Orthotic Arch Supports
Orthotic arch supports are insoles that feature a rigid or semi-rigid support plate or support platform as part of their design. Orthotic arch supports may also be called “orthotic insoles,” “arch supports,” or just “orthotics.” These insoles are designed to ensure that your foot maintains a healthy, natural form all day long, no matter what activities you engage in. They do this by focusing on two main areas of the foot: the arch, and the heel. Orthotic arch supports are designed with a built-in arch support that will help prevent the over-collapse of the arch as well as a heel cup to cradle the heel of the foot and limit excessive ankle movement. Wearing orthotic arch supports will help eliminate strain on the plantar fascia, the muscle running from heel to forefoot along the bottom of your foot, which in turn will help prevent arch pain and plantar fasciitis. Additionally, orthotic arch supports will help guide your foot in making a natural motion with each step, preventing over-pronation or supination.
A semi-rigid orthotic arch support features a support platform that is somewhat flexible. This is ideal for providing good support for the foot without the arch support feeling “too stiff.”
A rigid orthotic arch support features a support platform that is almost completely stiff. This is ideal for those seeking aggressive arch support and not recommended for first-time orthotics users.
Orthotic arch supports typically require a small break-in period before you wear them all the time. If you have never worn an orthotic arch support before, we recommend only wearing your orthotic arch supports for 1 to 2 hours a day for the first week, then 3-4 hours a day for the next week. It is natural for orthotic arch supports to be uncomfortable at first, but breaking in the insoles over time will help minimize discomfort. After several weeks, if the arch supports are still causing discomfort, we may want to consider trying a different insole.
Lastly, it is a common misconception that “softer is better.” In some cases, such as when someone spends all day standing but otherwise has no foot conditions, this is true. However, where arch pain is concerned, it is almost always advised that you seek relief with an orthotic arch support. This is because a cushioned arch support or flat cushioned insole will not give your feet enough arch support, and you will continue to experience arch pain.
Cushioned Arch Supports
Cushioned arch supports are insoles that feature a flexible arch support made entirely from cushioned padding rather than a rigid/semi-rigid support platform. Cushioned arch supports may also be called “arch cushions.” These insoles are designed to provide some support for the foot while focusing primarily on providing maximum cushioning. This is particularly useful in situations where proper support is desired, but the primary goal of the insole is to provide relief from foot fatigue. Walkers/runners seeking cushioned support tend to prefer cushioned arch supports over orthotic arch supports, and people who spend all day standing but otherwise suffer from no foot conditions benefit most from cushioned arch supports.
Cushioned arch supports still provide support for the feet through a built-in arch support, and many also feature a heel cup for stability. However, in almost all cases, the level of support you will receive from a cushioned arch support is much less than that of an orthotic arch support. If you suffer from arch pain, over-pronation, or supination, we advise that you seek an orthotic arch support instead. If you suffer from foot fatigue or shin splints, or if you have tried a semi-rigid orthotic arch support and found it uncomfortable, a cushioned arch support is the right type of insole for you.
Flat Cushions/Replacement Insoles
Flat cushioned insoles are insoles that feature no arch support whatsoever. They are also called “replacement insoles.” These insoles are not designed to provide any foot support, but rather are meant to simply line the bottom of a shoe as a replacement for the sock-liner that comes in factory-new footwear.
Replacement insoles come in many forms, with some offering a cushioned top-coat and others not. Replacement insoles come in foam, leather, wool, cotton, gel, and more materials to suit a wide range of user preferences. Replacement insoles tend to be thinner than all other forms of insoles.
Shoppers who want to replace a worn-out sock liner or switch to a different material for their shoe insoles, but who do not want any foot support, should look at purchasing a replacement insole.