Effective Shoe Inserts for Plantar Fasciitis: Orthotic Insoles With Good Arch Support

I learned long ago that shoes that come with removable footbeds, such as running shoes and hiking boots, rarely offer adequate arch support for plantar fasciitis. This type of footwear can support the arch if you do as I did and switch out the native insoles with inserts featuring shock-absorbing cushioning and an anatomical profile. Such inserts for plantar fasciitis may be custom-made from a prescription from a podiatrist or - my preference - gotten over-the-counter (OTC).

Features

The best OTC inserts are not necessarily your regular Dr. Scholls that you pick up at the drugstore, but rather insoles by Lynco, Sorbothane, Orthaheel, Sole, and other specialized manufacturers of orthopedic footbeds.

Such insoles come in full or partial lengths and are specially designed to provide arch support inside a shoe. They may also add extra cushioning by way of a layer of foam or gel padding. Their rigid or semi-rigid strength, their curved shape, and their resilience should help stabilize the foot, assisting with (depending on the particular device and the particular individual) overpronation or any other gait irregularities people with heel pain have.

Do You Suffer from Plantar Fasciitis and Use Shoe Inserts?

If you have plantar fasciitis heel pain, what orthopedic insoles have helped you?

  • Sole Custom Footbeds
  • Lynco Orthotics
  • Sorbothane Footbeds
  • Pedag Orthotic Insoles
  • Shock Doctor Insoles
  • Spenco Insoles
  • Superfeet Inserts
  • Birkenstock Arch Supports
  • Other (Please share in Comments)
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OTC or Custom Orthotics for Plantar Fasciitis?

Expensive podiatrist-prescribed orthotics may not be necessary to help heal the pain of plantar fasciitis. According to a 2009 study published in the Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, both over-the-counter, prefabricated inserts and prescription-only, custom made orthotics were effective in reducing pressure on the heel in plantar fasciitis patients.

Supportive inserts can help with heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis because they add three things to a shoe:

  • Cushioning
  • Arch support and pressure dissipation
  • Stabilization

Cushioning helps with shock absorption, meaning less trauma to the foot.

Stabilization means that orthotics can correct stride problems such as excessive pronation or underpronation. Typically, if you pronate, you'll want more arch support, and if you underpronate, you'll want more cushioning.

A contoured footbed with arch support helps with flat feet. But even people without flat feet can benefit, because an anatomical footbed with arch support helps to simulate an environment of barefoot-uneven-ground walking. What does this mean? Walking and running on hard concrete ground and hard floors in shoes without arch support is common today. It causes the foot to take the brunt of the impact on the forefoot and heel. A naturally contoured footbed that conforms to the shape of the foot, on the other hand, disperses the impact throughout the entire foot, which is more like walking barefoot or in soft moccasins on uneven ground - your whole foot comes in contact with the ground.

For the same reason, it is possible for some people to have too much arch support in an insole. Arch support that is too intense can cause the opposite problem in people who supinate or have high arches and rigid feet - it can put all the weight of the body on the arch and too little on the forefoot or heel.

Tips for Wearing Shoe Inserts for Plantar Fasciitis

  • Unless advised otherwise by a physician, always wear inserts on both feet, even though only one foot may be affected by plantar fasciitis.
  • Don't think expensive is necessarily better. Although in some cases of plantar fasciitis, expensive custom-made orthotics are necessary and advised by podiatrists, other times the much cheaper over-the-counter insoles will work very well. The best inserts are the ones that will match the natural contours of your feet, especially the location and height of the arch. Some insoles, such as Sole Custom Footbeds, can be customized to fit a variety of arch heights. Others come in standard sizing. Choose the one that best matches your foot's shape.
  • Excellent arch support is usually therapeutic for people with plantar fasciitis, but if you are not used to wearing shoes with arch support, it can also be a shock to the muscles of your feet and affect the joints involved in stride and posture - ankles, knees and hips. To avoid these problems, adjust your feet to the inserts as gradually as necessary. Wear them just a few minutes the first day, a few more minutes the next day, and increase daily - how much depends on your arch, your feet, your pain. If your orthopedic shoe insoles ever cause you discomfort, remove them immediately and try again tomorrow. If the discomfort doesn't go away or the therapeutic insoles cause actual pain, ask your podiatrist or read the instructions for fitting the insert to see if they can be further adjusted to the natural contours of your feet.
  • Start with just one set of insoles from a single manufacturer. Try them on in the store, or order them online. If they work for you, consider buying more pairs to keep them in each shoe. This is especially true for shoes that fit slightly differently, but I've found it's much more convenient to wear my Sole orthotics (the brand I use) when each one is dedicated to its own pair of shoes and I don't have to switch them out each time I change shoes. Plus I've found they seem to last longer that way.
  • This article is not in any way, shape or form medical advice, but generalized advice offered by someone who has suffered from plantar fasciitis and researched it and eliminated her own heel pain. Before trying shoe inserts for plantar fasciitis, please always check with your doctor or podiatrist.

Lynco Aetrex Orthotics for Runners and Athletes

Lynco Orthotics - Aetrex Shoe Insoles for Sports

Great for athletes, these Lynco Aetrex insoles are designed for casual footwear, including walking and athletic shoes. These L405 arch support inserts have a top layer that not only absorbs shock but also is anti-bacterial. They also have a metatarsal pad. Update 2013: Lynco now also makes the very popular L400 insoles which has also been reported to help people with plantar fasciitis.

Reviews of Lynco Aetrex Inserts

The numerous five-star reviews on Amazon.com suggest reviewers are very happy with Lynco shoe inserts, mentioning they have helped in cases of plantar fasciitis, diabetic neuropathy, ankle injury, and hip and back pain. One reviewer said the L405 insoles lasted a long time. (This is not to suggest these inserts will cure plantar fasciitis or these other conditions, but rather that people with a wide variety of complaints seem to have been helped by them.) Multiple reviewers advise customers to go to a shoe store such as The Walking Company and be tested for which Aetrex model is suitable.

Orthaheel Orthotics for Heel Pain

Orthaheel orthotics were designed by an Australian podiatrist for people who are on their feet a lot and have painful foot, back and leg conditions related to posture and stride.

The contoured anatomical footbed of the Active Orthotic has arch support and a natural fit designed to help with plantar fasciitis as well as flat feet, overpronation and other painful foot conditions. The footbeds have an anti-odor and anti-bacterial cover.


Featuring an EVA footbed with hardened plastic for support, the Orthaheel inserts can be sized to the shoe if between sizes by trimming the front.

Orthaheel is a trusted brand in orthopedic sandals for heel pain.

Sole Shoe Inserts for Heel Pain

Heat Moldable Insoles for Plantar Fasciitis

SOLE Ultra footbeds are designed for running shoes, hiking boots, work boots, and other athletic shoes or "stand-all-day" footwear.

If you've read my other articles on footwear for plantar fasciitis and treating heel pain, you know how much I love my SOLE custom footbeds. After trying cheap shoe inserts, I tried SOLE and never looked back. (I did consider Birkenstock arch supports (see below) but ended up wanting a full-length insole that wouldn't move around.) They are my personal favorite.

For me, SOLE arch support insoles were a far cheaper option than traditional custom-made orthotic inserts, and possibly more effective, as these have a very good and long-lasting layer of cushioning as well as the rigid arch support (I understand that most customized podiatrist-fitted orthotics are very hard, without any cushioning.)

As I've learned, I'm not alone. SOLE, a company in Canada, makes very popular footbeds for professional and amateur athletes. The Ultra footbed has an extra thick layer of cushioning, but SOLE also makes inserts for casual and even dress shoes.

The cool thing about these footbeds is that they are heat moldable - that's what makes them "custom". You pop them in the oven at a low temperature (instructions are included) and then put them in the shoes you're going to wear them in and stand in the shoes, and the orthopedic arch support molds to your foot's individual contours. You should only need to do this once, maybe twice if the first time didn't do it.

Sorbothane Insoles for Plantar Fasciitis

Sorbothane Arch Protection Inserts

Sorbothane is a visco-elastic polymer that is very shock absorbing and vibration-reducing, which explains its use in industrial and electronic equipment as well as medical and athletic applications.  Sorbothane makes a number of shoe insoles with superior multi-layer cushioning that boasts of an up to 94.7 percent shock reduction. These Ultra Graphite insoles help stabilize excessive pronation, have extra metatarsal cushioning, and feature Sorbothane cushioning in the heel, as well as polyurethane foam along the entire footbed, plus a cushioned anti-fungal layer.

Reviews

These inserts have earned positive reviews on Amazon by reviewers who pronate, are athletic, or have plantar fasciitis.

Pedag Insoles for Heel Pain

Made with an anatomical footbed, the German-made Pedag orthotic insoles have the seal of approval from the APMA (American Podiatric Medical Association). The Vitality orthotics are covered with cotton that has "nano silver ions" to help prevent odor, and unlike many other footbeds, is washable. The Viva orthotics are made of leather and used for boots and dress shoes with removable insoles. The Pro-Active XCO insoles has extra cushioning.

Superfeet Shoe Inserts for Plantar Fasciitis

Superfeet Shoe Inserts

Superfeet insoles are popular with athletes. Note that the different models of different Superfeet inserts work best with the kind of arch support specified - such as "low to medium" or "medium to high" - though they generally say they work with all arch heights.

Each model is also made specifically to accommodate the kind of motion involved in participating in different sports, such as hockey and skating, running, tennis, etc.

More Shoe Inserts for Plantar Fasciitis

Foot doctors try to dissuade people suffering from the heel pain of plantar fasciitis from going barefoot, which puts too much pressure on an injured plantar fascia. They encourage patients to wear shoes, slippers, and sandals with excellent arch support every time they bear weight. Sometimes shoes come with their own arch support; more often, dress, casual, hiking, and athletic shoes have insufficient arch support for plantar fasciitis conditions.

Custom made orthotics is one answer, but these can be very expensive - sometimes hundreds of dollars - and lack sufficient cushioning for people who are runners, walkers, and other athletes.

Over-the-counter shoe inserts can help turn any shoe with a removable footbed into an orthopedic shoe. The key is to get the right insert for the shape of your foot and to make sure the insert fits in the shoe (specifically, for dress shoes with a low instep, make sure to get slim shoe inserts instead of ones with thick cushioning).

To help your heel pain, try the footbeds mentioned in this article, which I have selected as some of the best arch supports for plantar fasciitis made, based on either my own experience, reviews, and features of the insole. Don't forget to follow the break-in tips, and always ask your podiatrist for recommendations with any foot-related medical questions you have.

Birkenstock Arch Support Footbeds

See the author's disclosure statement about compensation for this article.

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5 comments

planetway profile image

planetway 5 years ago from Centre of the Known Universe

I've found that Barefoot Science are the only insoles that have worked for me, because rather than cushioning your feet, they actually strengthen, stabilize and rehabilitate them. My problem started with plantar fasciitis and then turned into acute achilles tendonitis. You can read about my experience here:

http://hubpages.com/health/Barefoot-Science-Insole...


Gillian 5 years ago

I use WelStand insoles now, and of all I've tried, they are the best for my needs. And I can wear them with open toe shoes without them sticking out the front since they have a special top cover for those types of shoes.


Terri 4 years ago

Why aren't Powerstep orthopedic insoles not covered in this review? They are also approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association and are quite popular. I'm surprised they are not mentioned anywhere in this article. Does anyone else have any positive experiences with them? I Just bought a pair based on reviews from the internet. I don't have plantar fasciitis, but I bought them for overpronation issues and early stages of bunion development. Any comments would be welcome..


Alex 3 years ago

I too have had problems with plantar fasciitis. I found that wearing better shoes with in built arch support really helped me. I highly recommend Bared Footwear. They sell shoes designed by a podiatrist that don't look daggy like most comfort shoes. A god send. www.bared.com.au


Chet 21 months ago

A product called Heel That Pain, an insert for the heel, is wonderful and definitely was a part of my healing process. Along with New Balance, Merrell, Birkenstock and many good orthotic inserts. Good socks also helped and of course, stretches, icing, etc.

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