Shoe Insoles

Monday, 23 June 2008

When it comes to your feet, fashion may be important, but comfort and function often take the lead. The average person walks over 80,000 miles in their life. Thatís a lot of wear and tear on your feet! We take to the streets and talk to experts about insoles. Does one size fit all?


The Basics

  • Insoles are the middle ground between the flimsy insoles in most shoes and custom-fitted orthotics.

  • Factory-installed insoles can lose their cushioning capabilities after 50 miles, while specialty insoles can close the gap between the shoe’s design and your unique anatomy.

  • There are a variety of reasons why people want insoles, from medical conditions, such as arthritis and diabetes, to reducing athletic injuries.

  • Insoles can help heal minor complaints like sore spots before they escalate into major problems that could last for weeks.

  • Certain insoles can even help with shin splits, arch strain, heel pain, back pain or even knee strain. Most insoles have labels that describe the specific conditions they’re designed for:

    • Flat Insoles or Sockliners are designed to replace the factory-installed sockliner and offer no additional cushioning. This basic flat insole is usually cut to fit.

    • Comfort/Cushioning liners are designed for just that, and usually are made for athletic use to provide increased shock absorption. Cushioning liners are often specially designed for runners with high-arched, rigid feet and gel is often used for comfort factor.

    • Odour/Perspiration liners attempt to tackle the approximately 250,000 sweat glands in a pair of feet. The warm, moist environment inside shoes promotes bacterial and fungal growth. Some contain charcoal and/or baking soda to help dissipate perspiration an reduce foot odour while others made of special breathable foam help keep feet dry while killing bacteria and athlete’s foot fungi (Dr. Scholl’s Odor Destroyers).

    • Air Circulation insoles have specially designed slots to force air up to the foot with every step, claiming to help cool the foot and reduce perspiration.

    • Soft Arch Support liners are available in full or ¾ lengths and are constructed with foam to help improve the fit of the shoe and support the arch during normal activity.

    • Orthotic/Rigid Arch Supports are available in full or ¾ lengths and are made with a rigid plastic reinforcement from the heel to the ends of the metatarsals. Designed for high-impact, controlled cushioning and in-shoe support, they are similar to custom-made orthotics prescribed by a podiatrist, but at a greatly reduced cost.

    • Magnetic liners are based on the claim that magnets help promote healing, reduce pain and increase circulation and energy.

    • Loofah insoles are to be worn with sandals and form to your feet like a sponge when wet. Popular in the summer to wear in shower, at the pool, spa or beach, they massage and exfoliate feet as you walk and can be washed and reused.

    • Custom orthotics are made by a podiatrist to fit only your foot. This can be very expensive and can only be worn for activities with more impact, such as running.

  • Insoles may make your shoes a bit tighter, so you may need to go with a shoe that’s a half-size larger. Make sure you try the insoles near the end of the day, when your feet are usually larger from standing and walking.

  • Try the insoles in the store but keep in mind that a good insole in the wrong shoe won’t work. Make sure your toes do not feel pinched or cramped and the arch of your foot should not feel too high.

  • Check how easy it is to get the insole in and out of your shoe. Some brands are hard to put in.

Other Considerations

  • You may have to test a number of liners before you get it right, but be patient. If you experience continued or increased pain then stop using and see a doctor immediately. 

  • If you are using liners to reduce foot odour then, consider these other quick tips on how to keep your feet cool and dry under pressure.

    • Wash feet, and in-between toes, with antibacterial soap.

    • Make sure to dry feet and toes thoroughly.

    • Use powders to absorb sweat.

    • Some man-made fabrics in socks can wick moisture away.

    • Cotton and wool socks can help absorb moisture.

    • Try pantyhose with cotton soles, as nylon prevents moisture evaporation.

    • Natural material shoes let feet breathe.

    • Alternate shoes, allowing them to air out between uses.

Be Aware

  • If you are experiencing foot, leg or back pain and are considering an insole, talk to a doctor first to get a recommendation. Keep in mind that inexpensive insoles don’t provide very good support.


We stopped by a ballet school for the help of some hard working feet to test insoles for comfort, support, and smell. They each put one in one of their street shoes, and nothing in the other.

Smell Test

After a week, it was time for a smell test:

  • We put each shoe up to our noses, and we only noticed a slight difference.

  • None of the shoes smelled great, but some insoles even made the shoes smell worse.

Cushioning Test

We also tested cushioning in our everyday shoes and dress shoes:


For odour control, the least expensive, Life Odour Stoppers got our vote, even though none of the insoles had a magic odour-stopping formula.

For the cushioning test, Kristina preferred the Profoot Toe Bed Foam insoles in her dress shoes, and Anna liked the Dr. Scholl’s Advantage in her everyday shoes.

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