When it comes to walking, the first thing people think about is walking shoes or hiking boots for those looking to travel a long distance. But very few people consider which insoles they need, if they even contemplate the need for insoles at all.
So why would you want insoles for your shoes? And why might you need insoles?
Most walking boots and outdoor shoes already come with a good quality insole. For example, my favourite pair of Merrell intercept walking trainers come with Ortholite insoles as standard. These offer more shock absorption, cushioning and increased comfort in general, making my shoes great for all sorts of outdoor pursuits. I can also wear them very comfortably during my every day routines as well.
There are two types of insoles. Those that offer support and those that offer shock absorption. Both offer different types of cushioning to meet the specific needs of the wearer.
When it comes to supportive insoles, Superfeet are one of the most popular brands, providing trim to fit insoles which support, balance and cushion. They also feature a rear-foot control point that helps control over-pronation, giving you less stress on your muscles and joints.
The most common Superfeet insoles are Superfeet Green and Superfeet Blue.
Superfeet recommend their Performance Green Insoles for looser-fitting hiking boots and running shoes. Superfeet Green Insoles are provide plenty of cushioning for general purpose footwear, offering a softer feeling underfoot which can allow you to walk or run further and faster with less fatigue or reduced aches and pains.
For low profile shoes and people with flat feet, Superfeet Blue insoles can be used on their own or fitted over existing insoles. These are thinner than the green insoles and are designed to work well with most running, biking and tennis shoes.
When it comes to insoles that offer shock absorption, Sorbothane are the best established brand for this with a wide range of insoles designed to cushion foot impact for a variety of sports.
Sorbothane claim that their insoles will absorb up to 94.7% of foot impact, reducing your exposure to injuries and ensuring a comfy ride while waking. This is because Sorbothane insoles are made from a synthetic material called ‘Sorbothane’ (hence their name) which compresses and reshapes instantly after each impact, absorbing the shock caused by the heel striking hard surfaces when walking or running. This makes these insoles ideal as they help prevent injuries and will reduce the impact on your joints.
There are two types of Sorbothane insoles, regular insoles and heel insoles. Regular insoles offer cushioning in key areas of the foot while heel pads are designed to provide lightweight cushioning for heel striking.
Sorbothane heel pads are very popular due to their cheap cost and shock absorbing capabilities. They also have the added convenience of being lightweight and easily interchangeable between different pairs of shoes.
Sorbothane insoles come in three varieties –single strike, double strike and full strike. These are general purpose shock absorbing insoles for use in all types of walking shoes and hiking boots. The single strike insoles provide additional cushioning in the same way the heel pads do, but occupy the entirety of the shoe. Double strike insoles cushion both the heel and forefoot, providing shock absorption for the heel strike as well as a softer platform for pushing off with the forefoot and toes, which makes these ideal for walking long distances. Finally, the full strike Sorbothane insoles are designed for people whose feet fall flat on the ground, striking the earth with mid foot when they walk.
Many sports performance insoles, like Sorbothane, utilise different types of gels over traditional foam cushions. Gel insoles contain an engineered gel substance designed to offer extreme cushioning with minimal compression. A thousand times denser than foam, they dissipate shock impact more effectively and last far longer as well. Many heel insoles used for running feature this gel technology, allowing them to better absorb and impact of heavy heel strikes on concrete roads and gravel paths.
On the surface that’s the general overview of shoe insoles, but things do become more technical.
Coming back to my Merrell Intercept trainers, the Ortholite insoles which come fitted as standard are actually Orthotic. Typically, orthotic insoles are designed for people who spend all day on their feet or require additional cushioning and support for medical reasons. This is because they also re-align the foot, correcting pronation and promoting a proper posture. For someone like me, this is to enhance the performance of my feet, but for someone who suffers from aching joints or back pain, it can relieve these symptoms. The Superfeet insoles mentioned earlier are a fine example of an orthotic insole.
Superfeet insoles are also known as arch insoles. Like other orthotic insoles, arch support insoles are lightweight and cushioned, providing additional support around the arches of the foot and correcting pronation of the foot for more comfortable walking and improved posture.
However, some people find conventional orthotic insoles uncomfortable and require memory insoles instead. Memory insoles fit to your foot shape over time, providing a comfortable fit while supporting the foot from every angle. Superfeet also make a memory insole called the Superfeet Black which provides all the comfortable cushioning and support required, but without re-aligning the position of your feet, which can be painful for some.
Hopefully this article has given you some further insight into the insoles that come with your outdoor shoes and why you may want or need insoles to increase the comfort of your walks. If you’re still in doubt, then give a pair of Superfeet Green insoles a try next time you put your walking boots on and you may be pleasantly surprised.