The right pair of shoes can definitely take you places, but without proper insoles? I don’t think so. Shoe insoles are a crucial part of your footwear. They provide comfort and proper support while doing activities and protect your foot and ankle from various medical conditions like plantar fasciitis, foot pain, fallen arches, and many more.
Insoles have become medically recommended essentials in providing relief and preventing various sorts of foot conditions. But how do we know which Insole is the best? Many people use regular insoles without a good guide to finding the one for their need, which may lead to discomfort in the long run. Choosing the correct Insole needs a good understanding of your foot type, insole material, footbed, sizing, etc. The following Insole guide covers everything you need to know about insoles and how to choose a pair that satisfies you and all your needs.
Insole Sizing And Siting
Insole sizes correspond to shoe sizes. The same insole size for different manufacturers is different, similar to what we get for shoes from other brands. Measures differ between men and women insoles for many. There are two broad types of Insoles – full-length and ¾ Length.
Full-length Insole – these insoles work best for a wide shoe. You can trim these to fit before use. If you are unaware of your shoe size, buying a Full-length Insole and trim it to fit shoes of all sizes.
Another thing to note about full-length Insole is that they serve as a replacement for your shoes’ existing Insole. You cannot overlap one over the other, as it will be uncomfortable and won’t sit properly. If you’re not in favor of removing the current Insole, then make sure you choose a very thin and flat full-length insole.
¾ Length Insole – these insoles generally only work with a range of shoe sizes. ¾ length insoles and other shoe inserts are not supposed to be trimmed in any way and are only compatible with a given shoe size into which they comfortably fit.
Furthermore, unlike the full-length insoles, the ¾-length are supposed to be placed atop the existing Insole of your shoe. Simultaneously, many other insoles fit both below and atop the current Insole, depending on the product and usage.
Your Foot Arch Type
Missing a factor as important as arch type is not an option while looking for an insole. The arch types usually fall into one of the three categories – neutral or medium arches, flat feet/fallen arches, and high arches. Though many insoles brands offer products to fit multiple arch types, it is best to find the one that fits your foot.
Before diving into the three, let us see how to know your arch type – wet the base of your foot and leave its imprint either on a piece of cardboard or a thick paper. That’s it. Now, look if the middle part of your foot’s impression is missing or not. If it is entirely missing, it means you have high arches. If it is filled, it is low arches, and if it falls in the middle range, i.e., partially filled, your foot type is neutral.
Neutral Arches – these arches are the best for shock absorption while also providing resistance to over-pronation. It is also one of the most shared arch types. These, however, can still suffer medical conditions like foot pain, etc. Therefore, choose an insole offering both arch support and cushioning.
Flat Arches – since these low arches leave no room for a defined angle, they become more flexible than the other two. These require insoles with rearfoot support and one that protects from conditions like rolling, plantar fasciitis, etc.
High Arches – are firm arch types, with all the pressure centered on the heel and the foot’s ball. Find insoles to support the arch and fill it to distribute the pressure equally, reducing the risk of heel pain, etc.
Arch types also provide extra support through insoles volume, which indicates the amount of space an insole takes inside your shoes.
High volumes work with high arches as they add volume to the shoe insides. They are also suitable for hiking and running shoes. Medium volume insoles work for almost all kinds of arch types with perfect fit to casual and athletic footwear. Low volume insoles fit the low arch profiles, with extra support for ski skate boots and cycling.
Insoles are made out of various materials; however, the most commonly used materials include – Gel, Foam, leather, and cork. Each insole material has its pros and cons and, depending on your needs, can favorably affect the overall foot experience.
Gels are known to provide effective shock absorption.
Foam provides support, cushion, and relieves pressure from the foot and ankle.
Cork provides isothermal properties while adding support.
Leather insoles allow your foot to breathe, reducing mousier while providing much-needed comfort.
Four footbed constructions designed with varying levels of rigidity and cushion effects exist. These are – Rigid, Semi-Rigid, cushioned, and no arch support/flat cushioned. Depending on your foot condition and any underlying pain or stress, the footbed material may vary.
Orthotic Arch Support – they are available in two types of footbed options – rigid and semi-rigid. They are made for day-to-day use and ensure that your foot remains comfortable and in fine fettle all day long, irrespective of the activities you indulge in, from stretching exercises to walks.
They support both the arch and the heel with built-in arch support and heel cup to limit vigorous ankle movement. Orthotics also reduce the risk of plantar fasciitis and arch pain by eliminating the risk of straining plantar fascia, over-pronation, and Achilles tendon.
Rigid orthotic arch support is a completely stiff and inflexible footbed made of hard plastic for extreme arch support. We don’t recommend using rigid support for beginners during long durations without medical advice, as they can quickly bring discomfort for first-time custom orthotics users.
Semi-rigid orthotic arch support brings both firm support and a rigid footbed. These supports provide flexibility while supporting the arch and the heel and are ideal for medical conditions like arch pain and supination.
Cushioned Arch Support – is specially designed to provide a maximum cushioning effect to your foot while doing activities. They have heavy padding that focuses on support, cushion, and relief from foot fatigue and shin splints. It is best suited for indulging in activities like walking, running, or standing in one position for long durations.
Since the level of support from cushioned footbeds is a lot less than orthotics, they are not a particularly good use for medical conditions like pronations, supinations, arch pain, etc.
Insole Fitting Tips
It is best to try out the Insole before deciding on buying it. The best way to check if an insole fits your needs is to stand and balance your foot atop the Insole before placing it in the shoes and once after placing it in.
As you balance one foot, lift the other one, check if they are comfortable, provide heel and arch support, and reduce unnecessary pressure on tissues. Also, check the volume when you place the sole inside your shoes. Although you should remove the existing Insole, you can also manage volume by changing the pair of socks you’re wearing to a lighter or heavier fabric.
Insole Caring Tips
Most insoles that are regularly used last up to about 11 to 12 months. However, the life span may vary as per the frequency and where they are used. For better care and maintenance of your insoles, make sure you air them out so that the moisture in both your insoles and shoes does not remain trapped. You can also use mild or sports detergents to wash the insoles occasionally, but make sure you dry them before putting them back inside.
Choosing a good pair of insoles is as essential as selecting the perfect pair of shoes. There are various insoles available to fit footwear, from dress shoes to even when you’re wearing high heels. Many do not even realize the importance of right insoles until they suffer a medical condition that can significantly affect your daily routine and work. Keep the points mentioned above while selecting insoles for yourself. If you’re still unsure or face any consistent foot pain, contact a professional for medical advice as soon as possible. Happy Scrolling!