Whether you’re a casual walker or a serious athlete, insoles are an affordable option to improve the functionality of your favorite shoes. But what do experts say about the benefits of insoles and are they really worth their cost?
When we think of good posture, we typically think of our backs and upper body. But did you know good posture has a lot to do with our feet? Particularly for those who are physically active, it is surprisingly important that our feet are in good health.
If the skeletal structure of our feet is off this can mean that our gait is off, this can transfer pressure and stress to the hips and lower back. This in turn can increase symptoms of bad posture, back pain, and other forms of discomfort.
In this article, we will explore the science behind insoles and how they work. In doing so, we will answer the question of whether shoe insoles are really worth their cost.
Key Point: Insoles offer a range of surprising benefits to casual walkers and athletes alike.
Table of Contents
- What is an Insole? Are all Insoles the Same?
- The 3 Most Common Types of Insoles
- The Benefits of Insoles for Shoes
- Are Shoe Insoles Worth the Money?
What is an Insole? Are all Insoles the Same?
Before we dive into the benefits of insoles, let’s talk about the technology involved. Insoles are optional shoe inserts that replace a shoe’s existing insole, or is added on top of the existing one (usually only if there’s a built-in insole).
Insoles were developed in the field of medical specialty known as orthotics, where specialists study the neuromuscular and skeletal systems of the human body. Within this context, an insole is what’s known as an ‘orthosis,’ which is an external device meant to improve neuromuscular and skeletal health.
While the aim of insoles are all generally the same as a result, you will need different kinds of insoles for different types of shoes.
- Full-length insoles: These are meant for spacious shoes and won’t fit in low-volume shoes, such as dress shoes and work boots.
- Thin Insoles: These are meant for low-volume dress shoes and other tight-fitting shoes with little space in them.
Key Point: While the general technology of shoe insoles is similar across products, you’ll need to find the right insole for your shoe size, your foot arch, and desired benefits.
The 3 Most Common Types of Insoles
In many cases, you may be able to solve sizing issues by trimming an insole to fit in your shoe. Of course this only works if the insole was too big to begin with.
And there are other types of insoles designed with specific purposes in mind.
1. Comfort Insoles
If your happy with the support of your shoes, but find them uncomfortable then you might want an insole designed specifically with comfort in mind. These insoles offer superior cushion, but might be a little too fluffy for some serious athletes (because too much cushion can cause you foot to slide around in your shoe if you’re turning at sharp angles.)
Who might want comfort insoles?
You might want to consider comfort insoles if you spend a lot of time standing throughout the day. Comfort insoles offer great arch support, which will help reduce foot pain and skeletal fatigue. This makes them great for runners and joggers as well–just make sure they fit your shoe and running style.
2. Molded Insoles
Molded Insoles are designed specifically to counteract certain muscular skeletal issues in the feet. Most commonly, molded insoles are designed to help with those who have very low or flat arches. Other molded insoles are designed to assist with problems like over-pronation, which is where your gait puts strain on the arch of your foot.
Who might want molded insoles?
If you experience foot pain or have problems with the arch of your foot, you might want to consider a molded insole. But make sure to consult a specialist to ensure that you fully understand your needs.
3. Custom Insoles
Custom insoles are known as custom orthotics. These insoles are designed by a specialist specifically for your foot. While certainly more costly, custom insoles are the type of insole most commonly recommended by doctors.
Who might want custom insoles?
If it’s in your budget, custom insoles are the best way to deal with serious foot problems. So if you’re recovering from an injury, have problems with your gait, or want the best support for your foot during exercise, custom insoles may be your best option.
Key Takeaways: Comfort, molded, and custom are three main types of insoles. Which one is best for you will depend on your level of activity, your budget, and any existing problems you might have with your feet.
The Benefits of Insoles for Shoes
While the exact benefits provided by shoe insoles will vary, depending on the type you buy and any problems you might have with your feet, there are some clear benefits.
We recommend deciding which benefits are most important to you, and then using this preference to inform which type of insole you buy.
Here are the most important benefits of insoles for your shoes:
- Pain Relief
- Low-Key Design
- Prevents Injury
- Increased Comfort
- Better Fit
- Better Athletic Performance
- Affordable and Accessible
Now let’s take a deeper look at each of these benefits.
Key Points: Shoe insoles have been proven to offer a wealth of benefits. We recommend choosing an insole that’s designed to double down on the benefits that matter most to you.
1. Shoe Insoles Provide Pain Relief
Many people experience foot pain due to poorly fitting shoes or shoes with poor support. Insoles provide pain relief in several ways, and the pain relief isn’t limited to your feet either.
So how do shoe insoles offer pain relief?
- Arch Support
Without proper arch support, over time your foot begins to flatten out and loses the ability to effectively distribute weight. This places increased strain on the bones and ligaments of your foot, which causes pain and increases fatigue (check out our guide to the best running shoes for flat feet.)
- Relieves Stress on Knees, Hips, and Lower Back
Without proper support to your feet, your gait can transfer stress and discomfort upwards to the rest of your body. This can result in poor posture, knee pain, hip discomfort, and even lower back pain. A good insole will help to stabilize your movement and reduce these sources of discomfort.
- Prevents Blisters and Irritation
Shoe insoles properly fitted to your foot and shoe will improve your gait and secure your foot in a proper position. This reduces the risk of skin abrasions resulting from your foot rubbing against the shoe in places it shouldn’t.
- Reduces Skeletal Muscle Fatigue
There are 26 bones, 30 joints, and incredibly, over 100 muscles in the human foot. The more you stand, walk, or exercise the more strain is placed on these bones, joints, and muscles. The most common source of muscle fatigue in feet results from poor skeletal muscle support. Molded and custom insoles will provide the support needed to reduce this risk.
Key Points: Shoe insoles have been proven to offer pain relief in many ways, but custom and molded insoles will be better suited to provide highest levels of relief.
2. Insoles Offer Low-Key Relief
One of the most appealing aspects of shoe insoles is that provide a variety of benefits without signaling anything to other people that you use them. Sometimes people will be embarrassed to show that they struggle with physical issues.
Key Point: Shoe insoles are a great way to find discreet relief for foot-related issues. Since they easily fit inside your shoes and won’t be visible to anyone else.
3. Insoles may Prevent Injury
A variety of health problems can arise when the foot is under too much strain. Without proper support, painful foot conditions like bunions or plantar fasciitis can arise.
Additionally, good shoe insoles provide the support needed to improve overall movement ability and gate in athletes.
When athletes undergo exercise, proper foot support works to reduce the risk of injury to joints and ligaments in the feet, ankles, and knees. Individuals with pre-existing injuries to these joints will benefit the most from custom or molded shoe insoles.
Key Point: Custom and molded insoles will work best to prevent foot related issues like bunions, plantar fasciitis, and will even reduce risk of injuries to joints.
4. Insoles Offer Increased Comfort
One of the more universal benefits of insoles is the level of comfort they provide. Comfort insoles, molded insoles, and custom insoles will all provide increased levels of comfort.
This is because they are designed to provide the ideal support to the unique shape of the foot and its arch. While some individuals will find store bought comfort insoles to be plenty comfortable, others may need a molded or custom insole to find the ideal support.
Key Point: Shoe insoles are an easy way to make your shoes more comfortable, whether during casual walking or strenuous exercise.
5. Shoe Insoles can Make Your Shoes Fit Better
There’s nothing worse than buying some shoes that you love, only to find that they just don’t fit quite right.
Sometimes the fit of a shoe will change over time, and a pair that once fit perfectly begins to lose its snug feel. Shoe insoles are a great option to fix this problem.
Thin insoles, short insoles, cushioned insoles provide enough options to remedy most fit-related issues with shoes.
Key Point: There’s insoles for shoes of all shapes and sizes. This means they are a great option to make your shoes fit better.
6. Insoles may Boost Athletic Performance
Athletes are most at risk for foot related issues when they do not have the proper support in their shoes. Wear and tear on the many muscles, bones, and joints in the feet can result in any number of micro or macro injuries.
Because insoles can provide pain relief and reduce the rate at which the feet become fatigued, athletes may find that they are able to engage in exercises for longer. This is true for casual walkers, too.
A good set of insoles can help casual walkers to enjoy longer walks without foot pain or muscle fatigue, since the strain on their feet is greatly reduced.
Key Point: Because of all the other benefits of shoe insoles, athletes and casual walkers may find they are able to exercise for longer amounts of time without fatigue or muscle pain.
7. Insoles are Affordable and Accessible
One of the most universal benefits of insoles is that they are both affordable and accessible. Shoe insoles are available in stores all over, and are also available in droves online.
Because they come in all shapes and sizes, it’s a simple process to find a good product for your unique foot and pair of shoes. And if the insole is too big, you can always trim it down. In fact, many brands of insoles will come with tools or instructions to aid in this process.
Additionally, many shoe insoles are surprisingly affordable. But of course, you will always pay a premium for custom fitted products.
Here’s a breakdown of the average price ranges for different types:
- Foam Insoles for Comfort: $25 to $55
- Non-Prescription Molded Insoles: $50 to $150
- Custom Insoles: $200 to $800
Key Point: Foam insoles for comfort are very affordable, and even good non-prescription molded insoles can be picked up for a fair price. Custom insoles will be the most costly of the three.
Are Shoe Insoles Worth the Money?
Like any question of whether to buy something, it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. So to answer the question of whether shoe insoles are worth the money, we need to establish a few points.
Firstly, because different types of shoe insoles come with different price tags, some products will appeal to some more than others. And second, an individual’s budget plays a major part of whether shoe insoles are worth the money.
Click each question for a drop-down answer!
Are foam insoles for comfort worth the money?
Are molded insoles worth the money?
Are custom insoles worth the money?
For more information and guides relating to the health of your feet and exercise, consider our other content: