Are your shoes too big or your boots a little too loose? Perhaps they rub slightly and feel uncomfortable after a long day on your feet. Be it your favourite pair of heels or a new pair of loafers you’ve bought for the office, adding a pair of insoles can quickly put a spring back in your step.
What are insoles and what do they do?
Insoles are pieces of material that are placed inside your shoes or boots for extra comfort, warmth and a better fit. Sometimes referred to as ‘foot beds’ or ‘inner soles’, the primary purpose of insoles is to make shoes more comfortable to wear. While insoles don’t physically make a shoe smaller, they fill out the empty space between your feet the inside of the shoe.
Insoles are also a way to keep shoes fresh as they can be taken out and cleaned. Plus, they can be used together with toe inserts when shoes are too big, providing additional support.
Why use insoles?
The most common reasons to choose an insole is to make your shoe feel slightly smaller and fit better. But insoles can also provide:
- A better fit. Standard shoe sizes can fit differently depending on where you shop, and it can often be difficult to find a half size. Sometimes the best option is to choose a shoe that is slightly too big, then add an insole to fill up a little more of the shoe for a tighter fit. The best insole for shoes that are too big depends on your personal preference. You can always layer a couple of different insoles on top of each other to pad the shoe out.
- Added warmth. As well as making your shoes fit better, insoles can also help your feet feel warmer. Adding an extra layer that helps you to insulate your feet in colder weather.
- Prevention against blisters. Insoles can also help to prevent blisters. A tighter-fitting shoe won’t rub as much and cause irritation and discomfort.
- Improved posture. Insoles can also be used to help correct issues with posture. These types of insoles are specialised, and are known as orthotics or orthotic insoles. They can be custom-made to provide appropriate treatment for certain problems that affect standing, walking or running – providing arch support where it is needed.
What are insoles made from?
Insoles come in various materials which have different pros and cons. These include:
- Foam insoles. The most common, cheapest and widely found material is foam. Foam is naturally shock absorbing, rigid and always dependable. However, it can wear down quickly.
- Memory foam insoles. These are moulded perfectly to the shape of your foot, which makes them very comfortable to wear and longer lasting.
- Gel insoles. These are a smart buy for heels that are too big, as they increase grip, stop slipping and relieve pain – especially in the balls of the feet.
- Air cushioned insoles. These provide maximum comfort and cushioning. Air cushioned insoles contain pressurised air bubbles inside a supportive foam sole, prolonging the life of your shoes.
- Leather insoles. Leather is another insole option. Cowhide leather is tough and hardwearing, providing strong arch support.
How do I choose the right insole?
Unless you need a specific orthotic insole, choosing the best insole for you depends on the specific fit problems you have with your shoes, and what feels comfortable for you.
If your heel is slipping, or the heels of your shoes are rubbing, you may be able to fix the problem with a simple gel heel grip. However, if this isn’t enough, a half insole could help. They are specifically designed to support the heel but they won’t provide support for the front of the foot.
If there is too much room in your shoe, try a full insole for maximum support and comfort. Simply choose the insole size to correspond with your shoe size.
If the balls of your feet are burning or aching, especially when wearing high heeled shoes, a ball of foot cushion can provide extra comfort by reducing the pressure on metatarsal bones. These pads are also smaller than a full insole – so they fit neatly in to slimmer heels or tight-fitting shoes while providing relief for your feet.
If your heels are too big, toe inserts can be a welcome addition, providing support at the front of the shoe.
How do I care for my insoles?
Looking after your insoles can prolong their life and in turn make your shoes last longer, too. Here are some top tips for insole care to keep yours in great condition:
- Remove them from your shoes to let them dry out. If you have insoles in your everyday shoes, they can easily get sweaty and the moisture can get trapped inside so take them out every so often to let them breathe.
- Hand wash insoles. Simply wash your insoles in water with a mild detergent or sports detergent, rinse out and leave them to dry out before placing them back into your shoes.
Insoles can help you overcome a number of issues relating to comfort and posture. They are always handy to have as they help with so much. Don’t discard shoes that are a little too big before you’ve tried an insole.
If you’re still having problems getting comfy in your shoes, check out our guide to choosing comfortable shoes for a little extra help.