How is it possible that some
places charge you $300 dollars for a custom
orthotic and others charge less than $100?
What's the difference? I know that this is a
source of confusion because I get this question
all the time. Basically the price difference
depends on the manufacturing process.
Years ago the orthotic arch supports were
crafted by hand and took many hours for a
skilled technician to make. The doctor would
make a cast of the patient's foot with plaster.
They would then send the plaster mold off to a
lab to manufacture the orthotic. There still are
some labs that make the devices by hand but
these are becoming a thing of the past.
Today there are ways to manufacture custom
arch supports that are much less labor
intensive. Lasers and computers are used to make
a 3-dimensional computer image of the foot. This
image is then sent to a computer controlled
milling machine which automatically machines out
the orthotic. This process is less labor
intensive but the computers and machines to do
this are expensive. Therefore although the
technology speeds up the process it does not
bring down the cost appreciably.
To make the custom arch supports more
affordable many labs now use a set of 100 or so
pre-manufactured orthotics. The pre-made arch
supports are sized according to length, heel
width and arch heights. The shapes of the pre-fabs
were based on the foot molds of over 100,000
patients. The most frequent shapes were mass
produced to have a set of custom arch supports
that would meet the needs of 70% of the
patients. For most of the other 30%, if an
adjustment is needed to fit the orthotics
exactly to the patient's mold, the support can
be heated and formed to conform to the mold.
Using the pre-fabs still requires that a mold
be made of the foot. However this process has
dramatically decreased the time of manufacture
of the orthotics without sacrificing quality or
function of the orthotic. Therefore many of the
orthotic labs that were making them by hand are
now using the pre-fabs. Unfortunately, because
the pre-fabs work as well as the hand-made many
labs can get away with charging the same price
for the pre-fab as they did for the hand-made.
However many providers of arch supports pass the
savings on to the patient resulting in an
effective solution to foot pain at a fraction of
If you have complex and/or complicated
problems with your foot you should have a
hands-on physical exam with a professional that
can design an orthotic to solve your problem.
However if you are like most people experiencing
pain in your foot or knee, a pre-fab custom
orthotic can solve the problem without costing
you an arm to fix your leg.