Insoles, orthopedics, heel lifts, arch cushions — there's a lot of terminologies to sort through when you're shopping for shoe inserts, and it can be pretty confusing if you don't know where to start. On the bright side, when you're trying to make your shoes more comfortable, there's an option out there for every pair and every person. To help clarify some of the confusion, I got in touch with Yolanda Ragland, a podiatric surgeon and the founder of Fix Your Feet, Inc. "A good pair of insoles can have multiple benefits," Ragland says. "Good insoles can provide shock absorption, correct malalignment, reduce fatigue, boost athletic performance, improve comfort, and relieve chronic foot pain like plantar fasciitis." If all of that sounds like a dream but you're not sure how to find the best inserts for you, check out Ragland's advice and recommendations for all different kinds of foot-related issues.
Powerstep Full-Length Orthotic Shoe Insoles
First thing's first: What is the difference between inserts and orthotics? "All orthotics are inserts, but not all inserts are orthotics," explains Ragland. "An insert is any fabrication that is designed to go into a shoe to improve the shoe’s fit, function, or comfort — for example, heel grippers are inserts that adhere to the back heel part of the shoe, called the counter." Orthotics, on the other hand, are inserts that "lay on the floor of the shoe, called the insole," says Ragland. "Commonly, orthotics are prescribed to maintain arch support, but they can be customized to treat a litany of foot conditions such as metatarsalgia, hyper-pronation, hyper-supination, big-toe stiffness, and neuroma pain, among others." One of the most popular options: Powerstep Orthotic Shoe Insoles, which cover the full length of your insole and have over 3,300 reviews, making them a best-seller among foot-care products. This pick has dual-layer cushioning technology despite the ultra-thin profile that easily fits in most shoes. You can also get them in 12 different sizes, so they don't require any trimming whatsoever.
$17 – $35 (Shop Now)
Footminders Orthotic Dress Shoe Insoles
According to Ragland, you likely won't be able to get one orthotic that's suitable for all your different types of shoes. "An orthotic for a sneaker and a dress shoe for the same person will be fashioned with completely different materials," she explains. These Footminders orthotic insoles, for example, are made for dress shoes or slip-ons. That's because of their form-fitting design that reviewers say is "thin enough to wear in [their] women's dress flats," yet still provides the arch support and redistribution needed to reduce foot pain.
$22 (Shop Now)
Vikasi Orthotic Insoles
"The material used to produce an orthotic depends on what the orthotic is being designed to remedy," Ragland says. And on the synthetic end, she adds, you have plastics, cushion foams, and silicone gels. These Vikasi orthotic insoles are made from all of the aforementioned materials, as they have a top layer of foam for comfort, a flexible EVA core that adapts to your foot, and silicone detailing on the bottom for shock absorption and non-slip security. They're specifically designed to relieve heel, arch, and knee discomfort for those with flat feet.
$17 (Shop Now)
Helloheel Fitter Grips Heel Liners
Heel grippers aim to reduce friction on the back of your heel, says Ragland, like these Helloheel Fitter Grips heel liners. They're made from biodegradable rubber covered in soft suede, and they're a great option if your shoes often slip off or you get blisters at the backs of your ankles.
$10 (Shop Now)
SoxsolS Wool Flat Insoles
More natural options are available in the form of leather, cork, or wool, says Ragland. These SoxsolS wool flat insoles provide a thin layer of comfort and are especially useful when it comes to keeping your shoes sanitary. They absorb sweat and odors from flats, moccasins, heels, and other sockless shoes, and when they start to get smelly, you can just toss them in the washing machine and start over fresh.
$19 (Shop Now)
Natural Foot Orthotics Plantar Fasciitis Inserts
According to Ragland, “Plantar fasciitis is the most common reason why orthotics are dispensed and worn. An orthotic helps to support the arch, establishing relief from plantar-fascial pain.” Natural Foot Orthotics Plantar Fasciitis Inserts are one of the most popular and highly-reviewed solutions to this issue. They're made from an antimicrobial, rigid EVA material that takes the pressure off the heels and balls of your feet. Unlike other brands, they're available in 13 sizes and come with a 100-percent lifetime satisfaction guarantee — plus, since reviewers swear that they actually make a difference where other brands fell short, they're definitely worth the investment
$100 (Shop Now)
Asiv Comfort Insoles
Inflexible plastics are not the only option for plantar fasciitis. According to Ragland, “Leather was the original material used for arch support and continues to be used today for people who cannot tolerate a rigid, plastic device.” These Asiv Comfort Insoles are made from quality faux leather and have shock-absorbing, wear-resistant, and anti-odor features. They cover the entirety of the insole and are a good option for someone who's looking for thin and unobtrusive support.
$9 (Shop Now)
Ballotte Ball of Foot Cushions
Yet another problem that could be causing your foot pain: fat-pad atrophy. Ragland says this is "the degeneration of the natural, fatty cushion on the ball of the foot. Inserts for the ball of the foot provide cushioning to relieve fat-pad atrophy." Ballotte Ball of Foot cushions "offer a selection of complete foot gel cushions covered with friction-resistant material," she says, and since they're made from self-adhesive silicone, they're sanitary, shock-absorbing, and easy to apply. These are especially effective for heels, but can also be used on other styles of shoes that agitate the balls of your feet.
$10 (Shop Now)
ProFoot Heel Lifts
If you're not sure if you need insoles but suspect that you might, Ragland offers this advice: "Heel inserts or lifts are often dispensed by podiatrists before casting for custom-made orthotics because, if they relieve some pain, then a custom-fabricated insole will work. Lifts take pressure off the plantar fascia and can alleviate pain associated with plantar fasciitis." ProFoot Heel Lifts have a deep heel cup that helps with support, stability, and weight distribution. If these do the trick as they have for so many other reviewers, it's likely that your foot pain is a result of poor support in your shoes.
$16 (Shop Now)
14-Piece Shoe Inserts Pack
Yes, the options can be a little overwhelming. If you're still unsure of where to start, try something that covers most of your bases simultaneously. This 14-piece pack of shoe inserts by Z Turn comes with two different types of heel grips, liners for all-over heel support, silicone cushion inserts, and support pads for the balls of your feet. They're made from quality materials that can be washed and reused, and you can mix and match them to provide a comfort makeover for virtually any pair of shoes.
$7 (Shop Now)
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