Healthcare Professional FAQs

We craft custom orthotics to serve the mainstream and premium segments of the custom orthotic market. Healthcare professionals seeking discount or bargain options (i.e. orthotics purchased from a lab for as little as $40-$80 per pair) generally don’t choose Northwest Podiatric Laboratory.

We’re experts at serving healthcare professionals who understand the value and importance of prescribing the best custom orthotics. Our Customer Care Team is here to answer questions, provide advice, solve problems, and generally make the process of prescribing custom orthotics simpler. Our on-staff Medical Director, Timothy Messmer, DPM, partners closely with our Customer Care Team and consults directly with healthcare professionals on a case-by-case basis. We expand our support even further with in-office materials (material swatch cards, brochures, orthotic samples), online tools and training, easy-to-use in-office scanning with SmartCast, and more.  

We accept all traditional casting methods like plaster cast, slipper socks and impression foam boxes. We also accept 3D scans using our SmartCast® scanning app. 3D models can be created using a Structure Sensor scanner or the front facing camera on all iPad Pros and iPhones manufactured after 2018 that have the “Face ID” camera technology. 

YES!  In fact, the available 3D scanning technologies in use today are MORE accurate than traditional (plaster/foam/sock) casting methods.  The integrated front-facing cameras in current iPads/iPhones use the same technology that is used for facial recognition (and unlocking phones/devices/accounts), so it is extremely accurate down to <1mm.

Five business days for our Superglass, NCV, and Prescription Comfort orthotics. Ten business days for Polypropylene orthotics. 

We ship with UPS using a discounted rate. You can specify UPS Ground or 2nd Day Air as your preference. Additionally, UPS Next Day Air is available by request. Please contact us for quote based on location. 

Yes! We offer a 3-day rush (three business days in-lab) for an additional charge. Plus, we can expedite the shipping method if needed. (Note: the option for a 3-day rush is not currently available for Polypropylene custom orthotics.)

Our Superglass® composite is credit card thin (approximately 1.5mm thin) and forms the shell/foundation of our premium line of custom orthotics. For applications where every millimeter matters (e.g. soccer cleats, low profile running shoes, ski boots, dress shoes, etc.), Superglass® is available without any additional cushion or top cover layers. For more comfort and minimal additional bulk, add a vinyl top cover and 1/16″ cushion in the forefoot.

The rigid shell/foundation of our custom orthotics is designed to last for years (we often see orthotics sent to us for refurbishment that are 10+ years old), but generally cannot be refurbished. When the shape and function begin to be compromised, a new pair of orthotics is recommended. The softer components used on custom orthotics (e.g. cushions, foams, rubbers, vinyls, leathers, microsuedes, etc.) are very durable but have a shorter lifespan. Further, soft components, even if they remain intact, may provide compromised function via change in shape, lack of shock absorption, etc. The soft components can be refurbished multiple times during the useful lifespan of rigid shell/foundation. Ultimately, the lifespan of a pair of orthotics is very dependent on patient weight, activities, types of materials used, maintenance (cleaning the orthotics and the inside of the shoes where the orthotics are used), patient’s gait, and more.

Yes! We’ve repaired and refurbished thousands of pairs of custom orthotics not originally made by Northwest Podiaric Laboratory. We can’t match every color or material, and there are occasionally requests we can’t or won’t do, but we can (and have) done it all! Thanks to our premium materials, high-level fit and finish, and impeccable attention to detail, orthotics refurbished by Northwest Podiatric Laboratory ship in better-than-new condition! Our pricing for repairs and refurbishments is transparent, predictable, and fair.

Please visit nwpodiatric.com/warranty to review NWPL’s warranty policy for custom orthotics. 

We provide volume discounts of 5% and 7% based on your monthy order volume. Contact us regarding the dollar volume needed to earn volume discounts at Northwest Podiatric Laboratory. Additionally, a 2% cash discount can be taken on all payments received within ten days of the statement date.

Yes! We partner with Richie Brace to offer their entire line of custom braces (AFO’s). We accept both slipper casts and 3D scans from our SmartCast app.

No. We currently don’t offer diabetic shoes. 

Yes! We offer three exclusive lines of OTC orthotics: Premium, Elite, and Children’s. Premium offers ultra-thin support. Elite provides unmatched support and stability. Children’s is designed specifically for kids ages 18 months to eight years. Northwest OTC Orthotics are only available through licensed healthcare professionals and are not sold in retail stores or online.

While developing custom products from carbon fiber, Dennis Brown (Founder and former President) and Chris Smith (Former Medical Director and Vice President) established Superfeet as the Sports Division of Northwest Podiatric Laboratory (NWPL), and set out to find affordable orthotic solutions for the general public. In 1977, Superfeet In-Shoe Systems, Inc. was established as an independent company to operate at arm’s length from NWPL. Dennis continued to manage Superfeet and NWPL through the 1980’s, relying heavily on the NWPL team for support. In 1990, new leadership was hired to run Superfeet independently. Since that time, Superfeet has become a giant in the insole industry and, although there is no longer any connection between the two companies, we take pride in being the birthplace of a company that’s helped tens-of-millions of people suffering from foot pain.

Patient FAQs

Custom orthotics are devices made for a specific patient off of a 3D model of the patient’s foot.  This can be a physical or digital model.  They are considered custom because they include design features and modifications for treating that patient’s specific pathology.

Most custom orthotics are considered “functional orthotics” — they alter/change the function of the foot/ankle/leg.  By using specific materials and prescription features, the devices positively effect the function of the foot when they are being worn. They alter how the ground reactive forces impact the foot.

Soft custom orthotics are often referred to as “accommodative” orthotics.  While custom (they are still fabricated off a 3D model of the patient’s foot), they are not usually functional (they usually do not significantly alter the function of the foot/ankle/leg).  In general, softer devices are somewhat thicker and take up more space inside the shoe than firmer devices. Although sometimes more comfortable initially, softer devices are generally not as effective at treating various pathologies.

Plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, Achilles tendonitis, metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma, sesamoiditis, bunions, hammertoes, claw toe, turf toe, hallux rigidus, and flat feet can all often see improvement with custom foot orthotics.

If you have long-term, persistent foot pain that hasn’t been solved using generic over-the-counter insoles, custom orthotics might be indicated. Usually a thorough biomechanical examination and physical exam are necessary to determine if a patient needs custom orthotics (as opposed to more generic over-the-counter insoles).  This is done by a qualified practitioner who has knowledge in both foot/ankle pathophysiology & anatomy, as well as a good understanding of custom orthotics and what is available.

True custom foot orthotics are prescribed by licensed healthcare professionals and crafted by specialized laboratories with the knowledge, skill, and experience to translate a scan or cast of a patient’s foot and create a one-of-a-kind corrective device made to the healthcare professional’s exact specifications. The healthcare professionals who most often prescribe custom orthotics are podiatrists and sports medicine practitioners. Most healthcare professionals analyze and cast or scan patients’ feet in their office. A prescription is created and submitted (along with the casts or scans) to an orthotic laboratory. 

Find a healthcare professional who partners with Northwest Podiatric Laboratory using our Healthcare Professional Search. Visit nwpodiatric.com/provider-search and type in your zip code to find all local healthcare professionals who currently utilize NWPL.

There are a number of ways healthcare professionals capture the unique shape of each patient’s foot when prescribing custom orthotics: Plaster casts, fiberglass slipper socks, impression foam, flatbed style scanning, 3D scanning, and pressure mapping. Each casting method has its own pros and cons. At Northwest Podiatric Laboratory we accept plasters casts, fiberglass slipper socks, impression foam, and 3D scanning. Overall, 3D scanning via our SmartCast® app (and using our patented SmartCast® Foot Positioning System) is our preferred way to receive custom orthotic orders – it’s quick and clean for patients, accurate and efficient for healthcare professionals, and provides Northwest Podiatric Laboratory’s skilled team with a remarkable level of detail and accuracy.

A host of experienced technicians apply their specialized skills to fabricate your orthotics. Throughout each phase of production, the devices are subjected to quality control checks necessary for maintaining the highest level of craftsmanship. Northwest Podiatric Laboratory’s manufacturing process is like no other in the custom foot orthotic industry. When physical casts are received, custom orthotic orders follow this process: Receiving –> Cast Pouring –> Cast Grinding –> Plaster Additions –> Orthotic Fabrication –> Posting Section –> Grinding Section –> Top Covers –> Finishing Section –> Shipping Department. When digital orders are received, custom orthotic orders follow this process: Receiving –> Digital Design –> Orthotic Fabrication –> Posting Section –> Grinding Section –> Top Covers –> Finishing Section –> Shipping Department.

You can get a good sense of whether your healthcare professional is working with a reputable orthotic lab or a less reputable (i.e. cheaper) orthotic lab based on how the orthotics look. Do the materials used look premium or cheap? Is the fit and finish professional or are there indications of sloppy manufacturing? Does the label on the bottom of the orthotic look professional or like it was printed from a home printer? Dig a little deeper. Does the lab have a professional website? Does the lab have an established history/track record? Does the lab employ or consult directly with licensed healthcare professionals?  The old adage “you get what you pay for” holds true with custom orthotics; more specifically, you get what your healthcare professional pays for. 

For patients paying for custom orthotics “out of pocket,” the price varies quite significantly based on geography, type of orthotic, quality of the custom orthotic lab being utilized, the healthcare professional’s profit margin, etc. Often, but not always, the price for custom orthotic includes the casting or scanning process, a finished pair of custom orthotics, and a visit for the orthotics to be dispensed/fit. A pair of custom orthotics could cost as little as $325/pair and as much as $900+/pair, depending on your locale.

Health insurance coverage for custom orthotics varies widely from state to state and plan to plan. Taken as a whole, approximately 50% of patients with private health insurance have some sort of custom orthotic benefit. We recommend reviewing the details of your plan or contacting your healthcare insurance provider to confirm the details of your coverage prior to visiting your podiatrist. If your insurance plan doesn’t cover custom orthotics, most healthcare professionals/practices can provide a cash or “out of pocket” option. If the cash option is too expensive, many healthcare professionals offer lower-cost, non-custom “over the counter” or “prefab” insoles that may provide some foot pain relief.

After the order has been submitted by your healthcare provider, in-lab turnaround time is 5-10 business days then the shipping time back to the office which is anywhere from 1-5 business days depending on location and shipping preference.

With custom orthotics from Northwest Podiatric Laboratory, extra depth shoes are rarely required. Our exclusive Superglass and NCV composites are extremely thin and can be worn in nearly any type of footwear, including dress shoes, soccer cleats, etc. Superglass is as thin as 1.5mm and provides the support many people with foot pain need…without the bulk. Even our accommodative Prescription Comfort orthotics are thin enough to fit in all but the lowest profile shoes.

The lifespan of custom orthotics can vary widely based on the purpose of the orthotics (comfort vs. support), materials used, amount and type of use, care/maintenance of the orthotics, and more. The rigid shell component should last five to seven years or more. The soft cushion and top cover materials should last two to four years or more. For maximum durability and longevity, we recommend a Superglass or Polypropylene shell with vinyl top cover. (For reference purposes only.)

No.  Custom (functional) orthotics alter the function of the foot while they are being worn.  Much like eyeglasses, they only improve the function while a patient is using them.  They do not ‘fix’ pathology, but they can significantly reduce the painful symptoms caused by a weakness, deformity, or dysfunction within the foot/ankle.

Insoles are generic, usually over-the-counter, and not typically made to address specific foot pathology.  Custom orthotics are patient-specific, not over-the-counter, and are prescribed/fabricated for a specific pathology/patient.

Customized orthotics or insoles are typically over-the-counter devices that can be modified (or customized) for specific pathology or functional results.  For example, a customization might be the ability to add a heel post or a forefoot post or a met pad.

Yes! The soft cushion and top cover materials found on most custom orthotics will wear out over time and can be refurbished. The rigid shell component has a longer lifespan than the soft cushion and top cover materials, but generally can’t be repaired/refurbished. If the shell is cracked, worn down, has a hole, etc., the entire orthotic should be replaced. In addition to repairing/refurbishing our own custom orthotics, we can also bring most custom orthotics manufactured by other orthotic labs back to like-new condition.

Yes, we are able to craft orthotics for all shoes sizes using our Superglass orthotic shell. Our NCV and Poly shells have size restrictions based on the manufacturing process.

All custom orthotics must be prescribed by a licensed healthcare professional who prescribes custom orthotics.

A brief overview of Northwest Podiatric Laboratory and Jerry Seinfeld, as told by Northwest Podiatric Laboratory’s Founder, Dennis Brown: “One morning I’m in my office and somebody tells me Seinfeld’s on the phone. I don’t think I really knew who Seinfeld was at that time, but I must’ve because I started talking to him and he told me he had problems with his feet. He said he’d found our address at  a podiatrist’s office. He had seen one of our devices and asked the woman where we were.

He wanted us to go down to California and look at his feet. I said no, I wasn’t going to do that. I told him I had Chris and our team here in Blaine and if he had a few days off on a holiday and wanted to come up, we’d make time for him and look after him. Within a few hours, he called to say he was coming up. I didn’t say a word to anybody at the Lab, not a bloody word. I thought if he came and word got out that we would be flooded with people, taking pictures and all the rest of it.

From there on in it was tremendously successful for him. He was pretty damn happy. Turns out that he had been to six or seven podiatrists before us and no one was able to help him with his pain. So he was pretty excited and became a true believe in Northwest Podiatric Laboratory.

After it was all done, he asked how much he owed us and we told him nothing. Then he made the offer for us to use his name in our advertising, which we did. And the next thing we knew we got a check in the mail for five thousand dollars for the Boys & Girls Club. He did that for two or three years, we’d just get the check in the mail.

He was so frigging happy, he invited us all down to California to do his staff’s feet – the guys on the cameras and the crew. We were like royalty down there. Then we got the offer to go on his show as extras.”