This guide is to help you understand foot problems, pain, and what you can do for relief and correction. The over-the-counter insoles also known as ‘inserts’ can benefit you by adding them to your running shoes and all shoes. All foot problems will be focused on different foot issues for your clear understanding, modification, and improvement using shoe inserts.
1. Foot Orthotics History
We don’t often wonder how things came about; we just know they are here. The word orthotics is Greek meaning to straighten or align. It is the mechanical and medical science dealing with the design and fitting for supporting and bracing of weak or ineffective joints or muscles. It is an external device for putting in shoes to adjust the structure and function of the bones and muscles. The doctor for writing prescriptions is an orthotist, however, if you have minimal issues, over-the-counter (OTC) appliances can help you. Online is considered OTC for buying. An orthotist also designs, manufactures, and manages orthoses.
2. Uses for Orthotic Devices
- Control and guide;
- Limit and/or immobilize a limb, foot, ankle, leg, joint, muscles;
- Movement restriction;
- Restriction of movement in specific directions;
- Reduce weight bearing energy and force for specific
- Rehab after removing a cast from fractures and surgery;
- Pain reduction and easier motion; and
- Shape correction and function of the body for pain reduction.
Orthotics is quite the science! —it is a combination of anatomy (structure), physiology (function), and pathophysiology (changes due to disease or syndrome), including biomechanics (body muscles). Always consult your healthcare provider for what’s best for your condition.
Hallux rigidus or Hallux limitus or stiff big toe is degenerative arthritis and stiffness due to bone spurs that affects the MTP (metatarsophalangeal) joints at the base of the hallux (big toe). Consult your foot doctor (podiatrist) for this condition. Hallux rigidus is arthritis of the big toe joint. It is the most common arthritic condition of the foot and second only to hallux valgus (bunion) as a condition associated with the big toe. Females are more commonly affected than males in all age groups, and the condition typically develops in adults between the ages of 30 and 60 years. Inserts/insoles will usually not help this condition. Sometimes splints will help on the advice of your doctor. You can do more harm than good to your toe joints when trying to find a fix that probably will not work for these conditions.
Hammer toe is usually at the toe next to the big toe. It is usually a longer toe on the foot. A doctor would need to be seen about it. The toe bends because of weak muscles. The weak muscles make the tendons shorter (tendons connect muscle to bone). The toes will lift higher or curl under the feet. Shoes that are too short and pointed high heels can cause this. It can run in families. Hammertoes can cause other foot problems such as sores, blisters, and calluses. Shoes are hard to fit because the toes no longer lay flat. Some people wear canvas sneakers and cut holes in the toe area so the hammer toe can stick out. Surgery can straighten the toe. Insoles will not provide much, if any, relief if your toes are seriously bent.
3. Types of Orthotic Insoles
- Functional orthotics support unusual biomechanics of the feet. They are usually made of plastic polymer to give support, and put a stop to pronation of the foot that flattens the arch. This decreases shock absorption when your feet hit the ground during running, walking, and jogging. They will support the rear foot joints, midfoot (midtarsal joints), and subtalor joint. This type can be used for foot deformity adjustments and foot stabilization. These orthotics are not discussed here.
- Accommodative orthotics have a support device that is soft for minor foot issues relieving mild foot pain. These are great for kids having biomechanical walking problems. These ‘accommodate’ by assisting using gait plates, splints, night bars to keep the child’s legs and feet in place when they are asleep at the correct angle. They will adjust any toe-in or toe-out walking alignment. These orthotics are not discussed here.
Wearing high heels for years and years will damage your feet and toes in time. Your feet will burn, your toes can turn under, and sometimes you have no feeling in them. Walking becomes an effort and is agony. Why brutalize and mistreat your feet? Because as women, we want to look good! We don’t think about feeling good!
When wearing high heels, 75% of our body weight is on the ball of the foot and it can hurt by day’s end. This can lower the latitudinal arch that eventually causes widened feet. A great option is to use inserts/insoles in your shoes for a measure of comfort.
4. Three Styles of Orthotics
- Customized orthotics are rigid inserts for shoes for those with critical biomechanical conditions. They are custom-made and prescribed by a podiatrist (foot specialist doctor). The doctor will determine what’s right for your condition.
- Heat moldable orthotics are less expensive than custom made orthotics that can cost up to $600+ for each pair. These can be purchased OTC and are flexible medium firm EVA material (ethylene-vinyl acetate) with a soft rubber type feel and cost from $100 to $150.
- OTC orthotic shoe insoles are obtainable from drug stores, at malls, grocery stores, and online. They cost from $15 to $50 a pair and are easy to use made of a soft medium thickness. These are usually made of EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) and are flexible yet firm without giving you arch pain. This product will mold to the shape of your feet using your body heat and weight. These are good for kids and elders too, because they are not stiff and inflexible on the foot bottoms.
5. Considerations When Buying a Good Orthotic Insert
Be sure you are wearing the shoes you use the most often for proper fit of the insert if shopping in person at a store. Online, you’ll need to take measurements. Some brand names are more reputable than others for people having diabetic foot ulcers, bunions, plantar fasciitis, flat feet, standing all of the time issues, minor sports injuries, and other ailments. The brands that market the best insert for treating your condition are shown below. Not as many products are made for supinators because most people are pronator types. Do you know if you have pronation or supination? Here are 3 pictures for your visual understanding.
6. Benefits for Orthotic Patients
People with the following conditions may benefit from orthotics:
- Cerebral palsy
- Spina bifida
- Spinal cord injuries
- Prophylactic for prevention of disease
- Sports performance
- Construction and factory workers
- Medical profession standers/walkers
7. Benefits of Buying and Using Insoles
The reasons we use insoles are for pain relief. The benefits from using insoles/inserts are reduction in pain and enhanced movement without pain.
The removable shoe insert (foot orthosis) achieves many goals such as your wearing comfort in your shoes each day, pain relief from arthritis or joint issues, overuse of your feet, injuries, reducing bad feet smell, and better performance for athletes. Orthopedic corrections of illnesses and injuries that affect bones and muscles can also be done.
8. Insoles for Plantar Fasciitis
There is a plethora of inserts available in the marketplace for this condition and all foot conditions. It can a laborious undertaking to find what’s best for you.
Plantar Fasciitis—what is it? It is the most common and most painful heel pain caused by repeated strain on the plantar fascia ligament that connects the heel bone to the toes. This ligament supports the arch of the foot. Standing all day long can bring the pain on and rolling your feet inward when you walk. High or low arches can bring on pain as well. The strained tendon causes foot/ankle weakness, inflammation, and swelling and it starts hurting the minute you get out of bed. There are easy exercises you can do to relieve the pain.
The pain can be in both heels or only one. Shoes that are too tight or too short can cause the pain. To give your feet relief from pain you need to rest your feet doing towel or wide rubber band stretches and calf stretches at least 3 times each day. It does help; I’ve had to do it when I had this pain and it works. Good supportive shoes with excellent arch support and cushioned soles will help. Inserts will help if your shoes do not provide the support you need.
Best insoles can be used in all types of footwear from sandals, boots, loafers, tie-up shoes, athletic, work boots, and running shoes. High-heeled women’s shoes do work with inserts—when your foot is in pain, wear low shoes to heal your problem, including Achilles tendonitis. You can remove the inserts from one pair of shoes to another.
The deeper heel cup will give you even more comfort and adds more shock support for the foot stress you have. Plantar fasciitis affects the ankles and the knees. The cost for the inserts are less than buying a new pair of shoes.
9. Air, Gel, or Foam?
Insoles that use ‘air’ for cushioning have pressurized air bubbles enclosed in a foam base. Over time the foam will compress to give more supportive life to the insoles.
Insoles that use liquid gel put them in bubbles embedded in a foam foot bed. It will increase the life of the insoles foam with compression for support and cushioning. Gel is comfortable for sensitive areas on your feet. It is harder to keep in place because it is not rigid and can be heavy. It’s thicker (denser) than air or foam and will last over time working and hiking.
Foam has been around for years. It is not expensive, is rigid, shock absorbing, and dependable being durable. The dense foam and rigid hard base for arch support and heel cupping is effective. You will have more contact support that athletes and people on their feet demand. With the added support, there are more contact points from foam to your feet. Rather than just the heel and ball of the foot making contact, the total foot including the arch and foot length are supported to carry the load of the body’s weight. The is more transferring of your energy and injury reduction when your entire foot touches the ground. The con to this is that after a few months, the foam loses its ability to compress thereby you losing support.
What's the Best?
Have a professional take a look at how you walk checking your gait and if you turn your foot out or inward. A good running shoe or insole will work regardless if it’s foam, air, gel, or a foam and gel combination. Be sure what you choose is rigid with a hard base structure for the best support.
Best Shoe Insoles for Flat Feet
1. Powerstep® Original Full-Length Orthotic Shoe Insoles for Flat Feet
The Powerstep® insole insert needs no trimming, is made of soft and comfortable polyester with a semi-rigid arch support. You will receive stability and support with this heel cradled cushion for added support when you have force on your feet touching the ground. The two layers are made for flat feet, athletes, walking, standing, running, sports, and plantar fasciitis. These also help fallen arches, mild over pronation, heel pain, and maybe Morton’s neuroma, metatarsal, bunions, ankle, and knee pain. Consult with your doctor if you have Morton’s, metatarsal, or bunion conditions. The Powerstep® are the best insoles for running.
These can be moved from one pair of shoes to another. The low profile ultra-thin design fits inside most dress, casual, work, and athletic shoes. These are unisex, so men and women can select their specific size for this best seller on Amazon.com®.
Wash with your towels and no bleach using cold water. Put the insoles into a zippered laundry bag to keep together and not having washing machine stress put on them. Do not put in a clothes dryer; let them air dry.
Powerstep® decreases foot pain and increases the sense of foot stability and mobility over the short term and for at least one year. By changing frontal plane alignment, these inserts drastically change your rear foot alignment, bringing the rear foot closer to a vertical position.
These inserts come with a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee and are made in the USA.
2. Spenco® Total Support® Original Insole for Flat Feet
The Spenco® Total Support® insole, model number 39-313-03, is made of EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) material with a soft rubber type feel for 3-pod cushioning. These absorb shock and prevent over pronation. You will have the deep heel cupping and metatarsal arch support with the polysorb stability built into the insole. The forefoot pad gives extra cushioning under the ball of the foot giving you a smooth toe-off transition.
The top cloth is anti-microbial to prevent blisters, controls odor, and is low friction for a smooth feeling to your feet. This insole is podiatrist recommended for flat feet. They will provide relief for plantar fasciitis and sports activities.
The heel socket is 1-inch at the edge and 1/4-inch at the center of the heel pad and the toe area is 1/8-inch. These best shoe inserts for walking will fit into tennis shoes, tie shoes, and loafers.
Spenco® Total Support® Insoles are unconditionally guaranteed for one year. The insoles come with instructions and are made in China.
3. Samurai™ Insoles Orthotics for Flat Feet
The Samurai™ Insoles for flat feet give you the power to fight back with an insert weapon of choice. The best-selling insert on Amazon.com® will give you superb comfort. It is a first-class insole for flat feet, plantar fasciitis, heel pain, and pronation. They are sized for women and men to go into dress shoes, boots, sandals, running shoes, work boots, sneakers, clogs, slippers, or flats.
The premium orthotic insole is a shell that supports and a padded case to absorb impact shock to realign foot joints if needed. Foot pressure is distributed evenly across the bottom of your feet.
Podiatrists have recommended inserts for their patients for many years. These do the trick and do not cost $500 as do orthotic shoes. For a small affordable price, you can have extreme comfort because they work for fallen or flat arches and are not hard and rigid. These are better than drug store products and you can try them risk free.
Gift-wrapping is available for your loved ones at the same time you get yourself a pair. You will receive instructions and a 60-day money back guarantee. The inserts are assembled in the USA of imported materials.
Best Shoe Insoles for Plantar Fasciitis
1. Superfeet® Green Heritage Insoles for Plantar Fasciitis
The Superfeet® Green come in this fun green color, with manufactured synthetic soles and high-density 1/8-inch foam for comfort. Insert these into any shoes, sneakers, crocs, or boots for the most common foot pain, plantar fasciitis; arch pain; bunions; stress fractures, and heel pain. The pair has a natural anti-bacterial coating, is latex-, nickel sulfate-, formaldehyde-, and preservative-free and vegan friendly. This is a best seller on Amazon.com® in Inserts and Insoles, and a best seller for Superfeet® products.
With its 1/2-inch depth and wide heel cup, you will have support and comfort from the structure of the inserts. The biomechanical shape and closed cell foam gives your feet long-lasting relief from aches and pain. These are recommended by physical therapists and orthopedic surgeons for flat feet that can cause tendonitis in ankles. These are great for chefs, nurses and doctors who stand most of the day.
You will receive instructions with your inserts. Warranty information is unavailable and they are made in South Korea.
2. Powerstep® Pinnacle Premium Orthotic Shoe Insoles for Plantar Fasciitis
The Powerstep® Pinnacle full-length inserts have flexible cushioning for getting rid of foot pain. You will be delighted with the ideal arrangement for your foot control, cushioning and flexibility designed inserts. They have solid foot support and a deep heel cradle so that you can control your motion. Your arches will be supported for better stability when wearing all shoes such as athletic and walking shoes, casual, work shoes, and boots. This pair of insoles is a #1 best seller on Amazon.com® in Inserts and Insoles for plantar fasciitis.
These are not only good for plantar fasciitis, they help metatarsal, pronation, heel and arch discomfort and pain with its semi-rigid arch support. The inserts have 2 layers of foam base cushioning using EVA material (ethylene-vinyl acetate) with a soft rubber type feel for stable feet. The top fabric is anti-microbial and you will not experience friction and heat. Move them from one pair of shoes to another or buy several pairs.
The insoles were designed by a podiatrist in 1992, who was also a foot surgeon and runner. Seeing the need for a ready-to-wear orthotic that would be more convenient and more affordable than custom-made orthotics, this one was created. These are great for flat feel, fallen arches, plantar fasciitis, moderate over pronation, heel spurs, heel pain, Morton’s neuroma, metatarsalgia, bunions, ankle, and knee pain.
These best insoles for plantar fasciitis come with a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee and are made in the USA.
3. SOFSOLE® Plantar Fascia Comfort Gel Shoe Insole for Men and Women
The SOFSOLE® The Soul of Performance™ insole is long-lasting and super comfortable for those with plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. This best seller on Amazon.com® is sure to please your feet. The design is three-quarter length to fit any shoe style or type for support and stability for your feet. The women’s insole is a cool chartreuse green and the men’s is orange. When you have painful stress on your fascia tendon, this will give you support, stability, and relief from the horrific pain. The Plantar Relief Bridge helps with painful arches and the heel cup will give you the motion control you need. The gel in the heel gives you pain relief from heel spurs with its nylon composite plate that is durable. The gel scatters your heel when striking it. These are just right for casual and sports shoes including work boots and dress shoes. Your pain will diminish when walking, running, working, and doing casual things around the house or office.
The insole will give you plenty of arch support from low, neutral, and high arches. When you have overstretched your fascia tendon, this will give you a measure of pain relief. The indented heel cup will give you even more support and motion control. When you have hammer toes, this three-quarter design will free up your toes.
If you are not satisfied with your purchase, SOFSOLE® offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 1-year warranty against manufacturer defects. They are made in China.
Best Insoles for Walking, Running, Hiking, and Standing
1. Copper Compression Anti-Fatigue Foot Insoles for Sports
The Copper Compression orthotic shoe inserts/insoles will give you much needed support when standing, running, competing, or doing alone sports, plantar fasciitis, and more. Don’t be deceived into thinking all copper content is the same in other brands, imitations, or knock-offs. With copper compression, your feet, legs, and back issues will be fully supported eliminating muscle and joint fatigue. These are the best inserts to use at construction site jobs.
This particular product is covered in 86% copper nylon. One of the biggest competitive brands says they have copper infused compression when it is really only 4% copper nylon!
The unisex inserts will fit a man’s shoe size 8 to 13 and that is equivalent to women’s shoe size 9.5 to 14.5. Trim these insoles with scissors for a perfect shoe fit.
Gift-wrapping is available for loved ones, family, and friends. You will receive a 100% money back guarantee if you are not satisfied. They are made in China.
2. Shock Doctor® Court Sports Insole
The Shock Doctor® court insole is made for basketball courts, tennis courts, and all courts you play sports. The arch will adapt to any foot shape for the best comfort. These insoles will give you the best natural shock absorption when you are actively involved in sports. Your feet will be protected from injuries from over using them as well.
There are 3 levels of comfort: the Air/FX™ top cover; the heel and mid-foot ShockDome™ for absorbing jolting shocks that can move to your knees, hips, and lower back; and the mid-foot ShockDome™ that relaxes your feet and can help plantar fasciitis. The lightweight support cap embraces your feet resisting lateral torque for better balance. You can play and train longer with the full shock absorbing foam giving you all the support and cushioning you need for hard court impacts. You can also reduce ankle and foot fatigue caused by hard cuts. The inserts weigh only 2-ounces and 5 mm thin. It might take up to 7-days to break in the inserts to your foot contours. There is no gel in these inserts; just foam.
For a great fit, remove the existing insoles from your shoes and put in the Shock Doctor® sport insole. Use your existing insoles as a pattern to trim these if needed. You can hand wash in cool water and detergent, rinse, and air dry.
You will receive a 100% performance guarantee and if for any reason, Shock Doctor® Performance Sport Insoles don’t meet your expectations, return them within 60 days. They are made in China.
3. Miscly Gel Comfort Insoles for Walking and Standing all Day
The Miscly brand of full-length insoles give great supporting comfort with gel cushioning when standing at your job all day. They absorb the shock of your movements, are perfect to use with sneakers, athletic shoes, work boots, casual shoes, hiking boots, and other footgear. Remove the insoles in your foot wear and insert these. Your walking experience and any foot movement you do will be smooth without blisters because there will be no friction or sliding of the insoles.
The best shoe inserts for standing all day is this with its gel with a honeycomb pattern. The arch support and deep heel cup, no slip polyester top layer will give you wonderful comfort all day long. The middle layer is PU (polyurethane) foam. Your feet will stay dry all day with the tiny ventilation holes for circulation. The materials breathe and have anti-microbial properties for keeping your feet happy and dry.
Trim with scissors to fit your shoes the way they need to be. The gel insoles fit men’s size 8 to 13 and women’s size 9.5 to 14.5.
Gift-wrapping is available for loved ones, family, and friends. Warranty information is unavailable. They are made in China.
Best Shoe Inserts/Insoles for High Heels
1. Bringsine® Insoles for High Heels
The Bringsine® brand model number, Bring-6073, high-heeled shoes gel insoles are velvety and comfortable for inserting into the ball of the foot area and heel area. High heels can be hard to wear when you have heel spurs or plantar fasciitis, but there are times you need to be dressy. These inserts are a top seller on Amazon.Com® in Inserts and Insoles, Ball-of-Foot Cushions.
You will receive 3 pairs (6 pieces) with each purchase in black, white, animal, or floral print, variety pack, or separate colors. They will fit open-toe, sandal strappy heels, wedges, and stilettos, and all heels that are high or low.
With the premium soft gel spandex metatarsal pads for your arch, tendonitis, hammer toe, ankle pain, arthritis, diabetic nerve pain, or Morton’s neuroma front foot pain, you should not feel any pain or aches. These pads can be used in any shoe type as well such as running shoes for both women and men. You will have shock absorbers with these pads to comfort you all day. Your feet will not slide inside your shoes and the ball of your foot will feel content. Most of us women cannot tolerate the back of our heels flip-flopping up and down; it hurts, causes abrasions, and blisters. These pads will stop that! See the picture for the best design to fit into your shoes perfectly for this style you can choose.
Alleviate foot pain and pressure using these velour covered pads in one universal size. They are removable to put into a different pair of shoes. Hand washing is recommended.
Gift-wrapping is available for those you love. You will receive instructions and your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. The product is made in China.
2. Pedag® LADY Insoles for High Heels
The Pedag® International leather very thin 3/4-inch self-adhesive insoles are superior for high-heeled shoes and all shoes. The article number 121/2821 is a best seller on Amazon.com® and are available in tan or black colors to match your shoe color. Whether you like tan or black, these three-quarter length style breathable leather with soft padding will relieve the stress on your feet in high heels, open peep toed heels, and flats, or any heel height. This insert is great to keep your feet from spreading and helps your arch with its metatarsal pad.
The leather is vegetable tanned so that the insides of your shoes are clean and refreshing using active carbon and silver Nano ions for odor control. Your feet perspire about an ounce of moisture each day.
The structurally designed spot on the foot bed insert will support your muscles, ligaments, and arches of your feet. This is the baseline for supporting your ankles, hips, and spine. Your feet are the foundation holding you up. When your feet hurt, you hurt everywhere. More accurately, these inserts focus on support and not just cushioning. You will find they help with fallen arches, flat feet, heel pain, plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, pronation, and supination, as well as different leg lengths. The material insulates your feet from cold. They are not good for bunions, since bunions hate pressure.
Gift-wrapping is available for loved ones, family, and friends. You will receive instructions and warranty information is unavailable. The insoles are still done by hand in the German production facility and are made in Germany.
3. Scarlet Insoles for High Heels
The ScarletFreshShoe ball-to-heel cushion plush shoe insert with gel for high heels and flats will give you the comfort you’re looking for after abusing your feet for the day and for years wearing high heels that I love myself. These best insoles for high heels work well for dressy solid high heels, strappy and open toes, to include flats.
Made with enhanced gel and a soft fabric, your feet will absorb shock from movement with pressure reduction over your foot length including the metatarsal (arch) bone.
The back of your heel will not slip causing those painful abrasions and your feet will not sweat. Your balance and stability are improved when your feet ‘fit’ inside your shoes snugly. With the self-adhesive sticky back that can be reused, put them in other shoes or order several pairs. Gently hand wash, rinse, and hang up to air dry.
The one-size-fits-all eliminates the need for you to try to figure out the size to go into your shoes. They come in one color of beige that goes with everything.
Gift-wrapping is available for those you love. You will receive instructions and your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed or you will get your money back. The product is made in China.
- You can wear socks or pantyhose with any of the inserts.
- You are able to trim inserts with scissors, but not the plastic parts.
- You might need to remove the existing insert in your shoes so your shoes won’t be too tight when these are inserted.
- Insoles are sold in pairs; one for the left foot and one for the right foot. A pair of anything is two.
- Wash the way the instructions tell you. Generally, hand washing in warm detergent water should be sufficient with air drying. Clothes dryers will probably melt or shrink some of the components.
- You should replace the inserts about every 6 months.
- The inserts are great in military boots.
At the end of a hard day on our feet, we usually kick our shoes off the minute we walk in the door at home. Shoes today are mostly made of plastic and cardboard and that material hurts our feet. Leather is so expensive that no one can pay the price for a comfortable pair of shoes. Leather will conform to your feet and the fake materials just stay hard and hurt us. Even the athletic shoes are made of canvass and rubber and they too hurt our feet. Since society is greed-based, our feet suffer. We were never meant to walk in shoes. We were created to walk in the sand that naturally massages our feet removing dry skin and other natural things we don’t think about today.
Take the time to read customer reviews to see what others say about the inserts/insoles they bought. To have healthy feet, go barefoot in the house and grass and only wear warm socks in the winter inside. Your feet will thank you! Don’t forget to use an exfoliator or callus remover tool for smooth feet after you have soaked them in the tub or shower. Your feet will feel good! Happy shopping for happy feet!