your unique measurements, so they won’t need to be trimmed to fit.

When you buy from Orthotics Direct, you also have the option of purchasing an orthotic and shoe package. We’ll make sure your orthotics fit perfectly into your chosen pair of shoes before they’re shipped to your door!


Over-the-counter shoe inserts are useful if you don’t have any existing foot issues, and simply want some cushioning in a pair of shoes you wear often. They cannot treat foot problems, and may make them worse if an individual continues to opt for OTC shoe inserts instead of visiting a doctor or podiatrist.

Even if you purchase a shoe insert designed for a certain condition, it is not made to fit your foot shape, and cannot take issues like gait, posture, and weight into account.

In contrast, custom orthotics are made using your precise measurements and are designed to provide support where you need it most. They’re much better at helping keep your feet and ankles in a functionally correct position, which improves gait and reduces strain throughout your body.


The typical lifespan of over-the-counter shoe inserts is around six months. This means that you’ll need to purchase a minimum of two pairs every year.

Why? OTC shoe inserts wear out quickly because they’re made of soft materials like rubber or silicone. These materials don’t have the same kind of durability as the materials used to manufacture custom orthotics.

Most custom orthotic devices are made from high-quality materials like leather, carbon fibre, and cork, and can last up to five years before they need to be replaced. These materials are chosen because of their ability to provide support and withstand impacts and pressure without wearing out.

Custom orthotics are also designed to be breathable, using anti-microbial materials to ensure they can be worn day after day without collecting odours. This is a significant detail for those who may suffer from overactive sweat glands or even a condition like hyperhidrosis.


This tends to be the factor that results in an individual going for OTC versus custom orthotics. Expect to pay anywhere from $12 to $30 for over-the-counter shoe inserts, while custom orthotics can cost anywhere from $199 to $600, on average.

However, while OTC shoe inserts are much cheaper than their custom alternatives, there’s a reason for that. The higher price of custom orthotics reflects the materials, moulding, and craftsmanship that goes into their creation. They’re made to your exact measurements, so you can use them confidently for years.

Time is money. So while OTC inserts may not dent your wallet right away, the time needed to replace worn inserts, re-buy insoles for new shoes or getting rid of inserts that are starting to stink means less time to enjoy life.

Going custom can have less impact on your bank account because you invested in a quality product made just for you, that was built to last for a longer time.

Find Your Perfect Fit at Orthotics Direct

Looking to invest in a pair of orthotics that can help correct ongoing gait, posture, and foot issues? At Orthotics Direct, our custom products are made to fit your exact measurements and can support your feet for years.

Whether you have one ongoing issue that’s been giving you pain, or multiple concurrent issues that need correction, you can find orthotics that support your needs, and great brands delivered right to your door.

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