Hard Orthotics vs Soft Orthotics? Which Are The Best?

David Kingston B.Sc. (Hons ) MIAPO

David Kingston

B.Sc. (Hons) Orthotics MIAPO
Senior Orthotist

Hard orthotics are uncomfortable, aren’t they?

Soft orthotics must be more comfortable surely.

So, which are the best type?

You’d be surprised how often we get asked this question.

The thing is it’s actually the wrong question to ask.


Well, assessing someone’s need for orthotics starts with need and function and not material choice.

We make hard orthotics. We make soft orthotics.

But what we do for every client is make the right orthotics.

And that all depends on need.

If you’ll excuse the analogy, it’s very much ‘horses for courses’.

Sometimes the problem that a client has needs a functional correction and sometimes it’s just a support to alleviate the pains that they have and functional correction is not possible.

For example a fit and healthy runner that is getting knee pain may need an alignment correction but a client with Rheumatoid Arthritis needs cushioned support to offload high pressures on the foot.

Very different needs and very different designs for those needs.

So, you may be asking…

Why do my current hard orthotics hurt me?

Well, the simple answer is that you were given orthotics that don’t correctly do the right thing for you.

It doesn’t mean that the orthotics are the wrong material but that, more likely, you were incorrectly assessed or the cast of your feet was done incorrectly or that the orthotic design used was not the right one for the job.

If you are assessed correctly and you are cast for orthotics correctly for your biomechanical needs then material ‘hardness’ is irrelevant.  (There are exceptions to this rule in situations like midfoot Osteoarthritis.)

In general terms…

Hard orthotics work for clients that need control.

Soft orthotics work for clients that need support.

That is why a correct assessment is needed when you need custom foot orthotics.

The skill is knowing what to do for whom. Not picking one material over another based on a perceived difference in the ‘hardness’ of the material.

So, the question really should be ‘Will my orthotics be comfortable AND do the right job for my problem’?

If you have any questions to ask us about orthotics then don’t hesitate to contact us.


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