Determining when to replace your custom orthotics can be difficult. Orthotics come in an array of styles, materials and shapes and sizes as do people so the rate of wear and failure varies. The determination of when to replace orthotics is best made by your podiatrist, but here are a few guidelines to help you know when it is time to schedule a visit.
Example of old orthotics after numerous home, duct tape repairs
The working component of your orthotic is called the shell. The shell is made of a firmer material and lies in your arch and provides support and control. Things to look for indicating shell failure/wear:
- Flattening/collapse – just does not provide support it used to
- Cracked – usually occurs at beginning of arch by heel
- Wobble - when placed on a flat surface they rock back and forth with pressure
The topcover is the portion of device that covers the shell that provides comfort and proper fitting in shoe. Topcovers do not last forever and will usually wear before shell fails. Topcover needs replacement if:
- Holes – holes can occur where high areas of high foot pressure, i.e. heel or pad of foot area
- Tearing – more common in very active individuals
- Flattening – long term pressure can flatten cushioning materials, reducing comfort
- Loosening – over long periods of time the glue that holds the topcover to shell can come loose
Depending on your foot type and condition, modifications may have been made to your device to support instability or accommodate a deformity. Need to replace includes:
- Flattening of padding – with time almost all materials flatten
- Loosening – the glue the holds two materials together can loosen with time
- Need less or more support – modification may feel too hard or soft, material can be changed
In the case of growing children, orthotics may need to be replaced yearly as the foot lengthens and widens with age. The orthotic device should be modified to mimic these changes. Ask your child how their feet feel with devices, often children will not complain if they have become uncomfortable.
Some diabetics receive custom diabetic insoles once yearly. Typically each insole dispensed lasts only for 4 months and then should be replaced. These insoles are designed to pad the foot and prevent friction that can lead to sores. If they are flat from prolonged use they cannot perform that task.
Recent Surgery or Injury to Legs
If you have had surgery in your hip, knee, ankle or foot these can result in a need to modify or replace your orthotics. Hip and knee surgeries as well as leg, foot or ankle fractures can result in shortening of that limb, which may require a lift in your orthotic to even you out.
Orthotics should last several years and in some rare cases over ten years depending on the wearer, the material, and activity level. If you are unsure about your device or have a problem not listed above, come to FAANT and we can evaluate your devices to determine if modification or replacement is needed.