Updated: Jul 14
Whether you have a diagnosed foot problem or you’re just ‘Curious George’ about getting extra footwear support, learn the ins and outs of shoe insoles.
“Do I need insoles?” For years, people have asked their doctors or turned to Google for the answer. The good news is that you’re in the right place and you’re doing the right thing.
Your feet make up for a quarter of your entire body’s bone structure, with sixty-sic joints, thirty-eight muscles and two hundred and fourteen ligaments in both feet. They’re the foundations of movement and balance, helping you explore the world and live the life you want to live.
In this blog, we uncover the important role insoles can play in protecting your foot health and help you decide which insoles are right for you.
Why use insoles in shoes?
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 50 years, insoles are pieces of material that are placed inside your footwear for extra comfort and a better fit. The purpose of insoles is to make shoes more comfortable to wear and help ease any pains caused by underlying foot problems.
According to the NHS, the average Brit walks around 3,000-4,000 steps a day, which equates to around 240,000-320,000 steps in a lifetime (based on the average life expectancy of 80). For the health-conscious who love to make their 10,000 steps a day, that’s around 800,000 steps in a lifetime. In other words, that’s a lot of walking, skipping and running!
Insoles can help correct overpronation and offset flat feet conditions. They also provide:
A better fit – not all shoes are custom-made, wide-fitting or offer half sizes. The best insole for shoes can pad out shoes and help improve the comfort of the shoe, which reduces the development of blisters and other foot issues.
Benefits to your posture – insoles, specifically bespoke/orthotic insoles, can help correct posture problems. They also provide arch support where needed.
Extra warmth – insoles can also provide an extra layer of warmth in your shoes during the colder months. Which for Brits, is most of the year!
Which insoles are best for me?
To help you choose which insoles to buy, you should get a proper diagnosis from a podiatrist or biomechanist before. Otherwise, you could waste a lot of money and potentially make your foot problems worse.
Types of shoe insoles available
Foam insoles – the cheapest and most common insole material is foam. It’s shock-absorbing, reliable and quite rigid. However, you must keep an eye on its condition as it wears down quickly.
Gel insoles – these are perfect for heels that are too big. They increase grip, relieve pain and stop slipping.
Leather insoles – cowhide leather is a robust and resilient material, perfect for extra arch support.
Memory foam insoles – these mould to your foot shape, which helps make them more comfortable and last longer.
Air-cushioned insoles – for extra comfort and cushion, these are perfect. The air bubbles inside the foam sole provide support and prolong the life of your shoes.
Best insoles for standing all-day or running
If you have an active job or like to exercise, you may need extra support. We recommend shoe insoles that are made from soft foam or gel.
Some insoles may even use glycerine, which adapts to your foot and minimises pressure under your heel and arches.
Best insoles for heel pain
If you suffer from heel pain, you need insoles that provide both support and comfort. Design-wise, the insole should have a deep heel cup that keeps your heel in place and prevents slippage when you walk. The insole must also provide sufficient foot support so that it can absorb pressure and doesn’t place extra stress on your heels.
Best insoles for flat feet
If you have flat feet, you should pick insoles that stop over pronation and cushion your feet when you move. Avoid insoles that focus on arch support, as these don’t support your entire foot and provide the cushioning you need from shock.
Best insoles for knee and back pain
As well as investing in well-crafted shoes, you need insoles that support your heel, arches and toes. They must also provide cushioning from shock and pressure.
For further advice, either speak to a podiatrist or check out the Insole Advisor tool.
The bespoke approach: orthotic insoles
If you have a unique foot condition or want the best possible insole tailored to suit your feet, then you should use a reputable biomechanist.
Biomechanists tend to work with athletes to improve their agility when competing. They offer a full breakdown and an assessment of your arches or instep and will instruct you on how to manage them. This includes wearing the right shoes and recommending the best insoles.
Biomechanists can even use the information attained to create bespoke orthotic insoles which are compatible with your current footwear to make everyday walking easier and painless.
Here’s a list of the best UK-based clinics specialising in biomechanics and bespoke orthotic insoles:
Pod Marlow (home visits available) – Marlow, Buckinghamshire
CiONE Wellness Centre – Loughborough and London
Foot and Limb Clinic – West Yorkshire
Liverpool Orthotic – Liverpool
For more top tips on foot health. You may enjoy reading these articles:
What is Subluxation and Why Does Foot Health Matter?
Have I got Wide Feet?
4 Common Foot Problems and What Shoes to Wear
What is Gait Abnormality and How Can You Monitor it?
Diabetes Foot Care Guidance