7 Different Types of Insoles

Ryan Brown
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What is an Insole?

An insole is a your very first line of defense against any foot pain. Foot pain can occur for many reasons but if you have a shoe that doesn’t fit you right then that may be the biggest culprit. If that’s the case then the insole is your backbone.

The insole is the soft cushion that sits inside of most shoes or boots and it works as a shock absorber for our feet. Once you put on a pair of new shoes you may feel no discomfort at all but after a couple of hours of wear you may start to feel pain in your feet. This is the insole breaking down and losing its shock absorbing ability. If you wear the same pair of shoes day in and day out then that means that your insole is starting to break down.

You will need a new insole once you reach that point but there are also different insole types and you may not need to purchase a complete new pair of insoles. Each insole type is made for a different reason and if your insoles are not broken down but want to make them softer or add arch support then you can but just a little insole to do that.

Here is a list of seven different insole types:

Insert vs. Insole vs. Orthotics

The terms insert, insole, and orthotic are often used interchangeably but have different meanings. These terms are often used interchangeably because they can be used to describe the same type of equipment.

Inserts are thin pieces of shoe padding or gel cushions that are placed inside men’s and women’s shoes to provide relief from pain in the heels, arches, or forefeet. They are used for shock absorption, for cushioning against pressure, and to keep the feet supported while walking.

Not all inserts are the same, though. Orthotics are customized inserts used to correct and control movement in the feet and leg. Orthotics can be bought in a foot clinic or a high end shoe store and should be made-to-order.

However, insoles are more basic and are not intended to be used for correcting the movement of feet. Insoles are general-purpose, off-the-shelf overlays for men’s and women’s shoes that are usually made of foam. They are designed to provide shock absorption, cushioning against pressure, and support.

What to Look for in an Insole

Luckily, there are many types of insoles that can help you relieve foot pain. First, you need to decide on a basic material. There are various types of insoles, each with different properties.

You have everything from soft and cushioning to hard and flat. Some can be removed and washed while others are tailored to address certain types of conditions.

Also consider the materials bottom, top and in between. Some manufacturers even advertise using active materials that can influence your body. Here is a list of some of the most commonly used ingredients in insoles:

Sizing

If your feet ache at the end of a long day, or you just want some extra comfort when walking, insoles might just be what you need on your feet.

They are made to either fit into your existing shoes, replacing the existing insoles, or they’re designed to fit inside your shoes right from the beginning.

Insoles also provide the opportunity to change the function of the shoes. So if you want more support from your flip-flops, or want to run faster with your sneakers, you just need to pick the right insole.

Beyond the basic cushion support, insoles can also have specialized features including added stability (ankle support), healthcare (anti-bacterial and anti-fungal), shock absorption, support, arch support, impact protection, odor reduction, wellness and even style.

The market is full of insoles from hundreds of manufacturers all over the world. They are made from different materials including rubber, foam, plastic, vinyl, leather and even cork. Most models are shaped in a way to closely mimic the foot’s natural shape so they fit comfortably inside almost any shoe or sandal.

Placement

Depending on the insoles you’re using, different placements could be more comfortable.

For example, gel insoles are very lightweight, so they feel almost weightless against the bottom of your foot. If you’re using these and they feel too thin, you should consider placing them on top of your favorite pair of socks.

It’s important to remember that different insoles will work best with different shoes, and not just any shoe.

While on the topic of comfort, you can also think about how your insoles will interact with your shoes. (Hint: don’t get insoles before buying your shoes!). If you have a very light shoe, you may notice that the insole adds a bit of weight to it.

If you’re using a heavier-duty shoe, you may notice the shoe feeling less flexible.

So, if you’re looking for lightweight insoles, keep that in mind as part of your overall decision.

Arch Support

People are either born with high or low arches. But all feet will benefit from a little arch support. Providing it helps to alleviate soreness and discomfort, especially in the heel and ball of the foot.

The arch support insoles can be inserted in any type of footwear, even those you already own. The insoles are available in a variety of styles, including those made for work shoes, casual shoes, athletic shoes, and sandals.

It’s hard for the average person to tell if they have flat feet. Nevertheless, everyone can definitely benefit from having footwear that fits comfortably and supports the foot.

Footbed

Footbeds are the most basic of all insoles and offer the highest level of support you can get in an insole.

They are shaped to the arch of the foot and usually contain a good amount of shock absorbent material or gel cushioning.

Their disadvantage is they are not as comfortable as a cushioning insole and quite rigid.

They can’t be trimmed to fit into any shoe and usually are suitable only for two-strap shoes.

Material

Cork is a great insulator and naturally antimicrobial. It will mold to your feet and absorb some shock but is often considered more comfortable in warm weather.

Foam is cheap, lightweight and offers good arch support but won’t hold up well under long term use.

Felt is inexpensive and will absorb moisture and smells. It’s denseness also makes it ideal for people with low or flat arches.

EVA is durable and absorbs a great deal of shock. It is also lightweight but is very dense so those with high arches might not like the feel.

Leather is soft, durable and great in all temperatures. It smells bad, can be expensive and isn’t very durable.

Rubber is cheap and repels odor well but is has low shock absorption capacity and is not recommended for anyone with foot odor issues.

Nylon is lightweight, durable and is great for slope work. It is also not breathable and can’t be worn in hot weather.

Design

Features:

A good pair of insoles needs to be comfortable and supportive. Insoles with anti-fatigue technology can do that for a full day by reducing pressure points. If your shoes need orthotic support, you should consider buying an orthotic insole.

You may also want a pair of insoles with arch support if you have flat feet or high arches. Another great feature to have is an orthotic cushioning for added comfort and support. These are designed specifically to fit inside a high heel shoe for extra comfort.

Orthotic insoles are also excellent for diabetic patients and patients with other chronic conditions. They can also help to improve the quality of life of elderly individuals.

The good thing about insoles is that they are available for both men and women in a variety of sizes, heel heights, and widths, and quantities.

Here are seven types of insoles.

Orthotic Insoles

Almost all insoles have a way to cushion and support your feet. But certain insoles are made specifically to correct a problem, such as foot pronation, heel pain, or arch height. These are generally purchased at a podiatrist’s office and are sometimes custom-made.

However, you can also find insoles that are custom-made to correct a problem using over-the-counter devices.

Athletic Insoles

This is the type that is recommended for people who are lifting weights or doing other moderate exercises.

The purpose of these insoles is to prolong comfort and to reduce the chances of getting injuries.

These insoles usually come with arch supports that are meant to hold the foot in place and not let it roll inward or outward.

The good thing about them is the fact that they are made of material that can be easily cleaned. This means that even though they can be a little bulkier than the others, they tend to be the least messy.

They also tend to be the easiest to use as you just need to slide them into your shoes.

Insulating Insoles

Insulating insoles help you feel and stay warm in winter. They do that by creating a barrier that prevents the heat from your body escaping into the ground. Are you familiar with the chill bumps you get when you stand in a doorway on a cold morning or step outside in the middle of winter without an overcoat? This is what insulating insoles help you avoid.

Some insoles have heating elements that you turn on before you put them in your shoes. That is a great option for when you spend a lot of your time outdoors in the winter.

Others are battery-operated. In addition to being portable, they are also much cheaper than a heating insole. Turn them on, slip them in your shoes, and stay warm throughout the day.

Both of the options above work by making your feet feel warmer, but they do not actually change the temperature.

That is where an air-heated insole can help. It creates a pocket of warmer air around your feet. It works like the little heating element in your car.

You just plug them into your car and let them heat your feet without ever putting them in your shoes.

Do keep in mind that they can get pretty hot. Do not wear them for extended periods of time.

Moldable Insoles

A moldable insole is one which can be molded or shaped specifically to for each individual foot. These insoles can be over-molded to fit the foot being measured. A moldable insole can be ordered in 3 different styles: classic, split toe, and wide. The advantage of having inlays created on a 3-D imaging system is that customers can choose their own liner.

The many combinations of liners, artistic inlays and reinforcements can make for an excellent choice. Some moldable insoles are classified as custom insole because they are made to suit the needs of the wearer and are assembled by the “customer for the customer. This makes insoles more durable and very comfortable.

Cushioned Insoles

Cushioned insoles provide the majority of their support for the heel. They concentrate most of their compressing properties around the heel bone.

People who don’t wear their insoles upside down tend to gravitate towards this type of insoles. They have a heel cradle to give them an extra bit of cushioning at the heel.

Because of the way they are designed, the rest of your foot can move freely inside the shoe. They also won’t add too much to the thickness of your shoe.

If you plan on doing a lot of walking during the day or running then these types of insoles are good for you. They absorb shock well without restricting your feet movement.

The only downside to these types of insoles is that since they don’t provide support to the rest of your foot except the heel, you may feel a bit awkward and unstable at times.

Heavy-Duty Insoles

Heavy-duty insoles are designed to keep your feet cushioned and cool for a long time.

Their super thick arch support and deep heel cup are responsible for creating a smaller footprint inside your shoes. This absorbs shock while multi-density foam reduces friction. Its odor absorption capabilities also fight any unpleasant smells inside your shoes.

Heavy-duty insoles are great for providing the shock absorption required by flat feet and achy arches. They can be used in almost every shoe type and are especially effective in shoes that are hard to change out the insoles.

Extremely rigid and high-density orthotic inserts may be indicated for:

Flatfeet – Flat feet are associated with many foot and lower body conditions. Insoles with rigidity and deep heel cups can cause those with flat feet to walk more naturally.

High Arches – Orthotics are a top treatment option for high arches. Superior arch support and deep heel cups can relieve pain and reduce foot fatigue by helping to absorb shock.

Plantar Fasciitis – Plantar fasciitis is characterized by inflammation of the sole attachment of the plantar fascia. Orthotic arch supports can keep your plantar fascia cushioned and aligned, which can help reduce pain and inflammation.

High Heel Insoles

Insoles for high heels help to stabilize the foot and reduce the risk of pain in different parts of the foot, possibly caused by the way that high heels force your foot to mold into an unnatural position.

Shock foam insoles are related to high heel insoles, but come with a gel that absorbs the shock of your foot hitting the ground.

They are perfect for people who walk long distances in high heels.

Sports insoles are targeted specifically to the needs of sports people. Whether you are a runner, ballerina or pole dancer, there is an appropriate sports insole for you.

Women’s work insoles are made to relieve pressure on the foot in the areas most commonly under pressure at work.

The most common places are under the ball of the foot, the back of the heels and the toes. Use of an insole reduces this strain on your feet and decreases the chance of painful and possible permanent damage of long term pressure.

The diabetic foot insoles are made to fit in your shoe and protect the sensitive areas of the foot that are still vulnerable to fungus and bacteria.

It can also encourage adequate blood circulation by improving the fit of your shoe.

In addition, the diabetic foot insoles are made to absorb shock, and many times they are also breathable, so your feet don’t sweat in your shoes.

Kids’ Insoles

As kids grow, they need different kinds of support. Their feet are not only growing in size, but their arches are flattening out, and they’re naturally gonna be a little more flat-footed.

Everybody’s feet are different, but a lot of kids can benefit from a stability or motion control model.

On the other hand, some kids need orthotics at a young age because of flat feet, or if they have a specific condition that makes them prone to pronate too much or too little.