Are custom shoe orthotics necessary?


MAY 2015 – It is the time of year when kids gear up for soccer, tennis and track.  Novice and experienced runners, cyclists, and triathletes immerse themselves into race season.

Golf courses, tennis courts and hiking trails see increased traffic.  Even summer travel plans require more walking. All this activity increases the frequency of questions I receive regarding shoe orthotics.

The answer depends on your unique needs and goals. Consumers have options in orthotics and should utilize a trusted resource to navigate the process. Physical therapists, performance specialists, running stores, chiropractors and podiatrists are a few of the professionals casting custom orthotics.

Custom prices range from $150 to upwards of $800, so they can be pricey. Prefabricated orthotic options range from $15 to $50.  How do you choose?

First, it’s important to understand materials used to fabricate orthotics vary and dramatically impact the effectiveness.  Not all orthotics provide the same level of performance during push off so identifying your movement goal is key.

Second, the most expensive orthotics are not necessarily better.

Health & Fitness ReportThird, shoe orthotics are only one piece of the puzzle and are most effective when used in conjunction with active training strategies to maximize how your body moves.

Every runner is unique and has different needs when it comes to orthotics. For example, I recently evaluated two siblings.  One was 12, a male runner in the middle of a growth spurt and having foot pain while running.  The other was a girl, 10, experiencing knee pain in soccer.

Their parents wanted them pain free but were already struggling to keep growing kids in new shoes for each sport.  During growth spurts, the body’s control muscles struggle to keep pace with the growth in long bones.

Orthotics provide passive support and can decrease strain on tissues especially during periods of rapid growth; however orthotics do not actively train efficiency in the specific muscles of the foot, knee, hip and trunk required to maximize lower extremity function long-term.

Upon assessment, the boy demonstrated good control at his hips and trunk. He lacked precise muscle control at the feet during landing drops, but otherwise had a decent arch at rest.

The young girl demonstrated poor hip control and very flat feet during both static and dynamic challenges. Her knee pain and movement control problems put her at high risk for an ACL injury in soccer.

In regards to orthotics, the boy was fitted with a prefabricated orthotic ($29.95) while the girl required a custom orthotic ($199).  Both kids require specific motor control training exercises. To reduce training expense and scheduling efficiency for their parents, we trained both kids in the same session yet tailored the program to meet the unique needs of each kid.

They are pain free, demonstrate improved movement control and are back to their chosen sport.

One management strategy does not work for everyone. When it comes to orthotics and exercise training specificity is the key to your success. Choose a provider that understands and can meet your unique needs now and into the future.

Article by Danielle Debbrecht, PT, Danielle is a physical therapist and movement specialist at CORE Strategies Physical Therapy, Sport Performance & Medical Fitness in Overland Park. The CORE team specializes in rehabilitation and performance training for clients of all ages and activity levels. To learn more about CORE’s sport specific programs visit  Contact Danielle at

One Response to Are custom shoe orthotics necessary?

  1. Ben says:

    Couldn’t agree more! Check out Tread Labs ( They’re a new orthtoic insole brand and offer a free at home try-on.

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