How Long Will My Orthotics Last?

May 6, 2020

When we recommend custom orthotics to a patient, usually one of the first questions they have is about durability.

It makes sense, of course. After all, getting a set of custom orthotics is a little more involved than simply buying some gel insoles off the rack at the pharmacy. You’ll need to make an appointment for a foot exam, have a mold taken, and come back a few weeks later to get your orthotics and make final adjustments, to note just a few differences.

If you’re going to put in all that effort, and potentially pay a little bit more, you want to make sure your orthotics are not just going to work great, but also last you a good long time!

Well, we have good news on that front.

How Long Will My Orthotics Last?

Custom Orthotics Are Built to Last

No, they aren’t indestructible. They will wear out eventually, or you may even outgrow them if your activities or body mechanics change enough over time.

But compared to the cheap, flimsy insoles you can buy over the counter—which may only last a couple of months—almost all custom orthotics will serve you well for at least a year, and typically more like 3-5 on average. We’ve seen some go even a lot longer than that!

Two main differences here are both the quality of the materials, as well as the tailoring to the individual. In addition to being more structurally durable overall, custom orthotics handle forces more efficiently since they fit your feet exactly instead of approximately.

How Long Will My Pair Last?

So how many years will you get out of your specific pair or orthotics? That depends on a lot of factors. Some of the most relevant are:

  • Material construction. Rigid and semi-rigid orthotics made from materials like plastic or graphite tend to last longer than soft orthotics made from materials like silicone or cork.
  • Your weight. Heavier people put more strain on their orthotics than lighter people, causing them to wear out a little faster.
  • How you use them. If you enjoy a lot of vigorous, high-impact activities, your orthotics will wear out faster. (You should still be as active as you want to be, however—that’s the whole point of wearing orthotics in the first place!)
  • How often you wear them. We typically recommend wearing your orthotics every day, all the time. But some people may choose to get multiple pairs, or pairs for different types of shoes or shoes only worn for specific activities. By rotating pairs, you can increase their lifespan.
  • How life treats you. Chances are, the way you walk at age 70 isn’t going to be the same as the way you walked at age 40. Your feet won’t even be exactly the same shape and size, as they continue to grow and flatten as you get older. So a pair of orthotics that fits you perfectly now won’t necessarily fit you perfectly for the rest of your life.

How Will I Know When It’s Time to Update My Orthotics?

Acting quickly to repair, refurbish, or replace your orthotics when they are no longer effective is important if you want to avoid another frustrating round of foot and ankle pain.

We try to make this as easy as possible for you, which is why we strongly recommend you come see us for an orthotics “check-up” appointment once per year after you receive your orthotics. We’ll examine your feet, examine your orthotics, examine your walking gait, and talk to you about your activities, goals, and any symptoms you might be having.

If we catch something in the early stages, we can usually tweak your orthotics to keep them in top shape, long before they start to really wear down.

That said, there are a few other telltale signs that you might need new orthotics, or at least might want to get your next check-up on the schedule:

  • Return of pain (or new pain). Pain is always a sign that something is wrong. You may need new orthotics, or you may need an additional or different form of treatment.
  • Signs of damage. A few scuffs or scratches are probably fine. Cracks, creases, and other signs of structural deterioration are not.
  • Lifestyle changes. Significant events or “transformations” that occur after you first get your orthotics can cause you to need new ones. Examples include gaining or losing a lot of weight, pregnancy, recent knee surgery, etc.
  • Tread wear. Every now and then, check the soles of an older pair of shoes. If you notice uneven or unusual wear patterns, it probably means your orthotics aren’t balancing you correctly.

The biggest reason of these, however, is the first one—pain. If your orthotics are working correctly, pain should be minimal and rare. If it starts coming back, don’t wait until your symptoms are severe to see us again!

Our hope is that you will enjoy many years of pain-free activity from your custom orthotics!

To schedule your appointment with one of our foot and ankle biomechanics specialists at Sunshein Podiatry Associates, please call us today at (937) 435-7477.

Please be assured that if you do have to make an appointment during this time of COVID-19, we are taking extensive steps to keep our office environment as safe and sterile as possible, and fully meeting or exceeding all currently recommended CDC guidelines. Telemedicine appointments are also available in many circumstances.

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