Isn’t it true that hard orthotics are inconvenient? Soft orthotics, without a doubt, are more comfortable. So, which type is the best? These are very common questions that can be answered in a different way.

Assessing someone’s need for orthotics, begins with necessity and function rather than material preference. So, what is your best option? Is it better to have soft or hard foot orthotics? How can you tell whether your feet need a hard plastic orthotic or a soft orthotic?

It all depends on the situation. Sometimes, a client’s problem requires a correction with more support, and other times it needs a softer support, shock absorption and/or offloading to reduce their discomfort.

There are a few advantages and disadvantages to both that your Canadian Certified Pedorthist should address with you, but in the meanwhile, here is a review of some of the differences between the two to help you decide.

Soft Devices


  • Very comfortable and soft, making it easier to adjust to and wear
  • More cushioning for arthritic joints is possible
  • May be helpful for cushioning on harder surfaces
  • Will compress easier in higher pressure areas
  • If necessary, they can be easily modified


  • Compresses or flattens more quickly than a hard orthotic and requires more frequent replacement
  • Material can make your feet feel hot, especially if you have sweaty feet
  • Because the material is more flexible, they tend to be bulkier than hard orthotics
  • Can be dependent on the shoe to provide the appropriate support

Hard Devices


  • They will last far longer than a soft orthotic
  • Can provide more support since it has the ability to deliver more force to specific locations
  • Because the orthotic is unaffected by the stiffness or support of the shoe, it is not dependent on it


  • In some cases, it can be more difficult to adapt to, with a more gradual wearing in process
  • If excessive quantities of force are applied to them, they may fracture or break


Don’t be afraid of orthotics that are “rigid” or “hard.” It is true that a hard device (if made incorrectly) can aggravate your symptoms and be painful. But when this orthotic is functioning properly, it can provide the most support.

In most cases, a semi-rigid device is used anyways instead of a full rigid device. The semi-rigid device provides the strong support for your feet, but does move slightly under the body weight of your feet. This allows your foot to absorb shock during your activities.

There are a variety of reasons why a hard orthotic may not be comfortable. The practitioner can identify whether the problem can be fixed by adjusting the device, by changing the break-in process, changing the footwear used, or if other treatment options would be beneficial.

Softer, shock-absorbing materials are best for feet that are already tight and stiff and need the additional cushioning.

Your Canadian Certified Pedorthist help you decide which kind of orthotic is best for you! To find a Pedorthist near you, visit

Written by Reza Sands, Certified Canadian Pedorthist