Updated December 2021
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Buying guide for best insoles

Foot pain can get your attention like nothing else. If you don’t solve the problem quickly, it can literally stop you in your tracks. Sometimes, the culprit is simply a cheap pair of shoes. But when many pairs in your rotation are hurting your feet, it’s likely that something else is to blame.

A good pair of insoles can help eliminate foot pain. Insoles are shoe inserts made from memory foam, closed-cell foam, gel, or some combination of all three. Designed to solve a variety of problems (including flat feet and plantar fasciitis), they support and cushion your feet to redistribute weight and relieve pressure from painful areas.

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A good pair of insoles should last the average user between six and 12 months. Those with jobs or hobbies that require significant time on their feet can expect insoles to last three to six months.

Which insoles are best for you?

There are countless reasons you could be experiencing foot pain. It may simply be that the sole of your shoe is too thin and you need extra cushion. Or, if you’re standing all day at work, your stressed-out feet likely need insoles with additional cushion as well as extra support.

Supportive insoles can also help correct some of the following structural problems in your feet:

Flat feet

Flat feet, also known as fallen arches, is a condition in which the entire sole touches the ground when you are standing. Flat feet can develop during childhood, or your arches can fall during adulthood, due to aging, weight, or injury. Pain from flat feet usually shows up as pain in the heel or arch area or swelling on the inside, bottom portion of the foot.

Those with flat feet need insoles that protect the ball of the foot and cradle the heel to provide extra stability. They’ll also need support that contacts and lifts the entire arch into a natural position. A bit of padding isn’t a bad idea, but it isn’t the highest priority.

Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis usually rears its ugly head as heel pain that’s worse first thing in the morning. In this condition, the ligament connecting your toes and heel bone becomes inflamed.

Insoles that alleviate plantar fasciitis pain must fully support the arch to ease pressure on the heel. They’ll need substantial heel cups for the same reason. See our matrix recommending the best insoles for plantar fasciitis for more information.


Overpronation is when you turn your feet outward at the ankle and walk primarily on the insides of your feet. This strains the muscles and ligaments of the feet and can lead to heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, and other joint alignment problems.

To learn whether you overpronate, check the bottoms of your shoes. If the bottoms are worn on the inside but not the outside, you probably overpronate. You need insoles with deep heel cups that keep the ankle from rolling over as well as a firm arch to keep proper shape and alignment.

High arches

High arches are a less common cause of foot pain. This structural problem places extra weight on the heel and ball of the foot, leading to pain over time. It also places extra tension on the arch, because it is stretching while not getting a lot of support. Other symptoms include unstable ankles, bunions, and loss of fat from the heel pad.

If you have high arches, look for insoles with pronounced arches to give your foot full support. Cushioning around the sole can also help relieve pain.

Is your foot pain caused by something else?

Some have arthritis in foot joints. Others have stressed arches, often caused by tight calf muscles. Those who suffer from diabetes may have painful neuropathy. In these cases, insoles help to shift weight distribution and ease pressure points on your foot. Even if you’re unsure of the cause of your pain, most find extra arch support is always helpful.


Shock absorption

Many insoles are designed to be rigid and may not be appropriate for high impact. If you’re looking for insoles for athletic shoes, make sure the ones you choose are firm enough to support your feet, but flexible enough to absorb the shock from running. Insoles like these often feature gel padding in high-impact areas.

Odor control

If your shoes aren’t the freshest-smelling items in your closet, chances are good that your insoles are at risk, too. If your feet tend to sweat, or you frequently wear shoes without socks, look for insoles with odor-reducing technology. This may include antimicrobial coatings as well as layers made with natural baking soda or charcoal.


Some manufacturers produce insoles in individual shoe sizes. Others make insoles that fit a range of two or three sizes and can be cut to fit your shoes. The more specific the size, the better the insole will work, as they are designed to hit your arch, heel, and other features at precise points.

Most insoles are designed to fit the whole shoe, but some come in three-quarters length. These shorter insoles tend to fit dress shoes, ballet flats, and dressy styles better than full-length varieties. Just be sure they make contact with all the parts of your feet that are causing you pain.

Insoles prices


Basic insoles address general foot pain and will cost between $10 and $15. At this price, insoles will be moderately supportive and, depending on your shoe size, may need to be cut down to fit your shoes. Many will be made of memory foam that feels comfortable at first but may wear down quickly.


Mid-level insoles are a little more specialized and cost between $20 and $30. In this price range, insoles should offer good arch support for uncomplicated foot problems. They often combine foam with gel padding for support and cushioning. Some will also inhibit moisture and odors.


High-end insoles will usually cost more than $30. Insoles of this quality should have enough support to help with more complicated foot issues. In fact, they may require some extra time to break them in. They may be made primarily of antimicrobial closed-cell foam, although insoles designed for athletics will often have gel or other padding.


  • To test your arches, wet your feet and walk across a concrete sidewalk. If you see whole imprints of the bottom of your feet on the concrete, you probably have flat feet or fallen arches. If your arch imprint is missing or barely shows, you have high arches.

  • If you have diabetes, you are at high risk of developing corns, calluses, and other skin injuries of the foot, which can lead to diabetic wounds. When using insoles, be vigilant that they are not causing pressure injuries to the skin.

  • Some insoles contain latex, so check carefully if you have a latex allergy.

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Did you know?
Ankle pain can be another clue that you may need insoles.
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If insoles don’t resolve your foot pain, it may be time to visit a podiatrist to get some expert advice on what’s slowing you down.


Q. What’s the best way to put an insole in my shoe?
To get the best fit, you’ll probably need to remove the shoe’s existing insole and replace it with the one you purchased. If you buy an insole that requires trimming, trace the shoe’s original insole onto your replacement and cut it to size. Most supportive insoles should have enough substance not to slide, but if they are moving too much for you, you can permanently attach them to the shoe with an adhesive like cobbler’s cement. If you do this, remember, you won’t be able to move them to other shoes.

Q. Is there such a thing as too much arch support?
Increased arch support helps many foot problems, but the amount needed is subjective. Generally, flat feet need more rigid insoles, and high arches need more flexible insoles. But how much you need is an individual choice and may depend upon other factors. Don’t be afraid to order firm insoles, which will need time to be broken in. But after a reasonable period, if they still hurt your feet, ditch them. You ordered insoles to relieve pain, not to cause it. Insoles that are poorly matched for your feet can lead to additional foot, ankle, and joint problems.

Q. How many pairs of insoles should I buy?
It depends on how many shoes are giving you problems. If all your shoes hurt, several pairs of insoles may be worth the expense. But if it’s just one or two pairs, try one set of insoles at first. You can always switch them between the shoes, unless, of course, you glue them down. Even if you end up needing more, you’ll have a couple weeks to test whether the ones you selected will work for you in the long run.

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