There are a wide variety of insoles that are worn for various reasons. Generally insoles are worn to make shoes more comfortable, control odour and moisture, absorb shock from exercising or playing sports and also help correct conditions such as over or under pronation where weight is not placed on the foot correctly which can lead to numerous problems.
If you experience foot pain or discomfort, insoles could completely transform your life. This article will explain exactly what an insole is, how over or under pronation could lead to foot pain and what the common types of foot pain.
What are Shoe Insoles?
An insole, also referred to as an inner sole or shoe insert, is a removable strip of material that is placed inside a shoe. As previously mentioned it can be worn for a variety of reasons which include comfort, odour and moisture control and shock absorption.
The type of material an insole is made out of will affect its use, longevity and comfort. Here’s a list of the most common materials that insoles are made out of:
- Leather: Very robust and firm with cowhide leather generally being the leather of choice. The insoles are suitable for people that need strong arch support.
- Rubber: Typically used for shoe lifts rubber insoles come in either a hard or soft form. If you are looking for a sturdy insole that is suitable for constant wear then hard rubber is the best choice. Soft rubber is as the name implies soft, this is generally not as hard wearing but is much more comfortable to the feet.
- Gel: The newest material of all the materials but very robust, the flexibility and softness of the means that it offers extreme comfort but this often comes at an increased cost.
- Foam: These insoles are normally made from memory foam, this means that they adjust to the shape of a specific persons foot which allows for a more comfortable fit
Initially insoles can be uncomfortable until your feet get used to the added support, however over time it can help correct foot misalignment such as pronation.
This is the inward movement of the foot as it rolls, this is key to your feet being able to evenly distribute weight and disperse the impact of hitting the ground. The foot naturally ‘rolls’ inwards when in contact with the ground and is able to fully support body weight without a problem.
People who supinate lack a sufficient inward roll, this means that in the push-off phase most of the work is done by the smaller toes and outside of the foot. This can lead to several foot conditions such as Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis, focusing stretches on your calves, hamstrings and quads will help support your feet.
Those who suffer from overpronation have an overcompensating inward roll, this means that the foot and ankle has problems stabilising and shock isn’t absorbed as effectively. Overpronation can lead to calluses, bunions and runner’s knee however insoles with arch support can help to alleviate some of the additional pressure put onto the feet and ankles.
Whether you underpronate (typically have a high-arch in your roll) or overpronate (have a flat foot) an insole will help stabilise the foot and absorb impact, also look at heel inserts and wraps that add extra support to the feet – this is particularly important if your current shoes lack arch support.
Common Types of Foot Pain
As the feet are under so much pressure its common that at some point in a person’s life they will have foot pain, it can be a result of wearing incorrect footwear, posture or both. The most common types of foot pain that can all be relieved by wearing insoles are:
- Heel Pain (Plantar Fasciitis): A pain on the bottom of the heel is likely to be plantar fasciitis, this occurs when the band of tissue that supports the arch of the foot becomes irritated or inflamed. This can happen when too much pressure is placed on the foot and the strong ligament on the bottom of the foot is either damaged or tears. Support or sport insoles are a recommended treatment for plantar fasciitis, these insoles are generally made from harder materials such as rubber and provide increased stability rather than cushioning.
- Heel Spurs: An abnormal bone growth on the bottom of the heel which is caused by wearing the wrong shoes or an abnormal walk or posture. Many people have heel spurs but it is more likely to hurt if you have flat feet or high arches. Again a support insole will help provide additional stability to the feet helping to reduce pain.
- Flat Feet (Fallen Arches): This is when the arches of the feet flatten out when standing or walking, in severe cases surgery may be necessary but shoe inserts particularly arch supports or a walking cane or brace will treat the condition.
- Bunions: A bony bulge along the edge of the foot generally caused by wearing uncomfortable or ill-fitting shoes. Anyone can get them and people with bunions often also have hammertoes - when your second, third, or fourth toe bends at the middle joint, creating a hammer-like appearance. Comfort insoles which are normally made from gel are a good option, these will not only absorb shock but also cushion the foot easing pressure off painful areas.