Do runners need insoles? The easy answer is that if you are running just fine without insoles, you may be just ok. As people say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, if you are finding you have pain in your feet, shins or calves, you may wish to consider running insoles.
Besides pain in your feet, other signs you may need an insole can be visible. Bunions, calluses or hammertoe can be a sign that you have a problem that insoles might help remedy.
A good running store or biomechanics clinic can help a runner to determine if he or she has severe pronation, which can cause foot pain. The runner should be asked to run on a treadmill or outside while the salesman or clinician analyzes the gait and stride.
Notice we said “severe pronation” because it is actually normal to pronate. If it isn’t bothering you, why try to correct it? However, many runners keep moving forward, plugging along through pain, when there are potential solutions out there. Don’t settle for this!
Types of Insole Support
1. Rigid Support
Insoles with rigid support control movement. Often, there is a need to control the movement between joints in the foot. The premise behind that is to stop the foot from turning. This additional stability can potentially stop the excessive pronation which can remedy the foot pain.
2. Soft Support
When you have soft support, it works as a shock absorber. This cushion can help prevent pain and discomfort for some people. A lightweight insert, many people find these help solve their foot pain.
3. Semi-Rigid Support
These inserts are somewhere in between. For someone needing stability and also cushion, this product might be the answer.
What Are The Best Insoles for Running?
The best running insoles vary by person. Just like shoes, every pair of insoles are made to perform a different service for the individual. In order to ascertain what would work best for you, the runner, you should have a gait analysis.
It is important to remember that even if insoles alleviate pain, they don’t make the problem go away. If you have any type of nagging pain or discomfort, you may wish to consult with someone who specializes in running mechanics.
Are Gel Insoles Good For Running?
Insoles can be made of foam, gel, plastic, carbon fiber, or cork. Just because someone says to you, “I have gel inserts and they are awesome”, it does not mean they will leave your feet feeling happy.
Why? Because different materials offer unique benefits. Foam is added for cushion. Gel insoles also offer cushion but also afford the athlete a unique protection for high pain areas.
Inserts with more rigid material such as plastic or cork use the structure of the insole to correct issues such as pronation. The idea is that with correction, the pain or discomfort will cease.
Certainly gel insoles can be good for running, but not for every runner. Each runner’s body is uniquely different with a separate quality running sock, shoe, and insole needs. Just like you need to research shoes to find what works best for you, the same is true for insoles.
How Long Does a Pair of Insoles Last?
Generally speaking, you can keep one pair of insoles for the life of two pairs of running shoes. Since they keep their shape and support for anywhere from 400-1,000 miles, you can take your cue from there.
If you wear a pair of running shoes for 350 miles or so, evaluate the insole after two pairs. If they seem okay, perhaps slip them into the new pair.
Some runners can wear a pair of shoes for closer to 500 miles. If that is you, don’t skimp on replacing the insoles. If you are one of those rare runners who can get 800-900 miles out of a shoe (and they do exist), don’t even think about placing an old insole in the new pair of shoes. Throw the old ones away. Your feet deserve better.
Do I Need Custom Insoles?
Some individuals think that every runner needs custom insoles and others do not. There are a few types of custom (and semi-custom) insoles.
Semi-custom insoles are the type like Dr. Scholls. When considering a Dr. Scholls insert, the person removes shoes and socks and stands on the machine. It diagnoses the best fit for your foot, and chooses from four inserts to find the ones that are best for your body.
Customized in-store are inserts that are made for your foot. At stores, they do a gait analysis and mold the insert to be perfectly suited to your individual needs.
Custom orthotics are made by a podiatrist. There, a foot specialist analyzes your foot shape, creates a mold and makes an insert. Orthotics are technically a prescription for your feet.
Can Insoles Make You Faster?
Another tricky question. On the one hand, if your inserts help with your mechanics and foot pain in theory, you can become a stronger runner. When pain plagues your body, it is natural to think you would slow down or not run as long or as far. In that way, wearing running insoles could have the potential to make you a stronger and faster runner.
On the other hand, anyone who races seriously will tell you that when racing, you should be in the most streamlined, lightest shoes possible. Using this logic, you would ditch the insoles.
Truthfully? It is, again, an individual answer. If pain or discomfort has stopped you from doing the work, whether we are speaking about weekly and monthly mileage, long runs and/or speed work, inserts will certainly help you improve performance. If you are hoping insoles are a magical speed bullet, you will be disappointed.