A Look Into Types of Orthopedic Devices and Where They Will Take You.
There is a contentious relationship between orthopedic footwear and those who wear them. Whether you already have a pair or are considering to buy one, we know what is going through your head: why is there such a big difference in price, looks, and accessibility when it comes to these shoes?
Let’s take a little dive and explore three types of footwear together: shoes with orthotics, semi-customs, and full-customs.
Shoes with Orthotics
Granted, this type of footwear is somewhat out of place on this list. Many of us, however, do spend most of our days with this solution. The obvious differentiator between this combination and other actual shoe types is that the orthopedic insole separates from the actual closed shoe. Either you buy the insole off the shelf (standard) or visit a podiatrist for a custom version.
The differences in pricing is often quite astounding. The standard insole often goes for a few hundred Hong Kong dollars, whilst its customized cousin costs anywhere between HK$2,000 and HK$4,000. Obviously, this price difference results from the prescription process and one-off production. In an ideal world, you spend HK$2,000 once and move this magic insole around among your favorite shoes. In reality, most people end up buying three to four pairs of insoles to ensure that their shoes don't end up in "closet graveyard".
If you visit Dr. Kong (or most comfort shoe shops for that matter), you have ventured into the land of semi-orthopedic shoes. In contrast, these shoes have an orthopedic footbed which is a fixed part of the shoe. When entering the shop, you'll often be asked to step on a glass box (also called a pressure sensor). The resulting scan will put you in one of three categories. You can then select the style of your choice from the category you belong in for a suited pair of shoes that address generic foot ailments. This approach allows these shops to order shoes in bulk, then offer them in prices between HK$600 and HK$900. Though perhaps more economical, these semi-custom shoes do not address your specific foot ailments. After all, there are more than three types of feet that walk the earth.
Fun fact: Shops like Dr. Kong will never advise you to buy a specific shoe. Why? If you choose the shoe, they are not liable if it causes (further) discomfort. That speaks a volume about their product.
As the title already gives away, full-custom footwear are generally not (read: never) the most stylish of shoes. I didn’t even make up the title, it was a quote from twitter:
Not just that, they are also hugely expensive (varying from HK$5,000 to HK$12,000) and take weeks to build. Yes, you have just stumbled across the antithesis of “what women want”. This trifecta of displeasure stems from the fact that the process of custom shoemaking is very time consuming and labor intensive (video here). You can imagine that, in the light of this process, there is only little time or budget left for giving the shoe any flair. Moreover, the general stigma surrounding this type of shoes also doesn’t help build momentum for increased fashion.
After exploring these three types of shoes, one thing has become obvious. There is a negative relationship between the severity of your foot ailment and the cost and look of your shoes. You end up buying regular shoes supported by an army of orthotics; shoes / sandals that are not built to address your ailment; or a modern day interpretation of Frankenstein on your feet. Hopefully, now you have a better understanding why some of us are forced to side with the devil.
Which is the lesser of the three evils for you? What’s your criteria when shopping for shoes? Share your story with us at myshoes@getGROM.com.