There are a few things that you should keep in mind when buying a new insole or orthotic arch support:
Insole Sizing: The sizing for an insole is usually denoted as a shoe size range. For example, "Men's 9-11" (each manufacturer uses different sizing). For most full-length insoles, this is because the insoles are designed to be trimmed before use (trim-to-fit); the insole is manufactured to be used in a range of shoe sizes, and the consumer is expected to trim off any unneeded length from the end of the insole when placing the insole into their footwear. For 3/4-length insoles and other insert pieces, the size range on the product denotes the footwear sizes in which the insoles/inserts can be comfortably used; 3/4-length insoles and inserts are usually not designed to be trimmed in any way. If you are between sizes (you wear a size 9.5 when the insoles are sized "8-9" and "10-11"), you should buy the next size up.
Insole Placement: If you purchase a full-length insole, you will most likely need to remove the existing insole from your shoe before placing your new one. Almost all full-length insoles are meant to completely replace the insole you are currently wearing; only very thin and flat full-length insoles can be comfortably worn in addition to your existing insoles. If you purchase a 3/4-length insole, you will place this insole on top of your existing shoe insole. 3/4-length insoles are meant to be worn along with your existing shoe insole. If you purchase an insert piece, you will place this insert either on top or below your existing shoe insole, depending on the specific item purchased (inserts come with instructions for proper placement).
Your Foot Arch Type: The arch of one's foot usually conforms to one of three different arch types: 1) neutral or medium arches, 2) low arches, flat feet, or fallen arches, and 3) high arches. Similarly, every insole is designed to work with one or more of these foot arch types. When browsing insoles, you should first identify what your foot arch type is (more on that below), and only browse insoles that are designed to work with that foot arch type. Wearing an insole that is not designed for your arch type will likely be painful!
Insole Footbed Type: In general, insoles and orthotic arch supports have one of four different footbed constructions: 1) rigid orthotic arch support, 2) semi-rigid orthotic arch support, 3) cushioned arch support, and 4) no arch support/flat cushion. The type of footbed that you need will be heavily dependent on why you are looking for an insole, and you should be sure that you browse products with a footbed type that will suit your needs.
Material: The four most common materials from which insoles are made are foam, gel, cork, and leather. Each has their advantages, and the material you choose is largely based on preference. In general, however, foam works best for cushioning, support, and pressure relief; gel works well for shock absorption; cork works well for support and slight cushion; and leather works well for cushion and "feel" (especially when worn with thin socks).
Below are several of the top reasons we have seen for why our customers are buying insoles, as well as tips for buying an insole best for that reason.
When seeking relief from plantar fasciitis and foot arch pain, you'll want to look for an orthotic arch support with good cushioning. A foam orthotic arch support with either a semi-rigid footbed or rigid footbed works best. For first-time buyers, we recommend trying a semi-rigid orthotic arch support for a good combination of support, flexibility, and comfort. For those who have worn orthotics before and are seeking more aggressive arch support, we recommend choosing a rigid orthotic arch support. If you have room in your shoes, a layer of foam cushioning will help further alleviate pain, otherwise look for low-profile insoles to accomodate tighter-fitting footwear. Visit our Plantar Fasciitis Insoles page for a full list of insoles best for plantar fasciitis and arch pain relef.
Pronation is natural and refers to the natural inward roll of the foot when taking a step. Over-pronation deals with the condition of the foot rolling too far inwards when taking a step, which can often lead to instability and foot pain. To correct over-pronation, seek either a semi-rigid or rigid orthotic arch support to help keep the foot aligned and supported at all times. The combination of arch support and heel support that you will find in an orthotic arch support will naturally help to correct over-pronation. For first-time buyers, we suggest a semi-rigid orthotic arch support; for those seeking aggressive arch support, we recommend a rigid orthotic arch support.
Anyone who spends long periods of time standing typically suffers from foot pain. To prevent this, seek a cushioned arch support, which will help keep the foot gently supported throughout the day and relieve pressure off the foot. Foam insoles work best to alleviate pain from standing. Visit our Insoles for Standing page for a full list of insoles that work best for alleviating pain from standing.
If you suffer from metatarsalgia or other forefoot pain, you'll want to choose an insole that features a metatarsal pad and plenty of top-coat cushioning. A cushioned arch support tends to be the best option here, but we do offer semi-rigid and rigid arch support options for those seeking more support for their foot. Visit our Metatarsal Insoles & Inserts page for a full list of insoles best for metatarsalgia and ball-of-foot pain relief.
Supination, or under-pronation, refers to the outward roll of the foot when taking a normal step. The foot is designed to roll inwards slightly during each step ("pronation"), so the outward roll of the foot often leads to pain and discomfort. To prevent supination, seek either a semi-rigid or rigid orthotic arch support to help keep the foot aligned and supported at all times. The combination of arch support and heel support that you will find in an orthotic arch support will naturally help to correct supination by guiding the foot's movement towards natural pronation. For first-time buyers, we suggest a semi-rigid orthotic arch support; for those seeking aggresive arch support, we recommend a rigid orthotic arch support.
Runners, avid walkers, and those suffering from shin splints often need a combination of flexible support and shock absorption in their insoles. For this, seek either a cushioned arch support or a semi-rigid orthotic arch support that is either a full gel construction or features gel padding at the heel and forefoot. Cushioned arch supports and semi-rigid arch supports will allow the flexibility you'll want with an active activity, and the gel padding will absorp impact shock to reduce fatigue on the feet and knees. Our Walking & Running Insoles page has a number of products to suit these needs.
Those suffering from diabetes and/or arthritis will need an insole that will be gentle on the feet, assist with circulation, and minimize the abuse and shock that the feet naturally suffer every day. Because there are specific requirements to be considered a diabetic or arthritic insole, we would advise you to start browsing on our Diabetic and Arthritic Insoles page for a full list of suitable insoles for these conditions.