Choosing the right shoe inserts and insoles

Tuesday, 23 August 2022 06:09 Written by

When you are on your feet for long periods of time you become increasingly aware of how important your footwear is, this is especially true for those of us with any injuries ranging right from your feet up through to your lower back. If your shoes aren't supporting you properly, the movement inside your shoes may lead to blisters, foot pain and misalignment that will be painful for other parts of your body.

There are several types of shoe inserts that can help with all of these problems and increase the level of comfort that you gain from your shoes. This article will help you to understand more about the different types of insoles that are available and look at some of the major features of each and how they relate to different foot types.

Shoe inserts can be called by a number of different names including Inserts, Insoles and Orthotics. What these all have in common is that they are all removable and placed inside the shoe and closest to the underside of your foot. Almost all of the shoes that you buy or own will come with an insert and the main function is to keep your feet from touching the shoes Mid-Sole directly. These will commonly be quite thin and made of foam.

Cushioned Insoles

This type of insole us usually thicker than the standard shoe insole and comes in the largest variety of materials. Cushioned insoles can be made of EVA, PORON, Gel and Plastics with air capsules to name a few. They are often the most comfortable to wear however, much like a very soft bed will not help your back, may not be the most ideal for you. As these shoe inserts tend to be the thickest they can alter the fit of your shoes significantly.

Gel shoe inserts will tend to hold their shape for longer than the foam types and are usually thinner. In terms of performance people with a Neutral foot type will benefit most from just having extra cushioning in place of extra support. Prices for cushioned insoles can range from $5 for a basic foam pair from the Chemist through to $50 for pairs that have a special heel and forefoot pad.

Corrective Insoles

These shoe inserts aim to change the way that the foot sits inside the shoe to a more Neutral position (not rolling in or over pronating). Your foot type will determine how much correction you need. Corrective insoles typically contain a mild arch support and a slight wedge on the medial part of the heel both to minimise over pronation. These inserts typically contain several layers and may have an anti bacterial and microbial treatment applied to them to keep them from smelling.

Top end models will feature a combination of extra features; some brands will be heat mouldable and adapt to fit you personally, others will include antibacterial and antimicrobial treatments to keep your shoes from smelling and there are also shoe inserts for Plantar Fasciitis. Prices for corrective insoles range from $50 to $150. These can all be bought off the shelf.

Orthotic Insoles

Orthotic shoe inserts are specially made by a Podiatrist. Orthotics or Orthopedic inserts are custom made to fit each wearer individually. Your Podiatrist will conduct a gait analysis and determine exactly how much correction is required to the angle of your feet. Orthotics are typically firmer than other shoe inserts and may take longer to get used to. A good podiatrist should be able to recommend the appropriate shoes to fit the orthotics and can make orthotics for sport shoes and football boots in some cases. The materials for orthotics are commonly hard plastics like PVC which can be topped with softer EVA or synthetic leather for comfort. Some more expensive orthotics can be made from carbon fibre. You should expect to pay an average of $400 for your Orthotics though this can go up to $1000 in rare cases or if you are using carbon fiber. It goes without saying that you wouldn't want to lose your pair.

Why do people need shoe inserts and orthotics?

When you are walking each foot will bear approximately twice your body weight, this doubles to four times when you are running. It doesn't matter if you have a completely flat foot or one with a high arch the right shoe inserts can benefit all of us. Over time our bodies have adapted to our environment and our feet are no exception. Before paved roads and shoes were common place everything we walked on would be a natural surface like grass or sand. These surfaces not only took some of the impact out of walking and running but also adapted to the shape of our feet.

Today we take that cushioning aspect with us in our shoes and the insoles can help fill the gaps inside the shoes so that our arch is supported and the weight is distributed more evenly along the foot. The corrective insoles and orthotics aim to align the bones in your feet so that the impact from running and walking is not carried up from your feet to areas which cannot handle the shock as effectively. The wrong shoes and insoles could be causing or exacerbating a number of foot, shin, knee, hip and back problems so be sure to get the right advice if you are having any pain in these areas. In addition there are a number of special considerations for conditions like diabetes with special diabetic shoes and diabetic socks also available on the market. in addition to special insoles and orthotics.

Correctly fitting your Insoles

Fitting your insoles correctly is crucial to getting the most out of your inserts and footwear. Many people place their shoes inserts over the existing ones either because they forget or they want some added cushioning. This should be avoided as it will make your foot sit too high in the shoe and make you more prone to ankle injuries.

Your insoles should be big enough so that your entire foot can sit atop the insert. You can use your existing running shoe inserts to trace over your new insole if it is slightly too long and your inserts should not move inside your shoes when you are wearing them. It may take some time to adjust to the new fit of your shoes and if you are wearing Orthotics you should wear them in for a short walk at first and take them out after your feet start to feel sore. Gradually you can use them for longer periods until you feel no discomfort.

Look for a good level of support in your shoes with the right level of cushioning for your orthotic or shoe insert. The Asics Gel Kayano is a popular choice among runners and will compliment an orthotic very well though do make sure to try it on in different shoes with comparable features to find the perfect fit.