Tips for Amazingly Comfortable Work Boots

by Mark Paigen 8 min read

27 Comments

Best work boot insoles

Your feet are killing you. And it's probably your work boots that are doing it. While they're doing a great job of protecting your feet on the job site, they're not so great at keeping them comfortable. Luckily, your suffering stops now.  

THE BASICS ---

  • Work boots are made to be durable and rugged. Even though they're designed to protect your feet, they're probably the reason your feet are in agony at the end of the day.
  • Unless you're buying custom, work boots don't come with much in the way of arch support. That's why your feet hurt. Adding arch support insoles to your boots give your feet, legs, hips and back the foundation they need to go all day.
  • To stop your work boots from killing your feet, buy quality boots that fit well, find ones with cushioned outsoles (unless you're a logger or lineman), wear socks that keep your feet dry and comfortable, and add a pair of insoles to them.
  • We recommend Tread Labs Ramble or Pace insoles for your work boots. If you prefer a firmer insole, go with Pace. If you like more flex in your arch support, go with Ramble.

SHOP TREAD LABS

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ---

Work boots are designed for safety in the workplace. In fact, both the US Department of Labor and OSHA require that employers ensure their employees are wearing protective footwear if their job poses a danger to their feet.

While various governing bodies dictate the outside structure of the work boot, none provide guidelines for the inside. Without proper support in your work boots, you'll probably find yourself saying "my work boots are killing me." The extra strain on your bones and joints can lead to painful conditions like shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and knee pain. Proper support is essential for avoiding injury and keeping you at 100% on the job. This is especially true for people with arthritis and flat feet.

There are ways to make your work boots more comfortable so they keep you going through your work day.

How Should Work Boots Fit?

Boot fit is vital for foot comfort. You won’t get a good fit if you rush the fitting process. Make sure you try on a few different boots before making a selection. Boots that are too short or too narrow will crowd your feet and be uncomfortable. Boots that are too big allow too much movement and will cause blisters and hot spots.

  1. Wear the socks that you will wear on the job. Polyester or wool/synthetic blends will keep your feet more comfortable than cotton – winter and summer. Cushioning on the bottom of the socks will provide an added level of comfort. 
  2. Test for length. Slide your foot forward until your toes touch the front of the boot. Bend your knee forward. The width of your index finger should fit between the heel of your foot and the back of the shoe – no more, no less. Test both feet.
  3. Make sure that the laces can keep your foot comfortably in place. Without being uncomfortably tight, they should prevent your foot from sliding to the front of the boot.
  4. Make sure that the boots flex at the ball of your foot. Avoid boots that bend in the area of your arch. They do not have adequate support.
  5. Know that your feet will swell at the end of a long day, especially when it’s hot. If possible, try boots on after work so your feet will be at their largest. 

What Are The Most Comfortable Work Boots?

If your steel toe boots are killing your toes or you just need your work boots to be more comfortable, look for boots with cushioned outsoles. Putting some cushion between your feet and the hard ground can make all the difference. Check out these brands with cushioned outsoles:

  1. Irish Setter - Ashby 6" boots #83606. Old school styling is back. Aluminum toed work boots with heat resistant outsoles. Made in USA and super comfortable.  
  2. Wolverine - Durashocks - 8" Waterproof, insulated boot with comfortable polyurethane outsoles.. Might double as a great upland hunting boot. 
  3. Timberland - PRO Hypercharge 6” Comp Toe Work Boots. #A1RVS214. This modified hiker style is waterproof features a cushioned outsole. 
  4. Keen - San Antonio Mid w/Aluminum toe. Running shoe inspired boot features a lightweight EVA midsole and a rubber outsole for comfort and durability. 

How Do I Get My Work Boots To Stop Hurting My Feet?

Once you’ve found a pair of boots that fit well, think about the arches of your feet. Each day, the impact on your feet is equal to the weight of a fully loaded cement truck. Without strong arch support, your feet will suffer and your work boots will hurt your feet. Adding a pair of insoles to your work boots can make all the difference.

Lack of arch support can lead to many different foot ailments. Plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia, and tendinitis all have one thing in common. They can be addressed or avoided with arch support insoles. Here’s why arch support helps make work boots more comfortable.

  • Arch support relieves pressure on the ligament that connects your heel to your toes. This makes your feet feel comfortable at the end of the day and prevents the acute heel pain of plantar fasciitis.
  • Arch support spreads the impact of each step over the entire surface of your foot, reducing pressure on the heel and ball of your foot.
  • Arch support corrects alignment issues that cause pain in your knees, hips and back. Ensuring a stable foundation pays huge dividends in overall comfort.

Unfortunately, the stock insoles that come in work boots, even expensive ones, do not provide adequate support. Assuming you have chosen the right boots, nothing will improve their comfort as much as a pair of supportive insoles. When you’re buying insoles for your work boots, look for:

  1. Strong Support - Put the insoles on the table. If you can easily deflect the arch to the table, the insoles are not strong enough for a stable foundation. A soft, foam insole may feel great initially, but it won't correct the causes of foot pain or prevent biomechanical issues such as  overpronation. Get insoles as strong as you are.
  2. A Flawless Fit – Just as your boots need to fit, your insoles need to fit as well. Choose insoles that match the contours of your arch. A precise fit goes hand in glove with strong support to give all day comfort.
  3. Durability – When you invest in quality insoles, you don't want to have to replace them every six months. Tread Labs 2-part insole system is designed for the long haul. The molded arch supports are unconditionally guaranteed. Forever. The interchangeable top covers can be replaced inexpensively, as often as you like.

How Do I Choose The Right Work Boot?

There are many kinds of work boots. A postman and a smoke jumper have very different needs. Important features to consider include boot height, weight, water resistance, safety toes, insulation, boot construction, and style.

  1. Boot height – Taller is better for linesmen and for protection in the deep woods. But taller boots are harder to put on and heavier. Shorter boots are lighter, cooler, and better for all-around use.
  2. Weight – The highest quality boots (Whites and Wescos) are massively strong but pretty darn heavy. Backpackers say that a pound on your feet is equal to 5 in your pack. Keep this in mind. In the past, heavier boots were associated with better support. Today, better materials and a greater understanding of arch support enable lighter weight boots to provide excellent overall support. 
  3. Water Resistance – Some boots have waterproof leathers. Some have waterproof membranes (Gore-Tex). Some are made with especially breathable materials. Waterproof boots can be great when you stand in water all day, but they do not let moisture out (despite the claims). Your feet will always feel hotter and wetter in boots with a waterproof membrane. Waterproof boots will also be harder to dry each night.
  4. Safety Toes - Necessary on some job sites, steel-toed boots add weight and can make your feet cold in winter. Alternative protective footwear is made with composite protective toes instead of steel.
  5. Insulation – When the temps drop, insulated boots are a must for outdoor use. Know that these boots will be hot in summer and make your feet sweat. For summer, consider boots with fabric or mesh uppers. Not quite as durable, but worth a look if you are a UPS driver in Tucson.
  6. Boot Construction – Welted and stitchdown boots are built to last and can be resoled many times. Cement or direct construction – where the outsole attaches directly to the upper – can sometimes be resoled, depending on the boot. If resoling is important to you, ask your retailer for more information.
  7. Style – In the end, we all care about how we look. Choose from traditional moc-toe styles, contemporary hiker styles, or pull out the stops and go for the iron worker look.

Choose The Right Socks for Work Boot Comfort

Socks are often an afterthought. Cotton crew socks by the dozen, what’s the big deal? The big deal is moisture management. When your feet stay dry they stay cooler in summer, warmer in winter. Blisters don’t form on your softened skin and your socks maintain their cushion underfoot. Additionally, dry feet resist athletes foot and reduce the growth of bacteria, the cause of stinky feet. What are the best socks for work boots?

  • Not cotton - Cotton is absorbs moisture and holds it close to your foot. Wet cotton socks lose all their cushioning ability and feel horrible - winter and summer. They’re cheap, but that’s the only thing in their favor.
  • Polyester - This synthetic fiber does not absorb moisture. Instead the moisture is driven away by the heat from your foot. The cushioning of polyester socks maintains much better than cotton over the course of a long day.
  • Wool and wool blends - The best. Naturally antimicrobial (anti-stink), wool socks keep your feet dry and comfortable. The best ones offer cushion on the bottom and an open, ventilated weave on top. Thicker styles are better in winter.

How Should I Maintain My Work Boots?

To get the longest life out of your work boots, you'll want to rotate them out with a second pair, keep them dry and clean, and use leather conditioners.

  • Rotate your boots - Most guys buy a pair of boots and wear them till they’re worn out. Boots (and shoes) last much longer if they are rotated in use. Alternating 2 pairs gives each one a chance to completely dry out between uses. Your boots will last longer and your feet will be more comfortable.
  • Dry your boots – Allow your boots to dry after a long day on the job. Boots like to air dry without excessive heat. Never subject your boots to more heat than your hand can stand. Remove insoles to speed drying. If your boots get soaked, fill them with wads of newspaper. It will draw out the moisture from within.
  • Keep your boots clean – Remove mud to keep the leather from drying out. A stiff brush works well and avoids getting your boots wet. Remove salt with a mild solution of vinegar and water.
  • Leather work boots like conditioners – All leathers benefit from conditioners. Boots should be clean and dry before applying conditioner. Oil-based treatments (SnoSeal, Mink Oil, Redwing Boot Oil) will soften the leather. Silicone or PTFE treatments (Nikwax, Graingers) add waterproofing without softening the leather. Either way, use leather conditioners to keep your boots comfortable.

Tips For Comfortable Work Boots

Stop your work boots from killing your feet and make them more comfortable. Strong, arch-supporting boot inserts will improve the comfort of all work boots, old or new. Pick your work boot insoles like you pick your tools. Invest in quality and you’ll save money in the long run. Look for strength and durability.  

The most important thing is for you to experience the highest level of comfort possible. When you’re on your feet all day, make sure your feet are well supported no matter what kind of work boot you wear. It will make a huge difference in your job satisfaction.

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    Mark Paigen
    Mark Paigen


    27 Responses

    Dan-Tread Labs
    Dan-Tread Labs

    March 20, 2020

    Hi Seddie,
    The discomfort you are experiencing could be stemming from your foot wear. Unsupportive shoes can bring about a variety of issues in the lower extremities.
    Adding a supportive insole could be an easy solution for you.
    With our 30 Day Guarantee you can try our insoles risk free for a month. If you find that the insoles are not resolving the issue, or that the fit isn’t perfect, you can send them back for a full refund. We’ll also cover any domestic shipping.
    Please give us a call at 781-435-0662 or send us an email, hello@treadlabs.com, and we’d be more than happy to help find the perfect fit for you.
    Thanks,
    Tread Labs

    Dan- Tread Labs
    Dan- Tread Labs

    March 20, 2020

    Hi Sam,
    The cost of a custom made boot is typically the largest hurdle for folks looking to find a superior fit and add comfort to their work day. Tread Labs insoles can soften the blow to the wallet, and prevent the crab cake reaction. Because most work boots offer a generic, one size fits all approach to arch support, adding an insole that offers firm support can be a great addition to nearly all boot brands.
    With four different arch heights to choose from, Tread Labs can provide a near custom fit for just about every foot.
    If we can help answer any questions you may have about finding the right fit, or which style may work best for you, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
    Thanks,
    Tread Labs

    seddie murfy
    seddie murfy

    March 18, 2020

    i wear safety boots most the time. for over a year now i have been having some sort of pain at my right groin…no medical approach to the problem seems to provide any positive results. the pain comes in the form of waves and feels like the pin and niddle kind of pain…..but i noticed that i do get a bit of relief after taking of my boots….. could my boots be the cause of my pain?

    Sam
    Sam

    March 18, 2020

    I’ve worn steel toe boots for 18 years straight on the railroad pounding uneven ballast, rails crap you go the other way looking at 10 plus hours a day switching cars subzero and jungle heat SO point is everybody’s feet are different and so is their weight, gate million things. For the life of me I’ll never understand guys who buy cheap boots(unless there is money issue) when your basically crippled at days end or in retirement. I wore Redwing and Danner for 75% of my time and while their material quality like others is top notch they are cookie cutter one size fits all boots. I finally got a catalog from this custom boot maker in Washington who’s name is White’s and I laid a giant crab cake in my Levi’s seeing the price but I went ahead got fitted and 5 years later I’ve had them resoled twice and my feet, break and hips feel like I’m 25 again, point is you gotta have custom fitted boots there’s no way around it. If they’re TRUE workboots where your not just skipping through occasional concrete and mud but on your feet daily, yearly in uneven hard dangerous footings then buying most of the popular brands is like Rosie O’Donnell trying on a swimsuit, sure it’ll go on but the pain it causes is irreversible.

    Donovan
    Donovan

    January 06, 2020

    @ STEPHEN LUETTGEN: You asked if steel toe boots are comfortable to wear all day? I only wear one pair of shoes/boots on a daily basis. I have a mixed lifestyle of office and site work. The boots I wear are Chelsea style (ankle boot) Steel Toe for easy on/ff. They’re super comfortable and I am never actually aware of the fact that they are steel toe. I guess the secret is to find a comfortable pair of boots (no small task) – and wear them – all the time – until they are second skin. Hope that helps.

    Dan-Tread Labs
    Dan-Tread Labs

    December 04, 2019

    Hi Stephen,

    A lot depends on the quality of the boot, and how well the boot fits the contours of your foot.
    Many boot styles, do not offer much in terms of arch support. Supporting the arch will help take pressure off of your heels and forefoot, which creates a much better experience, especially if you’re on your feet all day.
    Arch supporting insoles, such as Tread Labs, can be added to nearly any boot, and can provide relief for sore tired feet.
    Thanks,
    Tread Labs

    Stephen Luettgen
    Stephen Luettgen

    December 04, 2019

    Great stuff! Love the tips and insights. I want to know whether steel toe boots are comfortable to wear all day?

    Dan- Tread Labs
    Dan- Tread Labs

    July 05, 2019

    Hi Joseph,
    There can be a lot of gimmicks that come and go when it comes to footwear, but boots, sneakers, and shoes that offer a supportive and comfortable fit will never go out of style.
    Comfort should be the first and foremost important factor when finding the right footwear.
    Please let us know if we can help answer any questions you may have about footwear or insoles.
    Thanks,
    Tread Labs

    Joseph Hawkins
    Joseph Hawkins

    July 05, 2019

    After a lot of trouble, I’ve finally realized this, comfort is always a key happiness rather than the latest trend. Now a days, i always opt for shoes which are comfortable rather than trending.

    Dan- Tread Labs
    Dan- Tread Labs

    June 24, 2019

    Hi Michael,
    While it is tempting to address heel pain with soft cushion insoles, these will only provide momentary relief. You need strong support to spread the weight evenly over your feet and support the plantar fascia.
    Tread Labs Stride insoles address both the cause and the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. Our insoles offer a dynamic arch support, available in 4 different heights, to provide a near custom fit.
    Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions about how to measure your arches, and which insole may be right for you.
    Thanks,
    Tread Labs

    michael sharp
    michael sharp

    June 24, 2019

    i wear chainsaw boots all day 5 days a week and suffer badly from plantar fasciitis i use a after mkt insole but this dosnt help, also do the proper exercises , some relief but not much. any suggestions people ?? ps im 63 and 19st which does not help i know!

    Dan
    Dan

    April 30, 2019

    Hi David,
    Many styles of work boots do not offer a factory insert with the right level of support. For this reason we’ve found that adding an over the counter orthotic can add the proper elements for a perfect fit and feel to help you make it through your work day pain free.
    A boot which offers a removable factory insert will allow you to get the most out of the over the counter orthotic.
    The first step to finding relief will be to measure your arch height. Using the right level of arch support will help distribute weight evenly, taking pressure off of the arch as well as the heels.
    Here is a quick rundown of how to measure the arch height;

    1. Fill your tub with a small layer of water.

    2. Take two pieces of cardboard or heavy paper and set them on the floor.

    3. Step into the tub with one foot to wet the bottom of your foot.

    4. Lift up your foot and step onto one cardboard piece. Put your full weight on that one foot.

    5. Step off the cardboard and look down.

    Determine your arch height. If you see your entire footprint, you have a LOW arch. If you see half of your arch—like the typical “footprint in the sand” image—you have a MEDIUM (normal) arch. If you see a “C” shaped imprint, you have a HIGH arch. If you see just your heel, the ball of your foot and almost no arch at all you have an EXTRA HIGH arch.

    Once you have determined the arch height you’ll want to head over to our FIND YOUR FIT tool, this will determine the right insole style for you.
    Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions.
    Thanks,
    Tread Labs

    David B
    David B

    April 29, 2019

    Hey there,I’m a traffic Controller of many years. No matter what boots I wear they start hurting my feet. So I try different rubber to try lifting the back so it’s not jamming into my arch. Then,my arch hurts so I’m trying some other way to take that pressure off. Then my heels hurt. I’m really stuck for ideas,now going to work is a real challenge especially standing on asphalt all day. I’ve tried everything. Just can’t get both arch and heel comfortable at the same time.

    Dan-Tread Labs
    Dan-Tread Labs

    September 07, 2018

    Hi Kevin,
    We do ship to Australia. International shipping costs an additional $25 for 1-2 pairs, and $40 for 3-5 pairs.
    Thanks,
    Dan-Tread Labs

    Kevin Watson
    Kevin Watson

    September 07, 2018

    Do you ship to Australia?

    Dan, Tread Labs
    Dan, Tread Labs

    June 08, 2018

    Hi Sharon,
    Many of the factory inserts that come with work boots do not offer enough cushion and support. An over the counter insole, or one of Tread Labs semi-custom insoles, could be very beneficial for you and make your work shifts more comfortable.
    Thanks,
    Dan

    Sharon
    Sharon

    June 08, 2018

    Hi I work at the airport so my work boots are heavy duty but not contain metal as I have to go through security lots of time. They have been fine up till now . There only 3 months old . I’ve found that out of the blue the bull of my feet are very tender and are getting hard skin on them .do u have any ideas to make the more compfy like they once was

    Dan, Tread Labs
    Dan, Tread Labs

    May 14, 2018

    Hi Kelsey,
    Thanks for your question.
    Based on the discomfort you’ve described I’m lead to believe you have high arches.
    High arches can result in underpronation (more commonly known as supination). As a supinator, your arches don’t properly absorb the shock of walking/running. Your foot doesn’t sufficiently roll inward upon landing. In fact, a supinating foot has an inward motion of less than 15%. This means that most of the person’s body weight lands on the outer edges of each foot.
    All of Tread labs semi-custom insoles offer excellent pronation control.
    If your work boots offer a removable insert I would recommend taking a look at our Stride insole. If the boots do not offer a removable insert the Stride Short could be a great solution for you.
    Please feel free to give us a call at 781-435-0662 or send us an email with any other questions you may have.

    Kelsey
    Kelsey

    May 14, 2018

    I recently started a new job at a factory. I’m on my feet for twelve hours straight with few breaks to relieve the pain it brings my feet. I’m required to wear steel toed boots. The pain I find is along the sides of my feet and on my big toes. What insole would be best to help my feet be more comfortable and lastly pain free to make my work day easier??

    Dan-Tread Labs
    Dan-Tread Labs

    March 07, 2018

    Hi Z.D.,
    Thanks for reaching out to us.
    Tread Labs insoles are compatible with nearly all styles of footwear.
    We have found that for folks who’s shoe size falls between sizes, for instance, in some shoes you wear an 11.5 and in others you wear a 12, we recommend going with the smaller of the two sizes. In this scenario, the 10-11.5 would be the recommended size. This size insole will fit the arch more precisely, but also will fit the shoe better in terms of width. This may be the cause of the issue you had with the Dr. Martins.
    If I can assist with an exchange for the smaller size insole, if you think it would help, please contact me at 781-435-0662, or shoot me an email at hello@treadlabs.com
    Thanks,
    Dan

    Z. D.
    Z. D.

    March 03, 2018

    I use my tread lab insoles in a pair of Dr Martin work boots. After a year of use I noticed the insole is starting to wear through the boot on the side. I did not notice initially that the shoe is slightly narrow, causing the insole to not sit flush against the bottom of the boot on the sides. Are the brands listed above wide enough for the insole to fit inside the boot?

    Dan- Tread Labs
    Dan- Tread Labs

    December 29, 2017

    Hi Amanda,
    Thanks for taking an interest in Tread Labs.
    Feet can go through some changes over time, and what used to be a great choice in footwear starts to feel more and more uncomfortable as we get older.
    An insole with arch support very well could help with your heel pain, and give your boots new life.
    Tread Labs offers arch supports in several different heights, so there is a great fit for nearly everyone.
    Give us a call or send us an email and we can help find you the right pair of insoles to make those boots comfortable again.
    Thanks,
    Dan

    Amanda
    Amanda

    December 28, 2017

    Hi. I don’t know if my question pertains to work boots but I am out of places to look. When I was younger I could wear boots all day walking from class to class in college and then at my after school job and they didn’t bother me. Now that I’m in my 30’s after 3 hours the heels of my feet are killing me and my lower back aches. Even when I wear the same boots I used to. Am I just getting old or could there be a fix I’m overlooking? Again sorry if this question is off topic.

    Dan- Tread Labs
    Dan- Tread Labs

    November 15, 2017

    Hi DeWanda,

    If your work boots offer a removable factory insert I would recommend checking out the Stride insole. This insole will offer the most cushion of any of Tread Labs insoles. A 4mm thick top cover along with our medical grade orthotic gives ultimate support and comfort. For pain the forefoot region you may want to take a look at our Met Pad Kit. These pads easily adhere to any Tread Labs insole and can provide relief, from fore foot discomfort.
    Give us a call at 781-435-0662 if we can help in any way.
    Cheers,
    Dan

    DeWanda Coleman
    DeWanda Coleman

    November 10, 2017

    Bought new pair work boots from same company as usual the style was a little different…the old shoes where so comfortable. Even though they claim to have the same technology the shoe feels hard under the ball of my foot even on the out sides of my feet…there is plenty of room in the shoe. I would like to add more padding to those areas…can you recommend something.

    Sammy
    Sammy

    September 29, 2017

    I am going to be starting my first construction type job soon. I would like to buy some steel toed boots. I just hope they are comfortable to work long hours in.

    Tim @mybootprint
    Tim @mybootprint

    October 14, 2016

    Awesome article. Quality footwear is usually expensive, so any tips how to take good care of it and thus prolong its life are pure gold. In my opinion from all the tips, #2 is the most important. Getting quality and comfortable boots is crucial. If you get the low-quality boots, even with the best maintenance, they won’t last. I’ve also compiled a summary with the most comfortable boots for 2016 – check it here if you are interested.

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    Tread Labs Million Mile Guarantee

    Tread Labs unique 2-part insole system is designed for the long haul. The molded arch supports are unconditionally guaranteed. Forever. The interchangeable top covers are easy to replace, as often as you need.  

    Want proof? Try us for 30 days. If you’re not completely satisfied, send your insoles back for an exchange or full refund, we’ll cover US shipping.

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    USA - Everything we sell is shipped for free via USPS. Simple as that. Transit time is 3-4 business days. 

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    It can take time for your feet to get used to a new level of support. Wearing your new insoles for a few hours each day is a terrific way to achieve comfort. Our fit guarantee lasts for a month. Please give the insoles a chance to do their work.

    Concerned about the fit of the insole in your shoe or the size of the insole relative to your foot? Give us a call, we’d be delighted to help you find the best solution.

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    Heel Spur Vs Plantar Fasciitis: What’s The Difference?

    If you've ever hopped out of bed in the morning and felt a bothersome pain at the bottom of the heel when you take your first few steps, you've probably wondered what what causing it. Even if it ends up going away later in the day. We'll explain what it could be, and what you can do to stop it from happening.

    QUICK SUMMARY ---

    Shop Pain Relief Insoles

    ALL THE DETAILS ---

    Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are two terms frequently used when discussing certain types of heel pain. And while they're actually very different issues, they can be addressed with the same types of treatment. 

    Difference Between Heel Spur Pain And Plantar Fasciitis Pain

    For one reason or another, there are some misconceptions about how plantar fasciitis and heel spurs are connected. People tend to think that heel spurs are a common cause of heel pain, however that's not the case.

    The truth is that while heel spurs might be associated with pain, they are usually not the reason it occurs, as the Cleveland Clinic points out. Instead, the majority of the time, plantar fasciitis is the responsible party when heel pain strikes.

    What is Plantar Fasciitis?

    According to Podiatry Today, "plantar fasciitis is at epidemic levels with suggestions that one in six Americans may have the condition." As it has become so common, it's important to understand exactly what plantar fasciitis is.

    The plantar fascia is a thick, connective band of soft tissue that stretches from the back of your heel to the base of your toes. As a ligament, it connects the bones in these two areas and it’s designed to be a shock absorber for the high amount of stress you put on your feet.

    The plantar fascia is strong and can withstand a great deal of force, but too much pressure can damage or tear it. The body responds to this damage by becoming inflamed, and inflammation of the plantar fascia is called plantar fasciitis. 

    Plantar fasciitis is usually described as a stabbing pain under the arch and/or on the bottom of the foot near the heel. This pain tends to be worse in the morning and after long periods of standing, exercise, or rest. There may also be some redness and swelling in the area.

    Sometime plantar fasciitis can be confused with Achilles tendinitis. As the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains, "Achilles tendinitis is a common condition that occurs when the large tendon that runs down the back of your lower leg becomes irritated and inflamed.

    The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. It attaches the calf muscles to the back of the heel and allows you to stand on your toes when walking, running, or jumping. When you train too hard or intensely without enough rest, Achilles tendinitis can occur, causing pain at the back of the heel or directly above it.

    What is a Heel Spur?

    A heel spur, as explained by ScienceDirectis a type of bone spur, or calcium deposit, that develops toward the back of the calcaneus, or heel bone, where the plantar fascia inserts. These small, jagged bumps of bone usually develop in response to lots of trauma—or damage—to the heel.

    This means that in most cases, heel spurs actually form as a result of plantar fasciitis. If the plantar fascia continues to be damaged for a long period of time, the body will eventually create a heel spur to provide additional support for the heel.

    Heel spurs are associated with a similar stabbing type of sensation in the heel that is usually worse in the morning and comes and goes throughout the day. But the major difference here is that the heel spur itself is rarely the actual cause of this pain.

    In fact, about 10% of the population has heel spurs whether they know it or not, but only 5% of those with spurs will have heel pain. The true reason for pain in most of these individuals, as you might have guessed, is plantar fasciitis.

    Heel Spurs vs. Plantar Fasciitis: Similarities & Differences

    Here is one of the easiest ways to remember how these two conditions are different: many people have heel spurs without plantar fasciitis or heel pain, but it’s rare to find someone with plantar fasciitis who does not have a heel spur.

    According to one study, approximately 50% of patients with plantar fasciitis also have bone spurs. Since about 1 in 10 people would show a heel spur on an X-ray of their foot, they are only considered an incidental—or insignificant—finding unless there is also foot pain.

    When a heel spur forms, it is usually not responsible for causing any foot pain on its own. Instead, the pain is due to the foot condition that caused the spur. So, if you have a heel spur and notice pain at the back of the heel, you probably have Achilles tendinitis.

    If the pain is on the bottom of the heel, plantar fasciitis is most likely the reason. Many people have heel spurs without any symptoms at all, and experts are still trying to figure out exactly how spurs relate to heel pain.

    Since both plantar fasciitis and heel spurs result from a similar process, the risk factors associated with them are shared in common. The following factors increase the chances of developing both conditions:

    It’s also important to point out that although the symptoms of plantar fasciitis and a heel spur seem similar, there is one way to help tell them apart. Plantar fasciitis symptoms may be felt in the arch as well as the heel, some patients have it for a while before they notice the stabbing heel pain. In rare cases where heel spurs are responsible, the jabbing pain will be centered in the heel.

    Treating Both Conditions with the Same Type of Approach

    If you’re experiencing heel pain, your doctor will examine your foot and may recommend an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis. Although plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain, it’s important to rule out other causes like Achilles tendinitis, stress fractures, a broken heel, or tarsal tunnel syndrome.

    With a diagnosis of either plantar fasciitis or a heel spur, nonsurgical treatments are always recommended first and are usually successful. These include:

    For patients whose pain doesn’t improve after 6-12 months of trying these nonsurgical treatments, surgery is an option. 

    Healing From Plantar Fasciitis And Heel Spurs

    When it comes to heel spur vs plantar fasciitis conditions, it's important to remember that the latter often leads to the former. The good news is that more than 90% of patients with plantar fasciitis will improve in less than 10 months after following these simple nonsurgical treatments.

    On the other hand, allowing the pain to persist or trying to push through it will only make matters worse and can lead to bigger foot problems.

    With so many different options for treatment, it can be hard to figure out where to start. But, taking charge of your heel pain by finding one that works for you can have you experiencing more mobility and freedom as your heel pain gradually fades away.

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    Do I Need Prescription Custom Orthotics?

    If you're experiencing foot pain, you might be wondering if you need to invest in a pair of custom orthotics. You may have even already seen a podiatrist who has recommended you be fitted for them. But the expensive of custom made orthotics can be a hurdle for lots of people, especially since insurance may not cover them. That might leave you asking yourself, "Do I really need custom orthotics?" Let's find out.

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    Orthotic inserts are foot supports worn inside the shoe that provide more comfort and stability than the factory inserts that come in footwear. Scientific research has shown again and again that both over-the-counter and custom molded orthotics, or orthopedic insoles, are effective in treating lower-extremity injuries and pain. Insoles can also help correct biomechanical irregularities in your feet, and solve many foot issues like fallen arches and plantar fasciitis.

    Sports podiatrist and Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) Richard Braver considers orthotics a “cure-all” for many lower-body injuries and pain. According to Braver, “orthotics can prevent and cure a problem by reducing and eliminating the stress that caused it.” Clearly, orthotics are important additions to our shoes. But what are custom orthotics?

    What's The Difference Between Custom Orthotics And Over-The-Counter Insoles?

    There are two types of orthotics: over-the-counter and custom-made orthopedic insoles (also called custom molded orthotics).

    As the American Podiatric Medical Association explains, custom molded orthotics are insoles that have been prescribed by a doctor, often a podiatrist, sports medicine physician, or orthopedic surgeon after conducting a thorough evaluation of your feet, ankles, and legs. They are built for your specific foot and gait, and accommodate your individual foot structure.

    Over-the-counter inserts encompass a variety of different foot products including arch supports, insoles, heel liners, and foot cushions. Not all prefabricated insoles are made alike, however, especially when it comes to the level of support they offer.

    While scientific research has proven that that insoles help treat and prevent leg, foot and lower-extremity injuries, studies have not found a significant difference between prefabricated versus custom orthotics.

    In fact, Dr. Braver believes that for most people, orthopedic or custom-made orthotics should be a last option. Think of it this way. If you have a headache, you rest, take an anti-inflammatory, and drink water. You probably don’t immediately rush off to get an MRI. It’s the same with orthotics. With prices from $300 to $500, prescription insoles are not necessarily the best option for everyone.

    So who may be a good candidate for custom orthotics?

    People Who May Need Custom Orthopedic Insoles

    1. Diabetics - Diabetes and poor circulation increase the risk of foot ulcers and infections. You might want to see a podiatrist if you have diabetes.
    2. High-performance athletes - Running an ultra-marathon is different than a completing a 5K. If you engage in sustained, high-level activities (particularly weight-bearing ones like running), you could benefit from an orthopedic insole.
    3. People with serious biomechanical issues and recurring injuries that aren’t addressed with over-the-counter versions - If you've tried many over-the-counter options and still suffer from plantar fasciitis, pain or other issues, prescription orthotics may be a good option. However, you'll need to first see a podiatrist or physical therapist to rule out other causes of foot pain such as tight muscles and improper footwear. 

    If you don't fall into these three categories, the best over-the-counter insoles might be a better option.

    The Types Of Custom Orthotics

    1. Functional orthotics - As William R. Olson, DPM, and former President of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM) writes, “The purpose of the functional orthotic is to accurately and precisely position the foot throughout the gait cycle so as to promote proper function.” These orthotics control abnormal motion. They also treat foot pain and injuries such as tendinitis and shin splints. Functional orthotics are often crafted of semi-rigid materials like plastic and graphite.
    2. Accommodative orthotics - Accommodative orthotics are designed to provide cushion and support. They are often custom-fitted for people suffering from diabetic foot ulcers or painful calluses on the bottom of their feet.

    Getting Fitted for Custom Molded Insoles

    Podiatrist and range of motion test for fitting orthopedic insoles

    If you’ve decided you might be a good candidate for custom-molded insoles, it’s time to see a podiatrist. Here is what you can expect when getting fitted for your orthotics.

    1. A Range of Motion Test - Your podiatrist will measure the motion of all your lower-extremity joints (such as your hips, knees, and ankles) in order to identify any irregularities in joint motion like excessive flexibility or extreme limitation. Your doctor will also establish the weightbearing and non-weightbearing functional positions of these joints by testing them while you're standing and walking on them, and when you are lying down.
    2. A Muscle Examination - Your podiatrist well test the lower-extremity muscle groups like the quadriceps and calves to identify any overly weak or tight areas. This will show if your muscles are adding to your injury, symptoms, or biomechanical problems.
    3. A Non-Weightbearing Neutral Position Cast of the Foot - Your podiatrist will cast your foot to provide a model for the orthotic laboratory. As Dr. Olsen says, “The specific method of casting is critical and must be done accurately in order to achieve an accurate impression of the foot in its neutral position.” 
    Because custom orthotics must be based on your foot in it's neutral position, stomp-box moldable orthotics are ineffective in treating biomechanical problems. They take an impression in a weightbearing position, thus incorporating any biomechanical issues into the build of the orthotic.

      Questions Your Podiatrist May Ask

      Your podiatrist should perform a thorough examination that includes all the elements listed above as well ask you questions about your pain and foot problems.

      A good podiatrist will ask you to explain the type, frequency, and duration of all the activities you engage in as well as your overall lifestyle. Are you on your feet all day at work, lifting heavy loads? Your podiatrist should know this. Have a long history of plantar fasciitis or stress fractures? This is important information.

      Your podiatrist should also look at the wear pattern of your shoes to understand your gait mechanics. Podiatrists look for the following patterns:

      A thorough examination is the foundation for effective, reliable custom-made orthopedic insoles.

      Well-made, custom-molded orthotics (a pair of orthotics made for a particular individual) are quite expensive ($300 and up), and there is a small group of people who will benefit from them.

      Custom-molded orthotics are designed to control pronation and increase the comfort and performance of footwear. There are many providers for custom-molded orthotics, and some are better than others. You’ll want to consider a few factors when searching for a provider.

      Finding The Right Custom Molded Orthotics Provider

      A stomp box is used to make custom molded orthotics
      1. Hands-On Evaluation – Great custom-molded orthotics cannot be made without a face-to-face visit. There are a variety of providers who will send out a "Stomp Box," a piece of impression foam in a box. You are instructed to step into the box with each foot and send the resulting impressions off to make your orthotics. Unfortunately, without an experienced provider to position your foot as it makes the impression, your dysfunctional biomechanics may be built into the design of your orthotics.
      2. Type of Provider – A certified Pedorthist (C. Ped) diagnoses foot problems and prescribes orthotics. C. Peds often have the most hands-on experience with orthotics and functional biomechanics. Podiatrists are doctors who specialize in feet. They can diagnose foot problems and prescribe orthotics as well as perform surgery to fix problems.  A chiropractor is involved with the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders. Some provide custom orthotics.
      3. Years of Experience – Getting custom orthotics right is a challenging mix of art and science. It takes years of experience to learn the subtleties of making custom orthotics that meet both the functional and the comfort needs of the client. Choosing someone with a long history of success will increase the chances that the orthotics will be right – the first time.
      4. Hands-On Fabrication – Some practitioners evaluate a client's needs, then transmit the info to a lab that creates the actual orthotics. While this system can work, having the orthotics made at the place of the diagnoses prevents errors in communication and insures that modifications can be easily made if necessary.

      If you’ve decided that custom orthotics aren’t right for you, or that it makes sense to try over-the-counter insoles first, you’ll find you have a lot of choices.

      How To Choose Over-The-Counter Insoles

      The most important thing to consider is that not all over-the-counter inserts are made alike. Their quality and effectiveness varies greatly. And understanding the difference between inserts and insoles is helpful.

      Think about arch supports, feet, and walking the way you think about eyeglasses, eyes, and seeing. Most people (especially as they get older) benefit from some kind of corrective lenses to improve vision. In the same way, most people benefit from arch supports to optimize their stride.

      Shoe Inserts

      Depending on your eyesight, you might need a specific prescription or a simple pair of generic reading glasses found at the drugstore. Generic reading glasses are similar to shoe inserts that don't have much variety in sizing and fit.

      The basic cushioned inserts you find at the drugstore may be cheap, but they lack any structure and they won't provide the needed support.

      Shoe Insoles

      If you require more than drugstore reading glasses, you will need an eye exam, after which you get a prescription for lenses. The prescription is written in a detailed scale because added precision enables better sight.

      Like with glasses, having precision sizing with insoles enables a higher level of support and better biomechanics. For many people, an eye exam and simple prescription is enough, much like aftermarket insoles with precision sizing works for most people in relation to arch support.

      There are different types of insoles:

      When you’re considering over-the-counter insoles as an alternative to custom orthotics, look for proper fitting medical-grade arch supports that provide comfort as well as support. They should control overpronation, prevent and relieve foot pain, and most importantly, support your active life.

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      Best Supination Insoles For Underpronation Relief

      Having high arches can be a pain – literally. Foot shape affects pressure on other joints and, if not properly cared for, high arches can lead to knee and hip problems. Another thing affecting people with high arches? Supination.

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      Are High Arches The Exact Same Thing As Supination?

      No. Supination is also known as underpronation, which occurs when the foot doesn’t properly roll inward upon landing. As part of a normal stride, the foot will roll slightly inward after the heel hits the ground (pronation). This cushions the impact and helps you adapt to uneven surface.

      A normal foot pattern rolls inward at around 15% during your stride. When you supinate, your foot rolls in under 15%. Most of your body weight lands on the outer edges of each foot. Conversely, overpronation is defined as the inward rolling of the foot over 15%.

      Supination can put too much pressure on the Iliotibial (IT) band. Some people who supinate will experience knee pain or Achilles tendinitis. Underpronation is less common than overpronation, with up to 10% of people in the U.S. supinating. Those with severe supination are prone to inversion ankle sprains, heel spurs and stress fractures.

      While supination is not the same thing as high arches, it is a condition often caused by them. Not all people with high arches will supinate, but many are at risk. Athletes with high arches should be particularly careful in order to avoid these injuries.

      Can Someone Have Very High Arches And Still Pronate?

      Yes. Though people with high arches often underpronate, that is not always the case. People with high arches can pronate and even overpronate.

      Who Underpronates and Why?

      There are three main characteristics of people who underpronate or supinate.

      1. People who underpronate are often heel strikers – their heel hits the ground first. Then, the foot rolls out, and the force of their body weight is unevenly distributed to the outer edge of the foot
      2. Underpronation is more common in, but not exclusive to, people with high arches. High arches are often more rigid and less flexible. When your foot hits the ground, your arches don't sufficiently flex to accommodate dynamic movement.The force of the stride then pushes the weight towards the outside of the foot.
      3. Tight calves and Achilles tendons magnify the movement of supination. The tightness in the back of the heel and up the leg pulls your foot outwards when it lands. If tight calves and Achilles tendons are the cause of your supination, stretching is an easy solution.

      If you're experiencing these symptoms and the associated pain, there is an easy way to get relief. A quality pair of supination insoles can help.

      I Have High Arches, How Can I Tell If I Supinate?

      According to Runner’s World, there's an easy, informal test you can do to see if you supinate. Simply take a well-worn pair of sneakers and place them on a flat surface. Look at the shoes from behind. Do they stand straight? Or do they lean to the outer edges? If they lean dramatically to the edges, there is a high chance that you supinate. See a doctor for confirmation.

      Injuries Associated with Supination

      Like any biomechanical irregularity, underpronation can cause specific injuries. Common injuries associated with supination include:

      Neutral Shoes and Shock Absorption

      Shoe shopping can be difficult for people with high arches. If you underpronate, you need to find shoes that accommodate your gait. Because the body weight is not distributed evenly across the foot, forces of impact remain concentrated on the outside of the shoe. When you push off, your smaller toes do most of the work. This is both inefficient and lessens your ability to properly absorb the impact of your stride. Most specialists recommend finding neutral shoes with extra cushion or shock absorption qualities.

      Other characteristics you should look for in a shoe include:

      Best Shoes For High Arches And Supination

      There are many brands and styles that work well for people with high arches. To find the best shoes for high arches and supination, it's important to try several pairs on in a store before you buy. 

      New Balance

      New Balance has great running and walking shoes for people with high arches. Many of their styles provide extra cushioning, which is important for shock absorption that high-arched feet typically don’t have on their own. New Balance’s cushion features their "ABZORB" technology, a proprietary blend of rubber and foam materials that is very lightweight and can endure many miles of wear.

      Birkenstock

      Birkenstock is a well-known comfort shoe brand. Their sandals provide arch support with a molded footbed. For many, their signature footbed helps redirect and balance pressure. Make sure to try out the sandals in the store. Birkenstock's firm one-size-fits-all footbed is heaven for some but too uncomfortable for others.

      Chaco

      Developed by the founder of Tread Labs, Chaco has been making sandals with robust arch supports for decades. Originally designed for river guides, Chaco now offers many styles for off the river too. The original Z/series of sandals has very good arch support, however some of the more recent models have less-pronounced support. Very durable, Chaco sandals will last for years. 

      Saucony

      Saucony also makes great running shoes for those with high arches. Like New Balance, they provide amazing comfort and cushioning. Their PWRGRID+ technology claims to provide 20% more cushion without adding bulk or weight. A selection of their shoes are designed for daily use for neutral or supinated feet.

      The Best Insoles For Supination

      Orthotics for supination can also be a great solution to help reduce underpronation, particularly if biomechanics (and not tight calf muscles) are the cause of underpronation. As most shoes do not sufficiently support high arches, they won't correct the underlying cause of your underpronation.

      Because high arches are closely correlated to supination, you need to find supination insoles that will support the arch during your stride. By supporting your arch, you prevent your foot from rolling out.

      An insole with a deep heel cup will stabilize your heel and acts as extra shock absorption. With the proper insoles for supination correction, you can prevent injury and develop a more efficient stride.

      Are High Arches Passed Down Genetically?

      Sometimes. There are many causes of high arches. People can be born with high arches or develop them later in life. Causes include:

      Do High Arches Change With Age?

      There are a few factors, including age, that can cause fallen arches in people who have very high arches. These include:

      A series of tendons and ligaments that attach leg muscles to the foot create the foot’s arch. When these tendons are injured or otherwise loosened, arches begin to fall. This change in foot shape can be painful. Feet will tire easily and put even more stress on knees and ankles.

      To prevent arches from falling, make sure you wear high arch support insoles and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

      The Bottom Line

      Millions of people in the U.S. have high arches. With proper foot care and footwear like shoe inserts for supination correction, you can participate in most sports and activities pain-free. Being proactive by listening to your body and being aware of any discomfort or changes can help you prevent injury.

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      How To Treat Bursitis Foot Pain

      More common than you might think, bursitis foot pain is caused by a number of factors. Some are very easy to address while others take a little more effort. But, getting relief from bursitis in your foot will have a big impact on your daily activities and quality of life. Learn more about what causes foot bursitis and how you can treat it.

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      Your foot is equipped with its own cushioning system that helps reduce the impact of walking and running on hard surfaces. Orthopedic Surgeon and Sports Medicine Specialist, Dr. Jeffrey Tedder, explains, "The bursa is a fluid-filled sac that’s located around joints to help them function. When these are inflamed or irritated, it’s called bursitis, and can decrease the amount of motion in the joint. This most commonly occurs in the heel, hip, knee, shoulder, and thumb."

      If the bursa in your foot becomes inflamed from overuse or injury, you may experience pain, swelling, or bruising in your heel, arch, or metatarsal area (ball of foot). 

      Common Symptoms of Foot Bursitis

      Common areas impacted by bursitis

      What Causes Bursitis?

      There are many things that can contribute to the development of bursitis foot pain. The most common cause of foot bursitis is the overuse or improper use of your foot’s muscles, bones, and tendons. Other common causes include the use of ill-fitting footwear and other biomechanical issues in your feet.

      Overuse Injuries Can Cause Bursitis In Foot

      Repetitive activities like jumping, dancing, power walking, or running can lead to foot bursitis. This can be especially true if you don’t take the time to stretch and warm-up your body—especially your feet—prior to exercise. Always spend time stretching your body and feet prior to athletic activities to ensure your muscles and tendons are warmed up, with proper blood flow and oxygen.

      If you are not accustomed to strenuous activity, take things slowly when you first begin a new exercise regimen. While you may (and should) be enthusiastic about your healthy new routine, your body needs time to adjust to the new demands. Pacing yourself in the beginning is an important step in becoming fit and avoiding injury.

      Footwear

      Ill-fitting footwear is another culprit when it comes to bursitis. If you regularly run, jump, dance, or spend many hours at a time on your feet, be sure your footwear has:

      Biomechanical Irregularities In The Foot

      Sometimes, bursitis foot pain can be caused by an existing foot irregularity, like Haglund’s deformity—a bone spur that can develop on the heel. The bursa can become inflamed as it tries to cushion the heel and the spur from impact.

      Other conditions that may cause or contribute to bursitis include problems with thyroid levels, infections, arthritis, or diabetes. These medical conditions can be life-threatening if left untreated, so it is important to see a physician if you have symptoms of bursitis in your foot.

      How is Bursitis of the Foot Diagnosed?

      If your doctor suspects you may have bursitis, they will examine your foot and ask you about the symptoms, how often you exercise, when the pain began, and your medical history. To rule out an underlying illness, injury, deformity, or bone fracture, your doctor may order an X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, or blood work. If they suspect an infection, they may remove some fluid from the bursa to test it for gout.

      Note that bursitis foot pain is often confused with other foot conditions, including: plantar fasciitis, a heel spur, Achilles tendinopathy, Sever’s Disease, a trapped nerve, Haglunds’ deformity, or a stone bruise. Depending on the condition your doctor finds, they may refer you to a rheumatologist, orthopedist, or podiatrist.

      What Is The Treatment For Foot Bursitis?

      The good news about foot bursitis is that it can be easily managed with proper and prompt attention. A few common bursitis foot treatment options include rest, ice, elevation, stretching, a change in shoes, and adding insoles to your footwear.

      How Do Insoles Help Bursitis Foot Pain?

      Because footwear manufacturers design their shoes to fit the widest range of people, the vast majority of shoes have minimal arch support. Footwear makers do this because they expect that people who need additional arch support will add an insole. Insoles with firm arch support can help relieve bursitis foot pain.

      You'll get the most out of your footwear by replacing the factory inserts that come in your shoes with firm, supportive insoles. To get the most out of the arch support insoles you're adding to your shoes, look for ones that:

      Podiatrists recommend firm support to improve alignment, control pronation, and deliver long-term comfort. Insoles are a small investment in good lifelong foot health. Add them to your footwear and reap the benefits.

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