Shoe inserts add support, stability, protection, and comfort your tired, painful feet. There are many over-the-counter types of shoe inserts to fit a variety of needs, foot problems and shoe types. There are also doctor-prescribed, orthotic inserts to correct, support, protect or stabilize more difficult foot problems.
Over-the-Counter Comfort Inserts
If you are just looking to add padding to your shoes all day, an over-the-counter (OTC) comfort insert might help. Comfort inserts can relieve your symptoms if:
- Your feet hurt from standing on hard surfaces for hours
- You walk or run a lot
- You have bunions, calluses, corns, or neuromas
Though some OTC shoe inserts may be labeled "custom-made" or "orthotic," be aware that they are generically made and not doctor-prescribed.
Types of OTC Inserts
Comfort inserts can be flat, or shaped and contoured for a foot. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit a variety of needs and include:
- Full or three-quarter length insoles that cushion, prevent the foot from sliding, or provide a better fit
- Ball of the foot cushions or petals to protect and ease pain
- Soft arch pads or petals for cushioning that area
- Gel toe tubes for cushioning a toe
- Strips for spot cushioning and to create a barrier between spots on the foot and the shoe.
- Cushions, petals, and liners for heels or toes to prevent them from rubbing against the shoe and blistering
- Heel pads or cups that act as a barrier between your foot and shoe or prevent your heel from sliding
Comfort shoe inserts are usually soft and made of gel foam or plastic.
The following products are popular comfort inserts and are easy to find:
- Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Inserts for Women: These are full length insoles which cushion from heel to toe. They fit size six to ten shoes and you can trim them for a better fit. These are available for about $19.00 for two pairs.
- Dr. Scholl's Tri-Comfort Insoles: Soft gel cushions heel, arch and back of foot. These cost around $6.00 a pair.
- Dr. Scholl's DreamWalk Heel Liners: Made of gel, these inserts prevent shoes from slipping or rubbing your heels. A pair costs about $6.00.
- Dr. Scholl's DreamWalk Ball of Foot Cushion: These are made of gel and prevent ball of the foot pain and keep the foot from sliding. One pair costs around $5.50.
- Foot Petals Tip Toes: Small foam petals cushion the ball of the feet, reducing foot pain and helping to prevent slipping and calluses. These are available for about $15.00 for three pairs.
- Foot Petals Heavenly Heelz: These foam petals fit in the back of the shoe heel and prevent blisters by stopping the heel from sliding in a loose shoe. They cost around $7.00 for a pair.
Over-the-Counter Support Inserts
Support shoe inserts help when your foot needs firmer support than cushioning. They are useful if you have achy, tired, or painful feet that comfort inserts doesn't help with. They are particularly helpful if:
- You have flat feet (low arches) or high arches
- Your feet tend to turn out (supination) or turn in (over-pronation) too much
- The bottom of your feet are painful from tears to inner tissues (plantar fasciitis), tendinitis, or arthritis
- The bone structures in your feet are not aligned properly and cause foot, ankle, leg, hip, back, or head pain.
Types of Support Inserts
Support inserts also come in a variety of lengths and shapes to stabilize and support your whole foot or parts of your foot such as your arch. There are fewer types of this kind of insert than there are for comfort inserts. You can choose from:
- Half length arch supports
- Three-quarter length arch supports
- Full length foot inserts that support the heel, arch, and ball of the foot
- Inserts that lift your foot to give you additional height
Support shoe inserts are made of firmer materials than comfort inserts, usually harder plastic or rubber, to give better support.
Popular support inserts include:
- PROFOOT Plantar Fasciitis Women's Orthotics: These inserts provide arch support to relieve foot and heel pain. The insert is firm with a soft heel gel, fits shoe size six to ten, and sells for about $7.00 a pair.
- PROFOOT Custom Women's Insoles: This product provides full-length support for pronation and supination, and to decrease foot pain. Though firm for support, the soft material adds comfort. A pair at costs around $9.00.
- Dr. Scholl's Arthritis Pain Relief for Women: These inserts provide three-quarter length heel and foot support and stability to relieve foot and joint pain from arthritis. You can pick them up for about $11.00 a pair.
- Dr. Scholl's Heel Pain Relief Orthotics: This full-length insert pads the heel and supports the arch to reduce foot pain. It fits shoe size five to twelve and costs about $10.00 for a pair.
Generic comfort shoe inserts can't correct certain foot problems. For that you need inserts called orthotics which are prescribed by a podiatrist. Orthotics are custom-made shoe inserts designed for one person's specific foot problem and can only be prescribed by a doctor. They are corrective and therapeutic in a medical sense.
You need orthotics if you have:
- Bony structures in your foot are not aligned properly and you get heel, ankle, leg, hip, back, neck, or head pain that cannot be relieved by OTC shoe inserts
- An abnormal motion of your foot
- Unstable foot or ankle bones or joints
- Foot deformities
- Diseases of the foot
A podiatrist is specially trained to evaluate the structure and function (bio-mechanics) of your foot, ankle, and leg in order to prescribe a specially-made insert that fits only your foot structure and corrects only your problem. There are two main types of orthotics: functional and accommodative.
Functional orthotics are made to correct and comfort symptoms caused by the function and motion of the foot such as:
- Foot heel and ankle pain
- Shin splints
- Inflammation in foot tendons (tendonitis) or joints (arthritis)
- Tears in tissues inside the foot
These orthotics are usually made of durable materials such as graphite or plastic.
This type of orthotics provide comfort and support and accommodate various structural and other foot problems. They are generally soft and are used to cushion:
- Diabetic foot ulcers
- Bone spurs
- Low or high arches
- Pronation or supination of the foot at the ankle
Many Options for Your Feet
There are many types of shoe inserts available over the counter. It should not be difficult to find one that can add comfort and support to many everyday foot or shoe problems. If they don't work or you have a structural or a medical foot problem, don't hesitate to see a doctor to have an orthotic insert custom designed specifically for you and your problem.