Insoles: A Complete Buyer’s Guide

You just bought a brand new pair of shoes. They fit like a glove at the store. But now that you’ve worn them a few times, they’re starting to feel uncomfortable. They pinch. They’re a little tight. And they’re making your heel hurt.

What could be the problem?

Before you toss out your shoes and buy another expensive pair, you may want to change the insoles.

Why do You Need Insoles?

I think the better question is: why wouldn’t you need insoles ? If you’re on your feet all day, you know that after a few hours, you start feeling the effects of all that extra pressure on your ankles and feet. Even with the best pair of shoes, spending hours on your feet will eventually take its toll on your body.

Insoles are only part of the solution, but they can help greatly at alleviating the pain and pressure on your feet.

Before humans invented shoes, we went barefoot everywhere. And yet we didn’t have the foot problems that we have today (at least we don’t have any records of these conditions).

Eventually, we figured out how to make shoes, which were supposed to make our feet more comfortable. It also made it easier to walk over rough terrain, particularly rocky areas and hot sand.

Today, we have all kinds of shoes, most of which are really not healthy for our feet and keep us from moving our feet naturally. We force our feet into weird shapes – hello, stilettos.

Now, to fix the problem, we’ve developed insoles to support and cushion our feet.

Different Types of Insoles

There are a few main types of insoles:

Soft Support

These are one of the most popular types of insoles. They’re designed primarily to ease pressure on the foot. They’re lightweight, and they target specific pressure points on the foot.

Soft support insoles are either foam- or gel-based. These materials offer cushioned support and shock absorption.

Rigid Support

If you’re dealing with excessive pronation, you may need an insole with rigid support that works from the ankle down.

The rigid design of these insoles provides full arch support.

In most cases, these insoles are made out of polyurethane plastic as well as foam. They can be molded traditionally, or they can be 3D printed now.

Because these insoles are not as common as others, they’re typically custom-made to fit your foot.

Semi-Rigid Support

Insoles with semi-rigid support are somewhere in between soft and rigid insoles. They’re popular with athletes and usually made of a tougher material, such as cork, leather, plastic or foam. Using a combination of these materials ensures that the insole is neither too soft nor too rigid.

What to Look for When Buying Insoles

We wear insoles for a number of reasons, usually because we’re on our feet for too long or walking for too long. Eventually, this takes a toll on the feet. The right type of insole can help prevent damage and reduce pressure on your feet, even if you’re required to be on your feet all day for work.

There are a few things you need to consider when choosing a pair of insoles for your shoes.

Arch Type

There are three types of arches: high, medium and low (or flat feet). Insoles are designed to support one of these three arch types. If you have low arches, you’ll want to buy insoles for flat feet .

Before buying a pair of insoles, make sure that you understand what type of arch you have. This video offers a pretty good explanation of arch types.

If you choose the wrong insole for your arch type, it will do more harm than good.

Insole Material

Insoles are generally made from one or a combination of four materials: foam, cork, leather and/or gel. Each material has its own benefits and properties, so it really comes down to personal preference and your needs.

  • Foam provides support
  • Gel provides shock absorption
  • Cork is ideal for light cushioning and more rigid support
  • Leather provides cushioning

In most cases, insoles are made of a combination of foam and gel for shock absorption and extra cushioning.

Sizing

Insoles are not a one-size-fits-all product. They come in size ranges, usually three sizes. So, you might find insoles for men’s sizes 8-10.

These insoles must be trimmed with scissors to fit your shoe. Lines or guides are included on the insoles so that you know where to trim. If you’re a half-size, you may not need to trim the insole at all.

Do You Have to Replace Your Old Insoles?

All shoes come with standard insoles. If you buy new ones for cushioning or support, do you have to remove the old ones? In most cases, yes.

You don’t have to, but it may feel uncomfortable to wear two sets of insoles at the same time, and your shoes may become too tight.

If you’re buying a full-length insole, you’ll probably want to replace your old insoles with the new ones.

If you have a 3/4-length insole, then you may not want to replace your old insole because the new one will only cover a small part of your shoe.

Over-the-Counter, or Custom Insoles?

When buying insoles, you have the option of choosing over-the-counter (i.e. ready-made) or custom insoles.

If you need rigid support insoles, you’ll probably need to get a custom solution. Custom-made insoles are great because they’re made specifically for your feet and can address specific foot problems, like those associated with diabetes . But the high cost of these insoles puts them out of reach for many people.

Over-the-counter insoles are mass-produced, but they’re affordable. They provide comfort and support for your feet, although they won’t address any particular medical problem. They’re easy to find, and there are many options available to suit your preferences and needs.

Insoles can change your life – and I’m not exaggerating. Foot pain or discomfort can be debilitating and make your life miserable. A simple pair of inexpensive insoles may be all that you need to fix the problem. It’s an easy solution for a problem that you face every single day.