Should I Be Wearing Insoles?

Should I Be Wearing Insoles?

by Mark Paigen 6 minute read

Regardless of whether you call them inserts, insoles or orthotics, you might be wondering if you should be adding arch support to your footwear. For many people, insoles have a significant positive impact on day-to-day life. But figuring out which insoles are right for you can be overwhelming. 

The Basics ---

  • There are many different reasons to wear shoe arch support insoles. If you have foot pain from plantar fasciitis or other foot conditions, are a pronator or supinator, are an athlete looking for better biomechanics for optimum performance, or if your feet feel fatigued and tired from your daily activities.
  • Unless you wear custom or specialty shoes, your footwear does not have any arch support. Adding insoles will make your shoes more comfortable and take stress and pressure off your feet.
  • Finding the right insoles for your feet starts with asking the right questions - what is your arch height, how can insoles help you, and what type of shoes will you be wearing them in?
  • When you find the right pair of insoles, remove the factory insert from your shoes (if there is one) and replace it with your new insoles. Give your feet time to get used to the arch support you've added. 

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What You Need To Know ---

For some people, answering the question “Do I need insoles?” is easy as counting to three. Maybe they’ve seen a podiatrist or other medical professional who has recommended wearing insoles. Or, perhaps after having foot pain for a while, they’ve done plenty of research that points them in the direction of shoe inserts. 

But for others, the answer isn’t as clear-cut. You may not be experiencing foot pain, but instead you have feet that feel fatigued or tired. After putting in lots of time standing or walking, you’re thinking it’s normal to need to take a load off at the end of the day. You might be a cyclist who gets hot spots during your rides, and you’re just not sure what you could do to keep them from showing up and shortening your miles. Could insoles help?

According to Mercy Health, some common reasons to wear arch support insoles include:

  1. You Stand for More than Five Hours a Day – Standing on your feet for many hours can cause plantar fasciitis, an overuse injury to the plantar fascia. Orthotics can help relieve the stress you place on it.
  2. Your Shoes Are Worn Out – Take a look at the tread on your shoes. Wearing the tread of your shoes out on one side more than the other can be a sign that your foot is rolling inward (also called pronating) or turning outward (also called supinating.) Orthotics can help foot pronation or supination.
  3. You Have No Arch or a High Arch in Your Foot – If you have very high or low arches, regular shoes may not provide your feet the support they need. Orthotics can help provide the support that your regular shoes don’t.
  4. You Have Severe Pain in Your Foot or Heel – While this may sound obvious, many people avoid foot pain. Instead, they blame the pain on wearing high heels or uncomfortable shoes. Foot or heel pain, especially in the morning, is a common sign of plantar fasciitis.
  5. You Just Had an Injury on a Lower Limb – If you recently suffered an injury to your hip, knee, leg or ankle, it could be affecting the pressure you put on your feet. As a result, this affects the way you walk. Orthotics may be able to help correct your walk.

Even if these reasons don't apply to you, you can still benefit from adding insoles to your footwear. Whether you have flat feet or extra-high arches, your feet need arch support to comfortably take you where you want to go – whether that is for a daily walk in the park or a ultra-marathon across the desert.

While there are lots of different reasons for people to wear insoles, the most basic is that orthotic inserts give your arches the support they truly need. Support that your shoes just don’t offer.

The Truth About Your Shoes

Grab your favorite pair of shoes and, if there’s an insert in them, pull it out. Feel along the bottom of the shoe, right where your arch goes. It’s flat, right? There’s a reason for that.

Footwear companies have an unwritten rule they live by when it comes to making their shoes. They all build in the least amount of arch support. Unless you’re buying custom or specialty shoes, you’re getting footwear that has minimal arch support. That’s because the companies making your shoes want them to fit as many people as possible, no matter your arch height.

Since your shoes aren’t supporting your arches, your feet end up paying the price. You might be surprised at the difference adding arch support insoles to your shoes makes for your feet. That fatigued, tired feeling isn’t a part of life anymore or those hot spots you get when you’re out for a long ride are a thing of the past.

By supporting your arches properly, you:

  • Reduce the stress and pressure put on your feet when you move
  • Improve your body alignment which can reduce body pains
  • Maximize your heel’s natural cushioning and shock absorption

How Do I Find The Right Insoles For My Feet?

Let’s face it. Shopping for insoles can be overwhelming. There are tons of different over-the-counter brands out there, and sorting through them to figure out which is best for you can be confusing. Luckily, if you answer these three questions, you’ll be able to find exactly what you need in no time.

  1. What’s my arch height?
  2. How can insoles help me?
  3. What kind of shoes will I be wearing?

Before you do anything else, you’ll need to figure out your arch height. This is important because when you’re considering insoles, you want find ones that mimic the contours of your feet. A low arch insole won’t do any good for an extra-high arched foot. To determine your arch height, try this quick and easy method.

Second, ask yourself what you need your insoles to do. Are you in agony from plantar fasciitis and need pain relief insoles? Are you an athlete looking to optimize your biomechanics for your best performance? Or are you someone whose feet feel okay, but you know they could feel a lot better? Insoles are made with different levels of firmness and cushioning in order to accommodate the different reasons people wear them.

Finally, consider the type of shoe you’ll be putting your insoles in.

  • For shoes with full-length, removable inserts, you’ll want to buy a full-length insole that has a top cover with the standard thickness.
  • For shoes with thin, full-length removable inserts, you’ll want to buy a full-length insole with a thin top cover thickness.
  • For shoes that have no removable insert, you’ll want to buy ¾ length, or short insoles.

Do I Need Insoles?

Do I Replace The Insert That’s Already In My Shoe?

Typically, if the shoes you’re putting your insoles into have a removable factory insert, you’ll want to remove it. Leaving it in and adding an insole can make your shoes too tight and uncomfortable.

Once you’ve removed the factory insert (if there is one), you can compare the length of it to the length of your insole. Sometimes insoles need to be trimmed to fit your shoe. If that’s the case, you can use the factory insert as a trim guide.

How Should Insoles Feel?

When you first start wearing insoles, you may feel the added support along the length of your arch. The pressure can vary depending on the firmness of the insole. Firm insoles that are flexible will feel quite different from extremely rigid insoles. However, after a week or so, you’ll probably forget you’re even wearing insoles.

If you’ve given yourself time to get used to your new insoles but they don’t feel right, you might need to make some adjustments. If it feels like there’s a golf ball sitting in the arch of your shoe, you’re probably wearing an insole that’s too high for your arch. Conversely, if it feels like there’s room between your arch and the curve of the insole, you’re probably wearing an insole that’s too low for your arch.

Once you’ve found the right insole, you’ll wonder how your feet went so long without proper arch support. You’ll feel the decrease in foot fatigue or pain and be surprised at how much farther you’ll be able to go with one small change that makes a big difference.

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