Top 7 Shoe Inserts, Insoles, Orthotics

The Simple Tools to Banish Foot Pain

Shoe inserts, insoles, and orthotics can correct a variety of foot biomechanical problems including pronation, and supination while they increase stability and provide heel cushioning.

Not every athlete needs an insert, but if you are prone to overuse injuries, or have foot, knee or back pain or instability, you may benefit from one.

The Basic Function of and Shoe Inserts

Insoles are meant to put the foot into a better position, which alleviates pain. If a muscle is strained or hurting, a properly chosen orthotic will do some of the muscle’s work for it, thereby reducing its workload and bringing relief.

However, there is a downside to this too. When you brace the foot, that may alter the function of the foot for the better, but in doing so it negates the need for many of the muscles in the foot to do anything. The caution here is that if you don’t use a muscle, there is a good possibility that it is going to weaken.

What You Should Know Before You Buy

Shoe inserts or orthotics may be helpful as a short-term solution, preventing injuries in some athletes. But it is not clear how to make inserts that work since there is not a way to predict the effect of a specific orthotic. 

Why? Because so many factors come into play when determining which orthotic will work best for a person. Even though two people are similar in weight, gait, foot structure, it doesn’t mean that they will respond to the same orthotic the same way. For example, let’s say that our two people pronate and are given an insert that pushes the foot away from a pronated position, or rotated excessively outward. You might think it would have the same effect on them, but it does not.

One might respond by increasing the stress on the outside of the foot, another on the inside, or might not respond at all, unconsciously correcting the orthotic’s correction.

Basically, an insole cannot be guaranteed to work because people are so variable. Orthotics can do amazing things for many people, but not for everyone. Just keep that in mind when you are trying insoles.


Superfeet are a top selling sports shoe insert for a variety of conditions. They help reduce pronation and increase arch support. They are not cheap, but are very sturdy and many runners love them. They are designed to hold the heel in alignment and therefore reduce strain on knees, ankles, hips and lower back.


Spenco makes a variety of arch supports and shoe inserts that can help reduce pronation and provide extra support for those with high arches or flat feet. They help reduce foot pain and may help the foot stay in a neutral position to some degree. Spenco has an extensive line of supports and most are reasonably priced products.


Metatarsal pads fit under the ball of the foot and decrease pressure on the metatarsal bones. This is helpful for athletes who are often running or hiking uphill and have pain in the midfoot.


I love Dr. Scholls Insoles because there are so many varieties and sizes that they work for every shoe and activities. The gel insoles are a favorite of mine for cycling, and running when the goal is simple comfort.


Heel cups are often prescribed by physical therapists to reduce symptoms of foot pain, heel pain, and plantar fasciitis. They cushion the heel and raise it slightly which helps decrease the stress on the plantar fascia.


New Balance started making replacement inserts for their shoes, but those inserts are great for all your running footwear. Decide if you need motion control, cushioning, or stability first, and then select your replacement insert. If you actually go to a New Balance store, there will measure your foot and gait to find the best insert for you.


If you didn't find the perfect insole for you, this list of all available insoles is you next stop. With a long list of styles, brands, and materials, you will find the insole that works for you in this group.


Collier R. Orthotics work in mysterious ways CMAJ. 2011 Mar 8; 183(4): 416–417. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.109-3802

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