For those of us who live in cold climates, the fall chill has now turned into winter cold. With winter almost upon us, it's time to pull out the heavy-duty footwear that's crucial to getting us through the cold months ahead. For many women – and men – UGG boots are a winter must-have.
UGG Boots – Quality Materials But Little Support
UGG boots are lined with natural wool insulation, which is both more comfortable than synthetic insulation and incredibly warm. Their sheepskin uppers breathe well, so your feet don't get sweaty. The boot also comes with soft, flexible outsoles, which provide extra cushioning and insulate your feet from the cold ground.
Despite the incredible warmth and initial comfort the boots provide on a cold winter day, they provide little-to-no support for your feet. In fact, traditional UGG sheepskin boots have no arch support at all. They are fine for lounging around the house, but not so comfortable for walking or standing for longer periods.
While the company says it has never had complaints of foot pain after nearly 30 years of quality craftsmanship, some physicians beg to differ.
Dr. Rock Positano, of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, says that UGGs "may feel cushiony; [they] may feel comfortable, but it doesn't mean [people are] getting the necessary arch support that a foot needs to function effectively."
Flat Feet and UGGs
One of the most common problems podiatrists and physicians see with UGGs is in relation to people with flat feet.
When you have flat feet, the entire bottom of your foot (the sole) touches the ground when you’re standing. Flat feet often occur when your arches don’t develop properly as you’re growing up or if you overpronate. They can also develop as you age or after a foot injury. For women, pregnancy can cause flat feet.
While having flat feet does not necessarily mean you will experience pain, some common consequences include:
- Pain in the heel (plantar fasciitis) or in the arch
- Swelling along the inside of your ankle
- Knee and hip problems
Flat-footed people need shoes that provide structure and support. Loose-fitting boots like UGGs won't stop your ankle from rolling inward (pronating). Moreover, the lack of support may exacerbate the tendency of your arches and tendons to collapse. Set both your UGG boots on the ground. Look at them from behind. Do the boots look like they are bending inwards? If so, your foot is overpronating.
Dr. Krista Archer, a podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon in Manhattan, worries about UGG's spaciness in the ankles and heels, as it allows your ankles to twist and roll in or out.
And, as Dr. Positano posits, a lack of support in your shoes leads to "overuse, meaning the muscles, the tendons, the ligaments, and the bones in the foot and the ankle overwork," he said. "A recent study just came out that showed the correlation between a flat arch, and problems with the knee, the hip, and the back."
The best insoles for flat feet will fully support your arch and stabilize your heel to concentrate the fatty pad underneath your heel bone. This will both prevent overpronation and provide firm support. Typically, the best insoles for flat feet will have a low but supportive arch. However, you should try different heights to determine which one will adequately support your feet.
But if you have high or medium arches, UGG boots still don't provide enough support for your foot. It may take a little longer to develop foot pain, but without proper structure in the shoe, your arches will suffer – no matter the height.
All You Need is a Little Arch Support
Don't think you need to swear off your UGGs just to have the necessary support your feet need. Most physicians will tell you that by adding over-the-counter insoles – particularly inserts with strong arch support – you can continue to wear your UGGs without any problem.
Adding Arch Support to Your UGGs
To ensure your feet are getting the support they deserve, first find a pair of insoles that work for you. Here at Tread Labs, we believe our Stride, with its firm and resilient arch support and precise sizing, will work perfectly. But if you decide to go with custom orthotics or one of our competitors, that's no problem. Follow our fit guide below to see the best way to add arch support to your boots.
Which Uggs Have Removable Insoles?
For women, the following boots have removable insoles:
- Adirondack II and Adirondack Tall
- Classic Cuff – Short, Mini, and Tall
For men, the following styles have removable insoles:
- Butte and Butte Bomber
If you are buying your UGG boots online and are still unsure if the model you like has removable insoles, scroll down to the "details" section of the page. If the words "removable/replaceable insole" or "removable contoured insole" appear, then that model has insoles you can take out.
If you already own a pair of boots, see if the insoles come out. If they do, you'll have a few more options, as you can replace them with insoles of your choosing:
If your UGG boots have removable insoles:
- Reach inside your boots and carefully lift the existing insole away from the heel of the boot. Peel it upward and remove from the boot. If you have trouble, try using a butter knife or a nail file to give you a grip and allow you to make the initial lift.
- Air out your boots. While the wool may keep your feet nice and toasty, they can also be a hotbed for bacteria – especially if you like to wear them without socks. Podiatrist Rachel Verville of Fresno, TX recommends wearing your UGGs with socks: “Just a thin layer of sock inside the boots because if you sweat, moisture develops and athlete’s foot and that kind of thing can develop.” Sprinkling baking soda in the boots and letting them sit over night can help with any odors. Remember to dump out the used baking soda before putting in your new insoles.
- Insert your new, arch-supporting insoles. Insert your insoles toe-first into the boot. Make sure you push the toe of the insole into the boot as far as it will go. Once the insole is in place, push the heel of the insole down and back with your fingertips.
- If you want the feeling of sheepskin on your feet, put your original UGG insoles back in on top of your new inserts. Remember, this will make your boots snugger than before. A thinner insole like the Tread Labs Thin will work better in this scenario, as it takes up less volume inside the shoe. If you are buying a pair of UGGs for the first time, and you know you want both over-the-counter arch support and the original insole, try sizing up a half size.
If your UGG boots do not have removable insoles:
- Follow the same procedure to insert your arch-supporting insole on top of the regular UGG insole. If your boots are roomy, the Stride will work great. But if you have a tighter fit, you might want to try the sleeker Stride Thin. If the boots are really snug in front, try Stride Short insoles.
There is no reason to give up your UGG boots just because you need more support. Add a pair of insoles, and see what arch support can do to make some of the most comfortable shoes out there even more comfortable.