The inner soles (insoles) that come with most normal running shoes or walking shoes, are usually very thin and offer little or no arch support or heel stabilization. Lucky for us, they are often easily removable, and can be replaced with better ones. For the replacements you can either get over the counter shoe inserts or custom orthotics.
Over the Counter Inserts
Of the many inserts available, I chose Superfeet because my doctor recommended them and because they are widely available. You should note that there are different kinds, all indicated by different colors, from green to pink. You can see all the choices on the Superfeet site. I wanted the most support plus the cushiest bottom and that was the green style, though I’m looking now at the women’s berry, since that seems to actually have more forefoot padding. I don’t have experience with other insoles and would welcome comments from anyone who prefers another brand.
A helpful tip that I picked up at the shoe store was that you don’t necessarily want to buy the exact size to fit your shoe size. For example, I wear a size 10 shoe, but I was advised to buy a size 11 Superfeet insert and cut it off to fit my length. This was because the arch area of a size 11 insert fits my arch better than a size 10. Your arch might be different and fit perfectly with a size of insert that matches your shoe size. This is the kind of thing that a good shoe consultation can really help with. I don’t know that I would know how to determine the right one on my own.
One thing you should know is that the inserts definitely feel uncomfortable and all wrong at first, like there is a big, hard lump in your arch. It only took a while for me to get used to it, and there is no doubt in my mind that the insert really helps my feet feel better over all. My Superfeet run from $30 to $40 U.S.. I have two pair of the green type, so that I don’t have to switch out the insoles on all my shoes, which is a big pain.
You may prefer to get custom orthotics — inserts which are custom built to support and stabilize your feet. These are often available at the same stores you can get your shoe consultation, or perhaps through your health care provider. I see that the Superfeet site also offers some sort of custom service at designated store.
Though I would love to, I have not used custom orthotics yet, mostly because I am still too cheap to shell out the bigger bucks needed to buy custom-made ones. (I’m not sure but I think they can run at least $400 U.S..) Well, that plus the fact that my feet are improving with just over- the-counter inserts. And, as I understand it from my online research, it may well be that most people with PF do as well with over the counter arch supports as they do with custom orthotics.
The main thing I am interested in at this point is having a bit more cushion under the balls of my feet, which are often sore. Although I didn’t talk to my podiatrist about this, I did talk about it at one of the shoe consultations I did, and was told that it is likely metatarsalgia caused by my tight calves. Even though I usually wear my Brooks’ sports shoes with an insert, and my heels feel generally okay with this, I feel like I could use some cushioning under the balls of my feet. I could get more cushiony inserts, but this all gets tricky, since I want the arch to still be supported.
Since there are so many factors, I feel like I need to so more research before diving into the time and expense of custom orthotics. Meantime, if you all have experience with them, please write a comment and let me know your experience, especially about how they compare with off-the-shelf inserts like Superfeet.
- In consultation with your podiatrist and sports injury specialist, you need to decide if you can go with over-the-counter inserts, or if you need the more expensive custom orthotics.