How to Choose Shoe Insoles

Insoles: How to Choose

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Do you hike, backpack, run, ski or cycle? Do foot aches, blisters, hot spots or discomfort hamper the enjoyment of your activities? If so, you may want to consider the extra comfort and support provided by aftermarket insoles.

Stock insoles in performance boots and shoes are typically inexpensive fillers. Aftermarket insoles can better tailor your footwear’s fit, support and comfort to your feet.

Types of Insoles

The types of insoles you’ll find at REI are sometimes called “support” or “sport” insoles. They feature a harder material for structural support and stability. Comfort is derived from the increased stability rather than direct cushioning. This differs from the soft, cushy insoles that you might find at your local drug store.

Supportive insoles are best for the following conditions:

  • Structural misalignment, which can manifest not only as foot pain, but discomfort in the ankles, knees, hip, back, neck or head.
  • Plantar fasciitis: Medical professionals routinely recommend the use of a supportive insole as part of the treatment protocol for this painful condition resulting from tears in the plantar fascia—a band of connective tissue which connects the heel to the forefoot.
  • Supination or over-pronation: Support insoles moderate a tendency for the feet to either supinate (roll out) or overpronate (excessive rolling in) when walking or running.

Though not customized to an individual foot, support insoles come in different models and profiles to suit most foot shapes or footwear types.

Insole Volume

Insoles come in different volumes, which means that they take up different amounts of space inside your footwear. For most insoles, there is also a correlation between volume and the arch shape that the insole is designed to fit.

High-volume insoles best suit high-volume shoes such as hiking boots, ski boots or running shoes. They typically work best with high arches.

Medium-volume insoles fit average-volume shoes, like casual shoes and some athletic footwear. They work well with a variety of arch profiles.

Low-volume insoles are needed for low-volume shoes such as a cycling shoes, in-line skate boots or ski skate boots. People with very low arches often find a low-volume insole works best for them.

(Note: The thickness of your socks will also have a big influence on footwear fit.)

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