Hi there. If you’re reading this post, I’m going to assume that you’re interested in what insoles can do for your feet, whether it’s preventing future pain, relieving existing pain, or just providing you a greater level of comfort day in and day out.
Or maybe you’re just wondering why anyone would bother buying a pair of insoles in the first place. Fair enough. I’ll make that clear, too.
Let me start by regurgitating some facts. Don’t worry, I’ll leave sources for you to to fact-check me.
A Few Fun Facts
- Per one study, an overall 17.4% of individuals report that they have suffered from foot pain on most days during the last month. 
- Per the same study:
- Women are more likely to report having foot pain than men. 
- Increased age and increased weight both contribute to an increased likelihood of suffering from foot pain. 
- Of those suffering from foot pain, the location of the pain can occur in multiple different places of the foot, including the forefoot, hindfoot, arch, ball-of-foot, heel, and toes. 
- Foot pain is most prevalent in individuals aged 20-34 and in individuals aged 75+. 
- For individuals aged 20-34, arch pain and heel pain are the most predominant symptoms of foot pain. 
- For individuals aged 75+, pain around the toes is the most predominant symptom of foot pain. 
- Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. 
- Per one study, an estimated 10% of individuals will suffer from plantar fasciitis at some point during their lifetime. 
- Per another, the prevalence of heel pain in the general population is estimated to range between 3.6% to 7% 
- Plantar fasciitis has been reported to account for approximately 8% of all running-related injuries. 
- An estimated 80% of individuals suffering from heel pain are diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. 
- Nearly 80% of individuals will develop pain in the metatarsal region of the foot at some point during their life. 
- An estimated 35% of individuals suffer from hammer toe, 33% suffer from mallet toe, and 37% suffer from bunions. 
- An estimated 19% of individuals suffer from flat feet, and an estimated 5% of individuals have high arches. 
Some Key Take-aways
If nothing else, what we can take away from these facts (and there are numerous others out there on a wide variety of other foot pain-related conditions and diagnoses) is that foot pain is common.
But maybe it doesn’t have to be.
Many adults suffer from foot pain. For some it’s minor; for others it’s severe. For some the pain is in the heel; for others, the forefoot; for others still, the toes. For some they’ve been dealing with it for a while; for others, it’s just started. For some it’s because of an extremely active, phyiscally-demanding lifestyle; for others, it’s because they’re on their feet all day (also physically-demanding in its own right); and again for others still, it’s due to an accident, genetics, or something else.
Point is, you probably have dealt with foot pain now, have dealt with foot pain in the past, or know someone in one of those two scenarios. The other point is that with a pair of insoles, we can help reduce, alleviate, and prevent foot pain.
How Do Insoles Help?
In a number of studies conducted regarding foot pain and plantar fasciitis in particular, common treatments for foot pain and foot conditions essentially amount to ensuring proper biomechanics of the foot, regular stretching of the foot, and (if necessary) non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) for pain relief and swelling reduction.
Yeah, but how do insoles help with that?
Good question. First and foremost, insoles provide a platform for your foot to ensure your feet get the proper support they need to prevent damage to your foot arch. Insoles prevent undue strain on the arch of the foot in particular by providing some extra support for the foot so that the plantar fascia tendon (the muscle that runs from heel to forefoot along the bottom of your foot, making up your foot arch) doesn’t have to work as hard just to support your feet.
Second, insoles help to ensure proper biomechanics for your feet. For most individuals, the steps you take aren’t physically perfect steps. Your ankles might roll more than they should, or less than they should, or the wrong way entirely (common issues known as over-pronation and supination). You might put too much weight on the forefoot, or the heel, or strike the ground too hard with each step. Insoles help by aligning your feet, providing stability for the ankle and arch, and guiding your feet in a more natural movement pattern while also providing cushion and shock absorption.
But My Shoes Come With Insoles!
Let’s address that elephant in the room. Yes, the shoes you wear most likely did come with a pair of insoles (otherwise we’d be walking around on the unfinished insides of the shoe!), but the type of insole that came in your shoe is most likely a type known as a “sock liner.”
We typically classify insoles into four categories, or types:
- Semi-rigid or semi-flexible arch supports
- Rigid arch supports
- Cushioned arch supports
- Flat insoles/sock liners
The problem is that flat insoles, including sock liners, provide close to nothing (if anything at all) in the way or arch support or ankle stability. Flat insoles are designed to provide a small layer of cushioning inside the shoe, and to make it so that your foot isn’t against the unfinished bottom of the shoe inside.
Some shoe manufacturers are beginning to think about the foot’s mechanics and either offer shoes with built-in arch support or offer shoes with an arch support insole instead of the standard sock liner. (And, on a personal level, I applaud those manufacturers for taking a step towards caring about the whole foot and recognizing the importance of proper arch and ankle support). The problem is that this practice is not the norm, and the shoes that offer that arch support are often more expensive than their standard-sock-liner-included counterparts.
For most shoe-wearing individuals, then, the best solution is to purchase an aftermarket shoe insole that offers proper arch and ankle support to replace the sock liner that came in their shoe.
So Why Isn’t Everyone Wearing Arch Supports?
Honestly, this is a good question, and we don’t have the data to prove why someone isn’t wearing an arch support insole. Maybe they don’t know that aftermarket, non-sock-liner insoles exist; maybe they think that because they’re feet feel fine now they don’t need one; maybe they think that foot pain is just a fact of life. But from our experience running TheInsoleStore.com, we do get to see the common reasons why people are shopping for an aftermarket insole. The #1 reason? My feet hurt.
So perhaps a better question to ask here is, “Should I be wearing an arch support insole?”
Yes, you should. And not because we want your sale (we would welcome it, of course), but rather because I’ve personally dealt with foot pain, my associates have dealt with foot pain, a large number of the customers we work with every day have dealt or are currently dealing with foot pain, and because you will probably deal with foot pain at some point, too. And it’s not a pleasant experience.
Just because your feet don’t hurt now doesn’t mean they won’t hurt later. The best way to ensure that your feet keep feeling great (or get back to feeling great if you’re dealing with foot pain now) is to give them the support, stability, and TLC they deserve, and the best way to do that is with an arch support insole.
Sounds Great, Recommend Me An Insole Already
I’d love to, trust me. But it’s not quite that simple. The other thing we can (and certainly should) take away from the many foot pain studies and research is that each person’s foot is different. Two near-identical people in terms of lifestyle, physical condition, and other factors could have two completely different set of foot pain symptoms. And that makes finding your perfect insole difficult sometimes.
There’s a number of different factors that go into selecting the most appropriate insole for an individual’s unique foot needs:
- How active the individual is, and what activities they regularly partake in.
- What kind of footwear the individual regularly wears, and their shoe size.
- The individuals arch type, whether neutral, low, or high-arched.
- If the individual currently experiences any foot pain/discomfort and, if so, where they feel that pain or discomfort.
- Whether or not the individual has previously worn an arch support insole before.
We typically recommend starting with whichever is most important to you: pain relief or activity type. If you currently deal with foot pain, start browsing for insoles for your foot pain condition/symptoms, then narrow that selection down based on your arch type, shoe style/size, activity type, etc. Likewise, if you’re mainly worried about preventing pain or adding more comfort during everyday life, start browsing insoles for your particular lifestyle, then narrow down by arch type, shoe size/style, etc.
Need a personalized insole recommendation? We can help.
When Would An Over-the-counter Arch Support Just Not Cut It?
Over-the-counter, aftermarket shoe insoles are a cost-effective way to provide your feet with proper support to help alleviate and prevent pain symptoms and discomfort. But sometimes an OTC insole just doesn’t cut it.
If you have a severe medical condition, a highly specialized need, feet which are very characteristically different from one another, or have tried an OTC arch support before and not found relief, it’s probably best if you found a podiatrist to assess next steps. Most podiatrists can custom manufacture highly-customized orthotics made specifically for your feet to assist you. While OTC insoles can help most individuals, sometimes a trip to the podiatrist will be your best bet for relief.
- “Prevalence and correlates of foot pain in a population-based study: the North West Adelaide health study.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2547889/
- “Meta-analysis of high-energy extracorporeal shock wave therapy in recalcitrant plantar fasciitis.” https://smw.ch/article/doi/smw.2013.13825
- “Plantar fasciopathy: Revisiting the risk factors.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25103701
- “Plantar fasciitis.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3954277/
- “Study of the metatarsal formula in patient with primary metatarsalgia.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4563042/
- “Prevalence of Foot and Ankle Conditions in a Multiethnic Community Sample of Older Adults.” https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/159/5/491/92185