One of the great lessons that I learned years ago was that any shoe or boot can be significantly improved with an insole. REI’s guide on how to choose an insole is something that I’ve referenced and re-referenced over the years. I mean, even Converse has seen the light and started to add some support in their Chuck Taylors.
Things to be aware of when choosing an insole:
- An insole will impact the inner volume of your shoe, changing the fit. Make sure that you remove any existing insole before installing the new one
- Not all feet are created equal. If you’re experiencing serious foot, leg or back pain you should probably see a doctor. Or at least visit a shoe store in your area and get fit for an insole by an expert.
If you’re standing all day in a retail capacity, or otherwise spending a lot of time on your feet without doing much walking, comfort insoles are right for you. They will reduce foot soreness and fatigue from standing on a hard surface. The ones listed below are one-size-fits-all and you’ll have to trim them down to fit your shoe. In my experience, you’ll love the way it feels while you’re standing, but it won’t make a big difference when your walking around. Comfort insoles won’t make your shoes worse, just don’t expect a large impact in control or comfort if your activities extends much beyond standing.
You can get your basic Dr Scholl’s insert at your corner store for $10 on a good day. These are slim, so they won’t impact the interior volume of your shoe as much as some of the work-boot oriented soles. Comfy and as cheap as insoles come. Be aware that there’s a reason they also sell these in 3-packs for around $35. They aren’t nearly as durable as the inserts in our “Support” section below.
A higher volume insole made to fit a higher volume shoe. If you’re wearing boots to work and still spending a lot of relatively inactive hours on your feet, these inexpensive insoles are for you.
Support insoles will firm up the arch support of your shoes and provide a heel cup that prevents slippage. As you can imagine, there are a number of offerings in this market, especially once you get into looking at those designed for the gear-loving running and biking enthusiasts. We’ve narrowed this down to just a few choices for you, and they’re all custom moldable. What that means is that you put the insert into your oven (seriously) for a pre-prescribed amount of time and then place it in your shoe and stand on it for a few minutes. It molds perfectly to your foot, taking a lot of the guesswork out of “prescribing” an insole for you. Don’t worry, clear directions come with the product you purchase.
Below are two insoles for low-volume footwear and one for high-volume footwear. Choosing the right one will ensure that you’re not radically changing the fit of your favorite shoes, but that you are significantly improving the comfort. If you’re like me, you have a few pairs of shoes that all have similarly flat footbeds. I swap my insoles between shoes without issue, so don’t think that you’ll need to buy a pair of insoles for every pair of shoes you own.
These are thin enough that they’ll only minimally impact fit, and they’ll be great for everything from walking to running and cycling. Additionally, SOLE is one of the biggest names in performance insoles.
Your foot wasn’t made flat, so why is almost all footwear made that way? Sole footbeds and sandals mold to perfectly fit your unique foot. Generic insoles and flat footwear simply cannot offer the same level of arch support, control and comfort of Sole products.
The other insole company that’s doing a great job is Montrail. These may be marketed towards trail runners, but all that means for us is that they’re ultra lightweight and were built to handle uneven surfaces if the need arises. Just like the SOLE, this is a heat-moldable custom insole.
For your high-volume footwear, like boots, you have a lot more room to play with by loosening your laces. That means that you have a lot more room for a insole that offers both comfort and control. This is also a custom moldable insole that will give you the confidence to put some serious miles on your boots without worrying so much about foot fatigue.
Beyond Insoles, and onto Orthotics
We have been getting progressively more pricey leading up to this next option, but as you’d image, the priciest option is oftentimes the best option. If you’re looking for a truly long-term solution, checking out something like the Good Feet store to get custom orthotic inserts will make the biggest difference.
While feet change over time, and you should get your orthotic inserts checked out once every two years or so, you should only need minor adjustments to your orthotics unless you’ve had significant weight gain or weight loss.
While we at Hacker Casual haven’t gone this route, we felt we’d be doing you a disservice to not mention this as an option.
Have any hands-on experiences with insoles or orthotics? Know of any cool new shoe technology that will help us all out with control and comfort? Hit us up on twitter @hackercasual.