Real Reviews: A Quest for Comfortable Feet
My wife and I took a trip to Europe as a last hurrah before having kids. It was an amazing experience. But we also did so much walking, it was also amazingly painful! I wish I'd done my searching for insoles before that trip.
Before we left, we'd heard from several people that we should buy very comfortable shoes for walking. We also heard that not nearly as many people wear sneakers over there. We didn't want to look like silly American tourists, so we shopped around for shoes, as if that would really make us look less like tourists :-). We went everywhere from Ecco, to the Walking Company, to Clarks, looking for the most comfortable shoes in existence.
I'm a guy. I don't particularly enjoy shoe shopping. My wife was in her glory, but I was just trying to find something that would let me walk around like I was floating on air. But, that's really not as easy as it sounds. (okay, I don't really think it sounds that easy) It was actually quite frustrating, because, after a while, all of these different shoes started to feel the same. Besides that, they were all brand new, and brand new shoes always feel different once you have worn them for a couple weeks.
I settled on Eccos. Very comfortable. There was no rubbing or slipping, they were soft, and I barely felt like I had shoes on. So, I bought them.
In my defense, they are very comfortable. They fit very nicely, and there was no rubbing of any kind that could result in a blister. But the soles and insoles provided very little cusion. The problem wasn't really the shoes, but my own inexperience.
By the end of the second day, after having walked from the hotel to the Eye of London, through museums, to Hyde Park, etc, I was in pain. The bottoms of my feet, especially under the joints of my toes, hurt. Every step back to the hotel was a challenge. It was a good thing that it's such a beautiful city!
The next day, we went shoe shopping in London. Good thing my credit card had a decent amount of room on it, because, damn.
So, I spent more than I'd like to admit on a pair of Merrell shoes similar to the ones here. They were better. These were actually quite comfortable, and are a very nice shoe. I recommend them. But, I discovered later that Merrells are not really the right shoe for my feet, because they were too narrow in the toes. (Or I should have gotten a size up)
I was able to get through most of the day, but again, by the end, after walking to London Tower, we were grabbing a cab. There still wasn't enough cushion in the sole. (Actually, the cabbie was a hoot. So, something good came of it, I guess)
By the time we got back from our trip, I was on a mission to find the most comfortable shoes in existence! Every time we were in a shoe store, I tried to find the shoes with the softest insoles.
There really weren't that many. I couldn't believe it. Everything had thin insoles with no cushion whatsoever. How do waiters and waitresses do it???
Finally, I found them! Shoes with soft insoles! I was phyched. I bought them. Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of my frustration. Yes the bottoms of my feet did better, but because the insoles were so soft, a) my feet started to get too warm, and b) my feet sank a little with every step, resulting in some mild rubbing that became uncomfortable.
The Walking Co.
At one point, we went to the Walking Co. They had a fancy setup where you stood on a pad that was hooked up to a computer that measured which parts of your foot were getting the most weight. Based on that, it recommended a set of insoles! Very cool. We got the insoles, and I used them for quite a while.
But, over time, they really weren't that great. They had a little bubble in the middle that didn't really seem to help. And they didn't really keep my feet from getting sore when doing a lot of walking or standing.
I eventually gave up on them.
Another Pair of New Shoes
Some time passed, and I needed a new pair of shoes for work. I settled on these Dockers. They fit my feet very well, and were very comfortable.
But once again, the insoles were very thin, leaving very little cushion for the bottom of the feet. So, if I did any sort of walking or standing, my toe joints would start to get sore; especially the joint of my small toe, where I would get sharp, shooting pains. This happened a lot, because I wore them to work, and work was a campus with several buildings; things were very spread out.
As an aside, I kept these shoes for a long time, until they were basically so worn that they looked too beaten to wear to work anymore. So, I highly recommend these. Along with the insoles I found later...
So, I started looking at the different kinds of insoles that were available:
- I tried getting some cheap foam ones that I thought I could double up. Nope. Made my shoes too tight.
- I got some liquid gel insoles, but those didn't do squat. My feet just sank right through them; the liquid was too thin and moved aside too easily. They were completely useless.
- I tried non-liquid gel insoles. These has promise, and I used them for a while. But they were too gushy, and my feet would move around too much when the ground wasn't level.
I was about ready to give up and start sucking it up. I guess I was just gonna have to live with the fact that my feet hurt when I'm on them a lot. Maybe they'll just toughen up over time, I told myself.
Through all of this, I had a pair of sandals that were probably the most comfortable things I had ever put on my feet. The soles on them were exactly what I was looking for: they provided cushion, but weren't too soft. After some time, they started to actually "mold" to the shape of my foot. It was awesome! I spent an entire day walking around Boston, and by the end, my feet felt as if I had just started.
But I can't really wear sandals all the time. So, I still needed something that was more general-purpose.
Finally, one day I thought, maybe I'll do a search for insoles that mold to your feet. That would be awesome.
The only real result that came up was Sole.
Insoles by Sole
Sole is a small company in Montana that makes insoles, sandals, and socks. They have a variety of insoles that fit different types of shoes and activities.
What's so great about their insoles is that they are heat mold-able. You just pop 'em in the oven for 2 minutes, stand in them right away for another 2 minutes, and they shape to your foot! Out of the box, the arches on them are very high, which is perfect for someone like me with high arches. But their heat molding technology allows anyone to use them, regardless of their foot shape.
Sole insoles have great potential for people with irregular foot shape, or who have developed other problems related to foot pain, such as issues with posture, knees, back pain, etc. They also claim to be a viable, and more affordable replacement for expensive, custom orthopedic shoes.
Because they shape to your foot, the weight of your body is more evenly distributed across the entire surface area of your foot, eliminating those pressure points that can be so painful.
What really got me to try it was their satisfaction guarantee. I usually think of that kind of thing as a gimmick, but in this case, it was really the only reason I would spend that much on insoles. If they didn't live up to the expectations they had set for me, then I would definitely be getting my (at the time) $55 back!
The first ones I tried were the Slim Casual line. I was getting them for the Dockers above, which, like I said, were really comfortable, but had no cushion. The "Slim" line are not as thick (which I was concerned about), because they are intended to go in shoes that either don't leave much room for the toes, like dress shoes, or in shoes whose normal insoles don't come out.
The insoles in the Dockers are removable, so I was able to put these in their place. However, those shoes are also a bit more narrow than normal, so I had to actually trim the edges of the insoles a bit to get them to match the shape of the shoes' original insoles. Not a big deal, it just means that I can't use those insoles in any other shoes but those.
They felt a bit weird at first, because they were like nothing I'd ever tried. I'd never had so much support it the arches. I was an instant fan. But they really proved themselves when the pain I used to have walking in those shoes was instantly gone!
I was so impressed with these insoles, that I just had to get another pair. After looking at all of the options, I decided on the Ed Viesturs Signature Edition. These are thicker, providing more cushion, and are intended for athletic activity. They were supposed to be better with foot moisture, and had small air holes in the bottom for some breath-ability.
I still have these now. I move them back and forth between my work boots and the sneakers I used for running and lifting. These are the thicker version, but that doesn't mean they feel more "cushiony" than the others. But I think having the extra cushion is probably a good thing when I'm beating on them with weights and running on pavement. My feet stay comfortable at all times, so I can focus on the task at hand.
As I mentioned before, the Sole Casual insoles I bought were for the narrow Dockers, so I had to trim them. But I had other casual shoes, as well as other sneakers that I wanted to be able to wear with Sole insoles. So, I ended up getting one last pair: the Dean Karazes Signature Series.
These have the normal thickness, which leaves my toes with enough space in shoes that are not especially "roomy". They are also meant for athletic activities, so they have the same moisture protection and breathability. And I figured, if they really are used by a marathon runner, they'll definitely be good enough for me!
So, I move these back and forth between my casual shoes and my casual sneakers.
So, I guess they lived up to their own hype, because I now have 3 pair! I've had a couple long days on my feet with them, and my feet did start to get a little bit tired. But it was more spread out, and dull.
Things to look for when shopping for insoles:
- Do they form to your feet? This is the main point of Sole!
- Will they shape further to your feet over time? I've had my Dean Karnazes insoles for a couple years now, and I can feel that the shape of my foot has started to make an impression in the cushioning of the insole. Very good!
- Do they provide enough arch support for your foot shape? Very important for those of us with high arches!
- Do they provide enough support for your heel? I didn't really even think about this until I had these insoles. My heel used to slide around a little. I was used to it, so I didn't really notice. But, my foot is now much more stable in my shoes than they used to be.
- Do they fit your shoes properly for the size (or do you have to cut them to size)? My soles fit all of my shoes, except for the Dockers above.
- Are they the right thickness for the shoes they will be going into? Don't get thick insoles if the insoles they will replace are thin and you don't have a lot of extra room in the toes. They could make the shoes too snug around the toes, which could result in blisters, ingrown toenails, or sores around the toenails.
My Sole insoles have all lasted a long time. So, thus far, I've gotten my money's worth.
They've recently come out with a flip-flop line. I haven't gotten them, but I plan to at some point, because so far I don't have a way to get same benefits of their insoles in the hot summer months without sweating my toes off. If anyone has tried them, I'd love to hear about it.
I'd also love to hear about any other little miracles for feet.
At any rate, I hope this info will help your feet not hurt as much, so you can stop being so darn cranky... :^)
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