A friend of mine asked me about the insoles I wear. She had been having issues with pain and some discomfort in her heels. Because I had been wearing insoles for years, I expected her to know just as much as I do about them. I mean, they completely transformed the way I walk – literally. I assumed that she – and everyone else – knew all about insoles and how they work.
As it turns out, I was wrong. I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of FAQs (frequently asked questions) and answer as many questions as I could.
Can I Wear Insoles for Non-Medical Reasons?
People buy and wear insoles for a variety of reasons, such as:
- Pronation issues
- Plantar fasciitis
- Ball-of-foot pain
- Morton’s Neuroma
Some people wear insoles because they’re on their feet all day at work and need the extra cushioning and relief.
But you can wear insoles for non-medical reasons, too. Maybe you want to add some height (insoles can add an inch or two to your height), or maybe you just want your shoes to be more comfortable. If you wear high-heeled shoes, insoles can improve your stability, cushion your feet and provide much-needed support.
Some foot conditions, like minor foot injuries and plantar fasciitis can actually be prevented by just adding insoles to your shoes.
What Size Insoles Should I Buy?
Whenever I talk to people about insoles, the first question they ask is: What size should I buy?
Insoles are typically sold in size ranges. When you open the package, you’ll see lines or ridges for each size. These are guide lines for trimming. Yes, you’ll need to trim your insoles with scissors to fit your shoes. Although this does add an extra step, this design allows insoles to be sold on-the-cheap, and it actually allows for a more customized fit in the long-run.
If your shoe size falls in between two different size ranges, it’s best to buy the bigger size.
You don’t want to skip the trimming step if you’re buying full-size insoles. Trimming off the extra material will ensure that the insole fits properly in your shoes and will cover your foot entirely.
If you’re buying 3/4-length insoles, you won’t have to do any trimming. These are sold to fit, so there’s no cutting involved.
What are Insoles Made Of?
Insoles can be made from a wide variety of materials. Foam and gel are the two most popular materials, but you’ll also find some that are made of cork or leather.
Foam is so popular because it provides cushioning, pressure relief and support all while conforming to your foot’s natural shape. When designed properly, foam can also give you rigid arch support.
Gel is ideal for shock absorption, which is why they’re often found in athletic-focused insoles.
You’ll find a lot of insoles that are made of both foam and gel.
Cork provides both support and cushioning. Leather feels nice on the foot, especially if you like to wear thin socks. But leather is usually only used to support other materials, like foam or cork.
When choosing your shoe inserts , consider the material carefully, particularly if you’re sensitive to some materials.
Are There Insoles Made for Athletes?
If you’re an active person, whether it’s running, hiking or playing a sport, your feet probably take a beating. Intense physical activity puts excess strain on the feet. Shock absorption and some extra cushioning can go a long way in making your feet feel better.
You’ll find some insoles that are designed specifically for active people and offer these features.
You’ll also find orthotic inserts , which are custom-designed, and made for athletes. Orthotics improve your alignment while increasing your speed and efficacy.
The insole may be made of cork or foam, depending on whether you need cushioned arch support or a rigid base for complete arch support. Most will have gel for shock absorption and allow for a softer landing when you’re active.
How do I Care for My Insoles?
It’s important to take care of your insoles if you want them to last. I’ve written an entire post on how to take care of insoles , but the process is relatively simple.
One thing I do have to stress is that you don’t want to submerge or dip your insoles in water. A cloth-covered or foam-cushioned insole is particularly vulnerable to water damage. That’s why spot-cleaning is recommended.
- Fill a small bowl with warm water and mild soap.
- Dip a clean sponge in the cleaning solution.
- Use the sponge to gently clean the insole.
- Dry with a clean cloth.
- Allow to air dry overnight.
It’s important to allow your insoles to dry completely before you wear them again. If you need to wear them the next day, clean them the night before.
Make sure that you use a mild soap. Avoid using silicone-based cleaning products, as they may ruin the material.
If your insoles ever get waterlogged from the rain or snow, dry them with a clean towel and lay them flat to dry. Again, make sure that you let them dry out completely before you wear them again.
Do I Have to Replace the Standard Insoles with My New Ones?
If you’re buying insoles, you’ll probably need to remove the ones that came with your shoes – especially if you’re buying full-length insoles. If you don’t remove the standard ones, your shoes won’t fit properly and will probably feel bulky or uncomfortable.
Don’t worry – the new insoles will provide more support and cushioning than the ones that came with your shoes.
If you’re buying 3/4-length insoles, then you’ll need to keep the ones that came with your shoes. Because these are not full-length insoles, they’ll only cover a small part of your shoe.
What are Heat-Moldable Insoles?
Our feet are unique. Even if you and I wore the same sized shoe, our feet would still be different. They may be different heights, shapes or widths.
Because our feet are unique, over-the-counter insoles aren’t ideal for everyone. Heat-moldable insoles are custom-made and take the shape of your foot.
Before wearing these insoles, you’ll heat them up in the oven for a while. Then, you’ll step on them before they cool down. This creates a perfect mold of your foot so that your insert fits properly when you wear it.
Can You Buy Insoles in Pairs?
Yes. Insoles are usually sold in pairs and should be worn in pairs to ensure that both of your feet receive the same level of care.