Rigid Versus Soft Orthotics

Custom orthotics are shoe inserts prescribed by a podiatrist to help with various foot problems. Orthotics can be used to reduce pain, offload high-pressure areas, improve lower limb function and reduce the risk of injury.

Podiatrists can prescribe custom orthotics as part of a treatment plan for patients suffering from arthritis, bunions, flat feet, heel pain and much more.

The footwear determines the type of materials used for an orthotic the patient wears and our treatment goals. ‘Rigid orthotics’ usually describes an orthotic made of a hard plastic polypropylene or carbon fibre. Softer orthotics are made from different densities of foam called EVA(ethylene vinyl acetate).

A Podiatrist will consider your unique treatment needs and previous experiences to decide which orthotics will work best for you and the activities you intend to use them for. We often use different types of foam or cushioned top covers to make “rigid” orthotics feel softer. Below are some pros and cons your Podiatrist will be weighing up when prescribing you an orthotic.

‘Rigid’ Orthotics – Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Less bulk in the shoe to create the same support
  • More supportive – They influence the foot better and more force can be put in certain areas where needed
  • last longer as they are harder to compress
  • These are the best option for dress shoes, football boots and racing cleats as they can be super low profile
  • Rigid orthotics are not dependent on the stiffness of the shoe and can be used in softer shoes


‘Rigid’ Orthotics – Cons

  • More gradual wear-in process – can be hard to adjust to
  • Can squeak in footwear – although your Podiatrist can modify for this


‘Soft’ Orthotics – Pros

  • Softer feel
  • Easier to wear-in
  • Can provide more padding for arthritic joints
  • They are mostly used in accommodating ulceration sites or high-pressure areas
  • Very easy for a podiatrist to modify


‘Soft’ Orthotics – Cons

  • Compress and need to be replaced more regularly
  • Depends on you wearing a stiff-soled shoe.
  • Bulkier, hard to fit in many shoes
  • Can make feet feel hot and sweaty


Over-the-Counter Inserts

Our clinic offers a non-custom orthotic option called Polyfabs. These are pre-made polypropylene devices that come in low and mid-arch options. They range from children to adult sizes. These are cheaper options. Just like getting reading glasses from the chemist, off-the-shelf innersoles can be all some people need. In some cases, we can modify these to reach our patient’s goals.


Prescription Orthotics

Custom orthotics are made from a computer-generated 3D model for your feet. These are high-quality and designed specifically for your needs. We can work with your choice of shoes, even sandals. With custom devices, you can choose from a range of colour options. At Sports and Structural Podiatry, we can make most adjustments to your devices in-house during your fitting consultation.

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