The reasons people turn to orthotics are as individual and unique as the people themselves. Whether you’re looking to relieve foot pain, add comfort and support to your arches, or enhance your sports performance, you’ll need to determine the best solution to meet your specific needs. Investing in your foot health can charge your active lifestyle, so you’ll want to take the time to research your options before you buy.
With so many insole products available, figuring out which one is right for you can mean falling down a rabbit hole of research and reviews. While it’s important to learn the different types of orthotics and how to find the best insoles to meet your needs, the process doesn’t have to be complicated.
We’re here to help you choose the right shoe inserts.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
When some people want to solve their foot problems, their first instinct is to get the highest quality (and most expensive) option, assuming it is the best solution. But rushing out to get custom orthotics when you are dealing with foot issues isn’t necessarily the right move.
While this type of orthotic is the right choice for some people, it should not be considered the go-to option. According to Dr. Richard Braver, a sports podiatrist and Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM), orthotics and prescription orthotics should be the last option to solve foot pain—not the first.
Another consideration? The value of the product versus the price. While custom orthotic prices fall usually within the range of $200-$800, they aren’t necessarily more effective than over-the-counter or semi-custom insoles. In fact, a 2009 study found “there is no evidence that custom orthoses are more effective than prefabricated ones.”
Heat-mold insoles provide a different way to custom fit insoles to your feet. Here’s how they work:
The new shape closely matches the bottom contour of your foot. Perhaps it sounds great in theory, but in practice it’s a different story. While the heat-molding process is easy enough, it is not an effective way to get the support you need.
You should be wary of purchasing heat moldable insoles for two reasons:
So, if they're not so great, why do heat molded insoles get good reviews? It actually comes down to footwear. 99% of the footwear sold today offers very little support. Therefore, almost everyone feels more comfortable after adding any bit of arch support, including the support that comes from heat moldable insoles.
Cushioned insoles offer immediate appeal—after all, extra cushioning sounds like it should mean extra comfort. But do these inserts offer the long-term foot pain relief you’re looking for?
Most often, they don’t, and in some cases, they can even exacerbate the pain you’re experiencing. The truth is, extra cushioning also means less support. Whatever cushy material the insoles are made of - gel, foam or otherwise - they’re not providing a strong foundation for your feet. If you need foot and arch support, be wary, as you definitely don’t want to exchange short-term comfort for long-term relief.
Semi-custom insoles offer the best of both worlds to people looking for relief from foot pain. Offering more individualized features than the generic, over-the-counter inserts you’ll find at the drugstore or Walmart, semi-custom insoles are also significantly less expensive than custom orthotics.
By offering a range of insole options that address various needs and are designed for different arch heights, semi-custom insoles offer the fit and support people with foot problems need.
However, semi-custom inserts do vary greatly by manufacturer. As you’re shopping around, look for specific features, including:
When you finally choose a pair of semi-custom insoles with these features, it will help relieve foot pain by:
Once you know what kind of inserts you want to buy, there are still other factors to consider. You’ll want to take into account:
Explore our beginner’s guide on choosing shoe inserts to learn more.
Still have questions or need help picking the perfect insole? At Tread Labs, we’re happy to help. We’ll provide guidance on which shoe inserts are the right fit for you. Email or call us at (781) 435-0662.
Continue your research on orthotics by learning how they’re made.
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Say hello to Ramble, Pace and Dash – three new series of insoles from Tread Labs. Our new expanded product assortment is an evolution of the Stride insole. It is designed to meet the needs of 3 distinct customers. Those who are looking for comfort insoles, pain relief insoles, or performance insoles.