People add insoles to their footwear for many different reasons. Some want pain relief from foot problems like plantar fasciitis or Morton’s neuroma. Others have tired, worn out feet and want more energy to keep moving. Then there are athletes looking to improve their biomechanics and performance.
Whatever your reason for wearing insoles, the last thing you want is for them to hurt your feet. But sometimes that’s exactly what happens. You start wearing a pair of insoles and end up with uncomfortable feet. Let’s dig in to why this could be happening and how you can fix it.
Whether you’re buying over-the-counter insoles or custom orthotics, the time it takes to get used to them is different for everyone. Some people start wearing insoles and the only thing they notice is their feet are more comfortable. However, for other people it can take more time. Generally, it takes a couple of weeks to get used to wearing orthotics.
According to the Podiatrist Streve Stredulinsky, to comfortably break in new orthotics, start by wearing them for “an hour on day one, two hours on day two, and continuously progress each day so that by the end of the two weeks, you can wear the orthotic comfortably all day.” Stredulinsky recommends listening to your body. “If things are feeling good, wear them longer each day, even all day.”
There’s something else you’ll want to consider as you get used to your new orthotics – what you’re wearing them in. Let’s not forget the old saying, “your orthotics are only as good as the shoes you wear them in.” Shoes that are too narrow, have a heel that is too low cut, or use straps to hold themselves to your feet are not compatible with insoles.
When you’re selecting an insole, the most important detail to consider is arch height. You want the contours of the insole to match the contours of your foot so that your arch is fully supported from end to end. But before you can pick the right insole for your feet, you’ll need to determine what type of arch you have.
Once you know your arch height, think about the insoles you’re wearing. When you bought them, were you able to select an arch height that matched yours? If not, chances are you’re wearing “one-size-fits-all” insoles that aren’t properly supporting your arches. If you did get to choose an arch height, it may be a matter of trying an arch height higher or lower than what you are wearing.
If the insole’s arch height is too high for your feet, it will feel like there is a golf ball in your shoe or the insole is digging into your arch. If it’s too low, you’ll feel like there’s too much room between the arch of the insole and your arch. In either case, making the switch to a higher or lower insole should fix your discomfort.
If your insoles are the correct arch height and are still uncomfortable, it’s time to look at their structure. Flexibility plays a role in insole comfort. Some insoles use materials like carbon fiber to ensure a rigid arch support. And while that appeals to certain people for various reasons, there are others who prefer an insole with more give.
If the discomfort you feel is a result of too little or too much flex, try an insole that is more suited to your preference. However, you should keep in mind that podiatrists recommend a semi-rigid insole to promote healing of foot conditions like plantar fasciitis.
Once you’ve dialed in your arch height and insole flexibility, if things still aren’t perfect, there’s something else to consider. Is your insole the right one for the job? Using the wrong style of insoles in your shoes is like putting a square peg in a round hole.
Generally, there are three different styles of insoles:
Make sure your insoles are compatible with the shoes you’re wearing them in. Insoles that have too much volume for your shoes can squish your feet, which will cause discomfort.
Another common reason your insoles hurt your feet is the geometry of the orthotic itself. Some insoles, like Superfeet, concentrate the support toward the back of the arch. Others, like Tread Labs, provide support at the rear of the arch while also extending it forward, supporting more of the foot. Some people find this type of support more comfortable. You may need to try different brands of insoles to get an arch placement that works for you.
Whatever your reason, the key to finding insoles that help your feet is selecting ones that match the arch height of your foot and giving your feet time to get used to them. You’ll be glad you did.
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Mark has always believed exceptional footwear can change lives. He's been in the footwear industry for over 30 years, working with podiatrists, pedorthists, foot care experts, and footwear makers. Mark started Chaco sandals in 1989 and developed a game-changing sport sandal that delivered comfort and durability. After Chaco sold in 2009, Mark ultimately started Tread Labs to continue transforming people's footwear so they can walk better, feel better, live better.
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