As running shoes made leaps and bounds in terms of technology over the past few years, the running insole industry was close behind. What were once flimsy inserts that provided little medical or physiological benefit are now used to accommodate a multitude of injuries and issues. Minneapolis-based podiatrist and Clinic Advisory Board Member for the American Running Association, Dr. Paul Langer says, “I can honestly say that I make a lot fewer custom orthotics now because I like the quality of a number of the over-the-counter insoles.”
Along with the evolving technology has come several insole categories to fit various types of runners. “Every runner is different,” says John Hodge, Manager of Naperville Running Company in Naperville Illinois. “Oftentimes an insole makes for a more comfortable fit when it works with the shoe.” Indeed, each runner has individual needs when it comes to insoles. In concert with injury history, foot type is the best way to choose the most fitting insole.
HIGH STABILITY INSOLES
The high stability insoles tend to work for runners with flat feet or fallen arches. Flat feet tend to be flexible, which usually leads to over-pronation, or an inwards roll. With each step, the foot makes an inwards torque motion, which can cause a host of problems. These inserts feature a supportive arch and a heel cup to control motion.
Spenco’s Total Support insoles showcase particularly deep heel cups to hug the calcaneus and keep it vertical. A major advance in arch support technology, these inserts use a more flexible system to bend with each step.
“We wanted to address all aspects of ground contact, from heel strike to mid-stance and then toe-off,” explains Ryan Cruthirds, Vice President of Footcare at Spenco. Indeed, over pronation can affect the entire gait cycle depending on the individual. “We see these insoles as a first line of defense for preventing or eliminating biomechani-cal and other foot symptoms,” he says.
Like Spenco, Superfeet also emphasizes the importance of the heel cup in their high stability insoles. “The heel cup acts as a cradle that cups the natural fat pad on the heel bone,” explains Superfeet’s Communication Manager, Amanda Norenberg. “It also supports the bones in the rearfoot and midfoot so the foot doesn’t collapse and pronate as much.” This is what helps keep the foot coming down straight, insuring proper gait function.
“I use the supportive firmer insoles for issues such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis,” says Dr. Langer. Since these issues sometimes accompany over-pronation, a high stability insole may be used temporarily to alleviate such problems by providing a structured arch support.
MODERATE STABILITY INSOLES
The moderate stability insoles will be appropriate for the largest group of runners. They are best for “normal” arches, meaning those that aren’t completely flat or noticeably high. Moderate stability insoles provide a small amount of support and cushioning without over-controlling the foot’s natural motion, providing better overall comfort. “We recommend insoles to help customize the fit of the shoe and sometimes to address injuries,” says Hodge.
A slight injury or discomfort can oftentimes be solved by the addition of this category of insole. “Our products can help to relieve foot pain that is typically associated with running,” says Cruthirds. He explains that relief and injury prevention are their primary goals when it comes to aiding runners.
Ben Crabtree, Manager of South Sound Running in Tacoma, Washington, says that while the shoes are the most important part of any runner’s gear, the insoles can play a role in keeping them up and running. “Once the footwear is dialed in, then a runner can consider whether they need an insole to help prevent and treat issues,” he says. For runners who are having trouble deciding which category they belong in, moderate stability is a good place to start.
Neutral insoles and high arch shoes are best for runners with high arches. Since high-arched feet are very rigid, there is no need for a highly structured insole. These runners already tend to run on the outsides of their feet, called supination. As a result, they should usually stay away from added arch support, which would only push them further to the outsides of their feet. This category of insole simply provides extra cushioning with each step. “While the cushioned insoles don’t affect how the foot functions, they distribute pressure underneath the foot,” explains Dr. Langer.
For this reason, some runners simply choose these inserts to make their shoes fit better. “For runners who spend a lot of time on their feet, these types of insoles will give more cushioning and increase comfort,” says Crabtree. Spenco’s neutral offering, the Cross Trainers are in a league of their own, as the rest of the company’s selection has a strong motion control aspect. “These insoles are all about comfort,” explains Cruthrids.
Mountain Hardwear’s Erin Brosterhous says that their mold-able insoles can be utilized for added comfort and fit. “They are great tool for custom fitting any running shoe that may have too much volume,” she explains. Not only does this add an extra layer of cushioning, it simply gives the shoe a more form fit.
For the best advice, runners should head to their podiatrist or local running specialty store for guidance in selecting the right insole for their particular situation. In addition to foot type, injury history, running gait, and tread wear pattern may play a role in the decision process. It is also important to strategically pair insoles with running shoe type. By mixing and matching, the runner will end up with the most comfortable, and injury resistant combination.
SOF SOLE TAKING THE GUESSWORK OUT OF FOOT TYPOLOGY
Navigating the world of insoles can be daunting, Most runners don’t know what foot type category they fit into, and even if they do, they are unsure of which insoles are best for their feet. To make the process easier, Sof Sole has developed a new system to guide them through the decision making process.
The newly developed Sof Sole Fit lightweight performance insoles are available in three different arch types: high, neutral, and low. Everything from arch height to footbed cushioning durometer is customized based on arch type. A high rebound EVA foam in all three insoles insures durability, resists odor, and prevents blisters and hot spots.
Upon creating these customizable insoles, Sof Sole also recently introduced the ID Fit Pad, which will help runners decide which of the three is best for their foot type. Every store that carries the Sof Sole Fit insoles will be equipped with the ID Fit Pad in order to take thermal impressions of runners’ feet in just 10-20 seconds. With a color-coded arch typology system, the customer is then able to choose the best insole for his or her feet simply by matching the color with the corresponding package coloring.
Demonstrating an understanding for the fact that every runner is different, the Sof Sole Fit insoles, along with their unique fitting system, set them apart. Not only will the runner walk away with a customized insole, the process requires no extra legwork on the part of the retailer.
HIGH STABILITY INSOLES FOR FLAT FEET
SOLE Signature DK Response Insoles were designed in collaboration with Ultra Marathoner, Dean Karnazes featuring heat moldable arch support to adjust to the contour of a runner’s foot. “The arch height adjusts to a runner’s required level, but does not flatten out,” says SOLE’s Ian Anderson. “The forefoot also takes the shape of the balls of your feet and toes, and the aligning heel cup supports a runner’s unique heel shape.” Creates a continuous contact point where all areas of the foot are fully supported. MSRP $50
Superfeet Green Trim-To-Fit, over-the-counter insoles offer a deep heel cup for maximum shock absorption giving added support by decreasing movement of the heel and stabilizing the foot. “The heel cup acts as a cradle that cups the natural fat pad on the heel bone,” says Superfeet’s Amanda Norenberg. “Without the cup, the fat pad spreads out, thinning the padding that gives the foot natural shock absorption with each heel strike.” MSRP $40
Aetrex Lynco L420 Insoles with rearfoot posting, are built to support flatter feet and redistribute weight with each step. The rigid support also helps to decrease over-pronation and balances the rearfoot by guiding it down straight. The high-tech polyester overlay helps wick moisture away. MSRP $60
MODERATE STABILITY INSOLES FOR NORMAL FEET
Montrail Enduro Insoles are lightweight providing a flexible and customizable arch support specially designed for medium arches. “The moldable insole custom forms to your foot giving support and cushioning where you want and need it,” explains Montrail’s Erin Brosterhous. PRFRM (TM) thermo-moldable foam helps disperse pressure points depending on each individual’s gait. Cushioning adds comfort and the shape helps higher volume shoes fit better. Also provides moderate arch support. MSRP $36
Sof Sole Fit lightweight performance insoles use three distinct arch types (high, neutral, and low) to allow for the best performance based on foot type. The ID Fit Pad takes a thermal impression of the foot and helps to determine arch type for each individual user. Promoting the foot’s natural range of motion and not overcorrecting for arch type. Sof Sole Fit insoles feature an abrasion- and bacteria-resistant high rebound EVA foam that is specially tuned in the forefoot and footbed depending on arch type. MSRP $39
Footbalance Cushion Blue sets Footbalance apart. Their insoles are customized for a runner right at the retail store. In under 10 minutes, a foot analysis is completed to identify pronation, supination, or arch issues. “Then we mold the custom insoles while the customer is in a neutral and perfectly aligned position,” says Footbalance’s Robin Niehaus. Appropriate for all types of feet as a result of the molding process, Footbalance’s insoles can fit into any category of support. MSRP $80
NEUTRAL INSOLES FOR FEET WITH HIGH ARCHES
Superfeet Yellow Premium Insoles “For neutral runners with stable feet looking for support with minimal weight or bulk,” says Superfeet’s Amanda Norenberg. Slim stabilizer cap fits in tight-fitting footwear. Silver-based built-in antimicrobial fiber wards off bacteria and Odors. MSRP $40
Aetrex Lynco L400 Insoles are made for medium to high arched feet with rearfoot cupping and a neutral forefoot with a triple-density insole. The top layer is a PU with rebound, the center layer is a cork/rubber blend for support, and the bottom polyethylene layer conforms to the foot for an individual fit. MSRP $60
Spenco Walker/Runner Insoles are contoured, yet flexible. For runners with high arches and a more rigid footfall. The Insole cradles the foot for optimal cushioning and comfort. “The cradling effect improves running performance and elongates the life of the shoe,” says Spenco’s Shannon Blood. A strategically placed forefoot cushion and heel pad give runners cushioning right where they need it, regardless of footstrike. MSRP $25 (Available in wide width June 2011)