How Podiatric Associations Are Combating The Dispensing Of ‘Custom’ Orthoses In The Retail Setting

Doug Richie Jr. DPM FACFAS

Last year, I wrote a blog for Podiatry Today entitled: “Why Podiatrists Should Not Fear Custom Foot Orthotics at Costco” (see

Interestingly, this blog has generated over 6,500 reads. Clearly, this topic of dispensing low-cost foot orthoses in a retail setting has great interest among both the professional and lay communities.

The message in my original blog was that the offering of so-called “custom” foot orthoses by mass retailers will only raise awareness of foot pain in the American public and drive people to seek remedies for their painful foot conditions. If cheap, ineffective solutions offered by discount retailers fail, average consumers will no doubt continue their efforts to gain relief and seek out the help of qualified health professionals.

What I did not discuss then is the more important issue of consumer safety with the dispensing of foot appliances by non-qualified, non-credentialed clerks in retail stores. Furthermore, this offering of prefabricated shoe inserts, disguised as “custom foot orthotics,” has only added confusion for the American public about the difference between true functional devices and simple arch supports.

I was pleased to see a recent document from the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) titled, “FAQ on Prescribing and/or Dispensing Orthotics by Unlicensed Professionals.” This document is available to all APMA members at the APMA State Resource center at: This document provides excellent advice for options available to podiatric organizations to prevent encroachment on the practice of podiatric medicine by retail clerks who diagnose foot ailments, and prescribe or dispense foot orthoses.

Of great interest in this document are the encouraging results achieved by the Indiana Podiatric Medical Association, which was able to chase The Orthotic Works out of Sam’s Club in the state of Illinois.

You can also read in the FAQ how the Washington State Podiatric Medical Association and its Podiatric Medical Board proposed a ruling on the clarification of prescription and dispensing of custom fabricated foot orthotic devices by podiatric physicians. This was an attempt to allow the public to differentiate between “custom fabricated” orthotics and “custom fitted” orthotics sold as Orthotic Rx products at Costco. Shortly after a hearing on this new rule proposal, Costco discontinued offering the Orthotic Rx products at all stores in the state of Washington.

I encourage all podiatric physicians to work with their state podiatric medical associations to protect the American public from the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of foot pathologies by unlicensed individuals.


Very interesting.

I saw a commercial for a new Orthotic dispensing type apparatus designed and sold by Dr. Scholl's and available as a booth/stand for pharmacies and shoe stores to purchase for in store dispensing. I get many questions in my private practice concerning these.

Any thoughts on whether we as a profession, with the help of the APMA, should mount a nation wide campaign to combat this as well?

The American College of Foot and Ankle Orthopedics and Medicine (ACFAOM) has been the only podiatric group that I am aware of that has taken on Scholl's and their kiosk-based orthotic dispensary.

ACFAOM President Dr. Kirk Geter wrote a letter to the parent company of Scholl's, pointing out many of the problems with the "technology" the kiosk dispensary and urging a discussion. Not a great deal of time has passed yet but if no answer is forthcoming I know that he will continue to contact them.

In my opinion this is off-the-shelf dispensing under the guise of being somehow a custom-like device with the impression that those doctors and scientists behind the machine are looking over your scans personally.

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