3D-Printed Orthotics

Insoles for better Comfort, Support & Function.
3D printed orthotics scan

Orthotics, also known as insoles, are medical devices that correct the foot and ankle alignment and modulate the function of the feet. 

A simple way to look at orthotics is to see them as glasses for your eyes. When you wear glasses with prescription lenses, your vision improves and you can see well. Similarly, orthotics also have prescription to improve the alignment of your foot and ankle to help you walk better!

Orthotics are often a part of the treatment for common foot and lower limb problems, including:

  • Plantar fasciitis/heel pain
  • Arch pain
  • Ankle pain
  • Shin splints
  • Knee pain
  • Hip & low back pain
  • Growing pains in children and teenagers

As most of the above conditions occur as a result of poor foot and ankle alignment and poor foot function, orthotics can help treating the root cause of the problem, providing long-term relief. 

Having said that, many people also choose to wear orthotics as a lifestyle choice because of the comfort and support insoles offer. They are lightweight and can be made slim depending on the shoes you plan on putting them in. Bulky orthotics are a thing of the past!

The Process of getting 3D-Printed Orthotics

It’s really straight forward, and you don’t need a referral to see us!

Book an appointment

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We are open MON, WED-FRI 9AM-5:30PM and SAT 9AM-12:30PM.

Assessment of your feet & footwear

Your podiatrist will perform an assessment on your feet and shoes. Based on the results of the assessment, your podiatrist will do a prescription that has the perfect balance between comfort and function.

3D Foot Scan

A well-fitted pair of orthotics starts from an accurate scan. Your podiatrist will do a 3D scan of your feet to capture the size and shape of your feet. After that, your foot scan and prescription are sent to our orthotic lab where the 3D-printing magic happens!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to the questions we get the most about orthotics. If you can’t find your answers here, feel free to get in touch with us!

3D-Printed Orthotics are more accurate, comfortable and durable. While the previous generation (moulded polypropylene) of orthotics is already quite good, 3D-Printed Orthotics take things to the next level!

Prescribing orthotics is a bit of an art in itself. It requires a thorough understanding of how feet work during gait to find that perfect balance between comfort and function. Too much correction and the orthotics will be bulky, making it difficult to fit them in shoes. Orthotics that are overly aggressive with correction also tend to be uncomfortable to wear. Too little correction, on the other hand, defeats the purpose of wearing orthotics!

Our approach to prescribing orthotics is to keep things simple, so your orthotics do what they are supposed to do AND are comfortable at the same time. Because what good does it do if you don’t enjoy wearing your orthotics?

While orthotics are often part of the treatment plan for common foot problems, they can also be worn for better comfort and support. Many of our clients wear orthotics because they are on their feet a lot and want to make sure their feet are well supported throughout the day.

No, not at all! While many people choose to wear orthotics in sports shoes, you can certainly put orthotics in other shoes as well. In fact, we wear orthotics in our work shoes and going-out shoes most of the time.

There are two things that make your shoes a good match for orthotics – removable insoles/shoe linings and enough depth. We always recommend people to bring their shoes with them to the appointment, so we know what shoes we are prescribing the orthotics for, and can let you know whether there would be any compatibility issues.

A lot of shoes are now orthotic-friendly AND fashionable. Check out BARED Footwear and Frankie4!

Yes, you can, given that your shoes are similar in shape and height. For example, if you put the orthotics in a pair of high heels, the orthotics will rock in the heels because the pitch is not right. But, if all your shoes are similar in shape and height, there should be no issue changing your orthotics around.

Custom orthotics are a claimable item with private health insurance. How much you would be able to claim towards orthotics depends on your private health policy. It is best to check with your health fund to see whether you have cover for orthotics and how much rebate you would be able to claim.

Much like optometrists prescribing glasses, we prescribe orthotics as podiatrists. About a year ago, during a consultation, a client and I started talking about 3D printing. “Why can’t they use this technology to make orthotics?” The client asked. To which, I remember saying, “yeh, I think that would be a brilliant idea.” Little did I know, fast forward 12 months, 3D printed orthotics actually became a thing!

3D orthotics
Feet, meet your new best friend – 3D printed orthotics!
Your name, the clinic name and printing date will all be engraved into the orthotics. You will know exactly how old your orthotics are, where you got them from, etc.

What are orthotics?

Orthotics (aka orthoses, insoles, arch support) are a medical device for the feet to facilitate better lower limb alignment and improve lower limb biomechanics. An analogy we like to draw is one between prescription glasses and orthotics – when you wear glasses, you see better; similarly, when you wear orthotics, you walk better.

Many have the idea that orthotics can “create” a foot arch in someone who is flat-footed, especially if they start wearing them at a young age. While wearing orthotics can create muscle memory in the feet, orthotics cannot create a foot arch.

Orthotics are like glasses for your eyes, not braces for your teeth.

It is also worth mentioning that there is nothing to panic about if you happen to be flat-footed. Much like how some people are tall while some are short, some have big eyes and some have smaller eyes, flat feet are simply a foot type. It is a completely normal anatomical variation.

Unfortunately, many marketing gimmicks have taken advantage of this whole issue of being flat-footed, misleading many into believing that having flat feet is a major problem.

The process of getting orthotics

Let’s talk about the process that happens at the clinic before we get to the manufacturing stage. This process remains the same whether we go for either the pressing method or 3D printing.

The process starts with your podiatrist performing a computerised scan of your feet. The scan captures the contour of your feet, making your orthotics uniquely yours. Your podiatrist will also perform a video gait analysis and various assessments. The results of these assessment form your biomechanical profile – how you walk, how your feet function, your foot type, etc.

Computerised scan of the foot
This is how a scan of the foot looks.

Based on your biomechanical profile, your podiatrist will formulate your orthotic prescription, striking a fine balance between function and comfort. On this note, we couldn’t emphasise more that orthotics should ALWAYS feel comfortable. We’ve heard too many stories about how orthotics are chunky and supposed to be uncomfortable. Not only does that put people off from wearing orthotics, this idea just couldn’t be further from the truth.

With both the 3D scan and prescription ready to go, your podiatrist then send these two pieces of vital information off to our lab in Melbourne where all the magic happens!

Before 3D printing – the pressing method

The pressing method starts with the production of wooden moulds of your feet based on the digital scan. Once the wooden moulds are ready to go, the lab technician heats up a sheet of polypropylene to make it mouldable. The polypropylene is usually 2mm or 3mm thick depending on the prescription.

3D printed orthotics vs polypropylene orthotic
Top: polypropylene orthotic
Bottom: 3D printed orthotic

The technician then presses the mouldable sheet of polypropylene against the wooden mould and let it cool. When the polypropylene becomes firm again, the technician will cut away the extra material. External components, such as, rearfoot posts, are glued to the polypropylene shell. The last thing that goes onto an orthotic is the cover which adds cushioning. With some finishing touches, a pair of orthotics is finished!

What makes 3D printing better than pressing?

1. 3D printing enhances accuracy

With the pressing method, we could only choose between fixed thicknesses of polypropylene sheets (2mm, 3mm, 4mm). What if someone needs something in between 3mm and 4mm? Going 3mm may not provide enough support, but going 4mm may be just a bit too aggressive.

3D printing allows us to specify the thickness of the orthotic up to the microns – we can choose 3.45mm for the above situation, or 3.33 to play with numbers. We don’t really do the latter, but you get the idea.

Since the manufacturing process is machine-based, 3D printing minimises human error, optimising the consistency of the end product.

2. 3D printing is more environmentally friendly

The pressing method yields a wastage of approximately 10%. 3D printing, on the other hand, generates a wastage of 0.5%. That is significantly lower than that of the pressing method.

The material used in 3D printing is a plant-based material. The plant is not for food consumption, so it won’t compete with food demand. 3D printing can, therefore, stays viable and sustainable.

3. 3D printing offers a more refined end product

The material used for 3D printing provides a matte black finish throughout the entire orthotic, enhancing the aesthetic of the orthotics. But, aesthetic aside, the matte black finish actually makes the orthotic slip-resistant, so you can wear the orthotics as is without putting a cover on top.

Podiatrist taking a scan for 3D printed orthotics
Our podiatrist taking a foot scan for 3D printed orthotics.

Where are we going with this?

Since the lab started 3D printing, we have switched to doing 3D printed orthotics exclusively. 3D printed orthotics are the next generation of orthotics. We are so excited to be one of the first in Australia to lead the trend. We are confident that you will love them as much as we do. It is the same comfort and effectiveness you are familiar with, only better!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Want to hang around for a bit longer? You can see us bust the myths about us. Or, find out what travel essentials we bring on a holiday.

And, of course, it’s never too soon or late to see a podiatrist. Book an appointment with us today!

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