The best orthotic running insoles

·6-min read
Photo credit: Andrey Popov
Photo credit: Andrey Popov

Have you ever considered wearing an insole while running? You might choose to wear an orthotic insole or use running insoles if you have flat feet, or if you need more protection from impact-related stress on your joints and bones.

There is a wide range of insoles available designed for runners that can aid foot problems while increasing comfort and reducing pain. We asked podiatrist and clinical educator at Market Street Clinic Stephen Warner why you would wear a running insole, and how to choose the best insole for you, before recommending the best running orthotic insoles.

How do you know if you need an orthotic insole for running?

Warner says that orthotic insoles may be beneficial in ameliorating pain and fatigue in the feet, legs and back that’s associated with gait, whether walking or running.

‘The efficacy is dependent on the underlying problem and achieving a good balance between the individual via their foot, the orthosis and the shoe,’ he says. ‘Assessing whether or not an orthotic insole would be beneficial requires undergoing a biomechanical/musculoskeletal examination carried out by a podiatrist or physiotherapist, who is able to evaluate your gait and joint functions to assess the best approach to your problem.

‘In some cases, it may be that all that’s necessary to overcome the problem is to advise on stretching and strengthening muscles allied to good footwear. If you are experiencing symptoms, particularly if they are sudden and severe or have been long-standing or recurrent, it is advisable to seek a professional opinion.’

How do you find the right insole for your needs as a runner?

Warner’s advice is clear: the first thing to do if you are having severe problems – including pain in your foot, leg or back – is to visit a professional who can assess your needs.

The result of the visit may include simple advice through off-the-shelf orthotic options or adapted devices, all the way up to custom-made functional orthoses.

‘The type of device recommended should be one that offers optimal control of your foot while keeping bulk and weight to a minimum,’ says Warner. ‘The design should reflect the activity being undertaken as well as your own biomechanics, and a device suited for sprinting may not be as effective if used for middle- or long-distance running.’

How do insoles help your running?

A well-designed orthosis will optimise the mechanical function of your feet and lower limbs, as well as aiding shock absorption and even providing extra energy return.

‘Much is made of the issue of over-pronation, and while this can be disruptive to effective propulsion, the aim of orthotic therapy is to control pronation, not to eliminate it,’ says Warner.

He adds that pronation is an essential component of normal gait that aids with shock attenuation, but re-supination of the foot is required in order to maximise propulsion, and a good orthosis will help to make the transfer between heel strike and toe-off as fluid and efficient as possible.

‘In some cases, this may mean achieving a compromise, as the underlying mechanics may be too extreme to get full control. While this may reduce symptoms, it’s not always possible to eliminate them completely,’ says Warner.

A successful outcome of a biomechanical evaluation should provide you with a plan, which may include orthotic insoles that will enable you to carry on running in comfort. ‘They can help improve propulsion through the foot, reduce stresses on the knees, hips and lower back and improve the efficiency of your running,’ says Warner. ‘However, this is also contingent on good footwear and a reasonable training plan.’

Orthoses alone will not elevate your performance from casual runner to Olympic standard, but they may help you to gradually improve your PB.

The best insoles for runners

Featuring impact-absorption technology that the brand claims absorbs 89 percent more shocks when compared to leading competitors, Enertor’s Running Insoles are thin, lightweight and durable. We've been running in a pair for a while and love how unobtrusive they are (you literally don't notice you're wearing them).

They also provide energy return, helping to propel you on your run for further, and claim to aid in reducing foot problems, as well as pain in the ankles, hips, shins, lower back and legs. This is all due to the PX1 material it’s constructed from, which absorbs impact, spreads the load on the foot and includes extra support under the arch.

Featuring a carbon-fibre stabiliser cap, Superfeet’s Run Insoles provide firm and responsive support, as well as a gel pod in the heel that helps to reduce and spread impact across the entire sole. They also provide medium-to-high orthotic support to lower the amount of stress delivered to your feet and lower leg. They are particularly effective for those suffering from plantar fasciitis.

With a focus on arch support for runners and absorbing impact and ‘micro shocks’ (30 percent more than regular insoles, according to Scholl), these budget insoles help alleviate the pains and problems that come with running. The impact is spread via Gelavtiv technology that’s located in the insole’s heel, arch and forefoot.

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These are designed specifically for runners, so you can expect high levels of comfort and support for all distances, whether short, middle or long. They come in three different foot arch heights: low, medium and high, so you can tailor it to your arch’s needs. They are also lightweight and provide high levels of shock absorption.

Decathlon’s insoles were designed by runners for runners looking to increase the amount of cushioning and impact absorption they receive when running. These are low in price, so basic in function, and you will need to cut them to fit your shoe, which can be tricky in some instances.

These are highly adjustable and customisable, hence the hefty price tag. You can actually tweak the level of arch support to one of 11 positions. This means that you can change it if/when your arch requires less or more support. The aim with these insoles is to help align your foot, ankle, knee and hip to increase running power.

These Custom Insoles can be moulded to each foot's shape at selected Runner's Need stores, meaning that they will hold your feet in a more natural position and help combat any misalignment. Custom-moulded insoles also provide bespoke arch support, so if you're having problems with your arches these could be well worth considering.

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