When you’re researching different insoles and trying to compare potential buys, there can be a lot of jargon that can get in the way of you knowing exactly what you’re looking at. We’ve created this “quick reference” guide to help you understand what these different properties are, what they do, and what’s best for each.
|Term||What it means||Why it matters|
|Top-cover, or top-coat||This refers to the material that’s on the top of the insole, i.e. what you’ll feel when you touch the top of the insole when you have it in your hands or against your foot.||If you have sensitive feet, a fabric top-cover can feel abrasive against your feet, so you might consider a soft foam top-cover instead for comfort. Similarly, if you wear hose or thin dress socks, a leather top-coat may feel nicer in your shoes. Special top-covers like wool can insulate your feet, keeping them cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.|
|Cushioning||This refers to the type and amount of cushioning that makes up the body of the insole. Usually foam or gel, it’s the layer between the top coat and the bottom of the insole.||The amount (or thickness) of cushioning in an insole determines its overall level of comfort and pressure relief that it will provide during wear. Very dense or very thin cushioning will alleviate less pressure, whereas thicker or less dense (“more squishy”) cushioning will alleviate more pressure. Before you look for the most cushioned insoles, make sure you have room in your shoes for all that cushioning first, though!|
|Strike pad, or shock-absorbing pad||This refers to special padding, typically at the ball-of-foot and/or the heel, that absorbs impact shock from your foot hitting the ground.||The heel and the ball of your foot are the two points that strike the ground the most during each step you take. Padding at these two points of the foot will minimize how much of that shock your foot is hit by, minimizing wear and tear on your feet and decreasing foot fatigue.|
|Arch type, flexibility, or rigidity||This refers to how stiff the insole’s arch support is. A completely rigid arch support will have almost no ability to flex under movement or weight; a semi-rigid (or semi-flexible) arch support will retain its shape but still flex under movement or weight; a cushioned arch support will flex completely under movement or weight and be made of no stiff materials.||In many cases, you want the arch of your foot to remain supported. Having an arch that will not collapse under use is important to ensuring that you get the support you need. However, for more active lifestyles or activities, having an arch that will flex with your foot is important, too. What arch you need is largely determined by two things: 1) How much support you need, and 2) How active you’ll be when you wear the insoles. More rigidity = more support, and more flexibility = greater movement during activity.|
|Arch height||The arch of your foot can be classified into one of three categories: neutral arch, low arch/flat feet, or high arch. This term denotes what foot arch height the insoles are compatible with.||If you have high arches, an insole with a low arch might not support your foot properly, and vice versa. Ensuring that the insole you buy will support the arch of your foot properly is key.|
|Heel cup, or heel cradle||A deep heel cup will help stabilize the ankle and the bones of the foot further back towards the heel. This feature is important for not only providing stability but also supporting the arch of the foot.||The arch of your foot isn’t the only part that needs support! Ensuring that you have proper support for your heel and ankle is important for such issues as stability, plantar fasciitis, over-pronation, and supination. Ensuring that you have proper heel and ankle support is key for your posture and foot arch, too.|
|Length||Refers to whether the insole is full-length (covers the entire bottom of the shoe), 3/4-length (covers the heel and arch of the foot, but not the forefoot), or an insert piece (covers a specific part of the foot only).||A full-length insole will replace your existing shoe insole and fit heel-to-toe inside of your shoes, and in most cases this is the preferred type of insole. For tighter-fitting shoes where a full-length insole might not work, or for shoes without a removable insole, a 3/4-length insole will sit on top of the existing insole to provide support for the heel and arch of the foot. For targeted support or pain relief for a specific part of the foot, an insert piece can be used in lieu of an insole (such as a ball-of-foot cushion).|
|Trim-to-fit||Refers to whether or not the forefoot of the insole can be trimmed to create a perfect fit that conforms to the shape of your shoe.||Many full-length insoles cover a range of shoes sizes, such as Men’s 9 to 11. If you wear a size 10 shoe, you’ll need to trim the forefoot of the insole to properly fit the length of your shoe. “Trim-to-fit” simply denotes that the insole is able to be trimmed. Certain insoles, due to stitching in the forefoot or the material they’re made of, cannot be trimmed and are usually offered in half- or whole-shoe size increments to ensure a proper fit.|
|Heat moldable||Refers to whether or not the insole can be heated so that it quickly conforms to the shape of your foot during your first time wearing the insole.||Insoles will mold to the shape of your feet over time as you wear them, creating a shape that is unique to your foot. In many cases, this process takes hours of wear. Heat-moldable insoles can be heated so that when you wear them for the first time they conform to your foot’s shape instantly, speeding up this process.|
The Most Important Features
So, what features are the most important? While all features should be taken into consideration when shopping for a new insole, the three that we always tell our customers to be mindful of are the following:
- Rigidity and arch height: Always ensure that the rigidity of the arch and the arch height suit your foot and your needs. A rigid arch when you’re playing sports can be uncomfortable if the arch doesn’t flex with your foot when running. Likewise, a cushioned arch might not provide the support your foot needs if you have painful arch pain. An insole should always be suitable for the height of your arch, too.
- Cushioning: Find a balance between how much pressure relief you want and how well the insole will fit into the shoes you plan to use them in. More cushioning will add additional comfort and pain relief, but they’ll be thicker as a result. Roomier shoes can support a thicker insole, but less-roomy shoes might not.
- Length: In most cases, we recommend a full-length insole whenever possible, but this means that you’ll need to remove your existing shoe insole first. If removing your existing shoe insole isn’t possible, look for a 3/4-length insole instead to wear on top of your existing insole. If you only need targeted relief, look for an insert to wear with your existing shoe insole.
Find your perfect insole today, at TheInsoleStore.com!