Home / News

News

SOFT OR RIGID ORTHOTIC INSOLES: WHICH IS BETTER?

Should an orthotic insole be hard or soft? Which is better for my feet? Trained footwear specialists or pedorthists are asked these questions all the time. One of the most common misconceptions is that softer inserts are better because they provide more cushion. However, when it comes to relieving foot pain, the solution isn’t just about cushioning, but also support.

DO I NEED A SOFT OR RIGID INSOLE?

Soft insoles work differently depending on the type of material they are made from.

  • Insoles made from foam are best for cushioning, support, and pressure relief.
  • Gel works well for shock absorption, to increase your balance, and/or relieve pressure on sores or uncomfortable areas of your foot.

People with foot deformities (bunions, hammertoes), arthritis, and diabetic ulcers can all benefit from soft insoles. This type of insole is constructed from soft materials and may extend along the length of the entire foot. They offer superior cushioning, but often do not address the structural support needs of the foot.

Rigid insoles are used to restrict or control abnormal foot movement. It’s solid construction controls foot movement to ensure correct alignment. Rigid orthotics are constructed from plastic, carbon fiber, or other rigid materials. They are often intended to be worn in walking or dress shoes and can help alleviate or eliminate foot pain, aches, or strain in the lower limbs. The major drawback of rigid insoles is they often can be uncomfortable to wear.

Semi-rigid insoles combine the cushioning benefits of a soft insole with the motion-controlling aspects of a rigid one. This insole type usually combines layers of soft materials with a reinforced rigid shell to provide a composite structure that improves balance, with degrees of cushioning. This type of insole is excellent for athletic use, especially for athletes who experience pain while training or competing. Children with certain issues, including flat foot conditions, can also benefit from this particular orthotic style.

WALKING ON SOFT VERSUS HARD SAND

Another helpful way to think about why a soft insert might work better for you versus a rigid insert is to compare it to walking on the beach. The soft sand looks nice and feels nice to lay on, but try walking on it. It’s not easy! The firm sand is pretty easy to walk on. The soft sand makes the muscles of your foot and ankle work harder to stabilize and propel your body forward, while the firm sand provides a stable base of support to walk on.

If you have a soft or a gel insert in your shoe, you have to work harder with every step to stabilize your foot. It might feel good for a few steps, but with 2,000 steps in a mile, that’s a lot of extra work over time. This is why soft and rigid materials combined into a semi-rigid insole is often the most ideal. This hybrid insole provides the best of each insole into one with the most benefits.

BUY A SEMI-RIGID INSOLE WITH GOOD REVIEWS

Semi-rigid insoles are often called the next best thing next to custom orthotics. SelectFlex offers the features and benefits of soft and rigid insoles with a deeply cushioned, stabilizing heel cup that also had an adjustable arch with three support settings. Don’t take our word for it. Read a few of the 5-star customers reviews on Amazon.

What makes SelectFlex unique is a patented dynamic arch that lifts your arch with every step to provide dynamic support to your feet. You can ‘Dial-in Comfort and Adjust Away Pain” from the three custom support settings. The SelectFlex dynamic arch will also mold to your unique arch shape over time for maximum comfort.

With SelectFlex’s lifting arch returning energy to the foot, you have more energy at the end of the day. Here’s how much energy SelectFlex returns to your foot per mile:

  • Setting 1: about 20,000 lbs
  • Setting 2: about 25,000 lbs
  • Setting 3: about 30,000 lbs

That will certainly add up at the end of the day, not to mention TGIF end of week. Uniquely, SelectFlex is the only insole that returns energy to your feet and is worth a look from anyone with foot, joint, or lower back pain.

 

HOW TO KEEP YOUR FEET FRESH ON LONG RUNS

When runners advance from a 5K to longer runs, one of the first things they notice is what a toll it can take on their feet. Shoes that are too small, ill fitting, or that don’t provide runners with arch support are just a few of the causes of sore feet after a long run.

We know how important it is to keep feet fresh, especially when training for longer road races, so we put together these tips to support your feet and keep them tip-top on long runs.

GET THE RIGHT SHOES

If you are running in a shoe that lacks arch support, is poorly made, or just doesn’t fit right, you may get blisters, soreness, numbness, and potentially lasting foot pain. Shoes that are too short can cause black toenails and those that are too wide can lead to blisters. Running trainers that lack proper arch support can also cause foot, joint, and back pain.   

Finding the shoe that fits your foot properly can be a challenge if you have feet that are large, small, narrow, or wide, since stores usually carry only the most popular sizes. Look for brands that offer different widths, or seek advice from a specialty running store. Though your feet stop growing when you're a teenager, they will change size throughout adulthood, so remember to have your feet measured when you head out to try on sneakers. Runners can benefit from seeking out a pedorthist when they shop, as opposed to trying their luck with untrained sales people at the big chain stores.

Finally, running experts recommend getting a shoe that’s half a size larger than your regular shoe size. As you run, your foot will swell and expand. Your shoe will also shrink over time, especially if you get them wet regularly. Having some wiggle room for your toes will help keep your feet happy.

USE AN INSOLE 

If you are looking to reduce foot pain, recover from runs faster, and increase foot efficiency, give an over-the-counter insole a try. Running shoes already have an insole, but getting a specialized consumer insole can improve how your shoes fits and functions, and will likely outlast not just this pair of running shoes, but your next few pairs as well.

The right kind of insole gives runners added arch support, shock absorption with each step, and a deeper heel cup that cradles the feet, encouraging proper alignment from toe to hip. When you shop for an over-the-counter insole, beware of flimsy gels and other, less expensive products that break down quickly. A well made insole not only helps keep your feet fresh and provide support, but spending a little more for a quality product will give you more for your money. 

STRENGTHEN YOUR FEET

You’ve likely spent time doing some strength training of your larger muscle groups, like your core and legs, but the muscles in the feet also need strengthening if you are to advance to longer runs. Weak foot muscles will not move in the correct running position and over time can lead to pain and injury. Look for exercises that stretch and strengthen your feet to keep them strong and flexible.

WEAR SENSIBLE SHOES EVERY DAY

If you are serious about running, you’ve probably spent plenty on your running shoes, but if you are wearing inexpensive, flimsy shoes the rest of the day, you’re not doing your feet any favors. Chronic foot pain caused by plantar fasciitis or flat feet will be exacerbated by flip-flops, high heels and other shoes that lack proper cushioning and support.

One way to protect your feet in your favorite pair of street shoes is to get an insole that offers support and proper alignment that can easily be transferred from running to casual shoes.

PAMPER YOUR FEET

You are counting on your feet to carry you through on those long runs, so why not treat them right? If you notice your feet swell after a long run, apply ice or soak them in cool water. Elevating your feet for several minutes with an ice pack or cool compress can help too.

Some people swear by a quick foot massage or a foot roller to work out stiffness after a run and to relieve ailments like plantar fasciitis.

Even if you don’t have the time for long soaks and a massage, moisturizing feet and keeping toenails trimmed will go a long way in preventing pesky blisters.

As you train for that half or full marathon, keep in mind that these long runs mean more stress on your feet and joints. Making sure you have the right footwear and proper support will not only keep your feet feeling fresh, but also prevent injuries and pain that can keep you from reaching your goal.

 

WHAT IS PLANTAR FASCIITIS? INSOLES, STRETCHES, AND OTHER TREATMENTS

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain today. Runners and those who work on their feet are most often affected, but it can cause heel pain in a wide range of people for a number of reasons. If you are feeling the pain of plantar fasciitis, you should consult with a doctor. They are likely to prescribe stretching, over-the-counter medicines, or insoles designed for plantar fasciitis sufferers. Here’s what you need to know if you suspect you have plantar fasciitis.

WHAT IS PLANTAR FASCIITIS?

Plantar fasciitis is when the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot and connects your heel bone to your toes gets inflamed. This band, called the plantar fascia, acts like a shock-absorber, supporting the arch in your foot. But if the tension and stress become too great, it can cause small tears in the fascia. Although the cause in many cases is unclear, repetitive stretching and tearing can cause the fascia to become irritated or inflamed.

People with plantar fasciitis often describe it as a stabbing pain felt during the first steps of the morning as they are getting out of bed. The pain then typically decreases, only to return later in the day, especially after standing for long periods of time or walking after sitting for a long time.

TREATMENT AND PAIN MANAGEMENT

There are a number of ways to treat plantar fasciitis pain, from adding a plantar fasciitis insole to your shoe to surgery. Here are some of the most common, non-invasive treatments.

STRETCHING AND STRENGTHENING

Exercises that stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and strengthen lower leg muscles will help stabilize the ankle and heel.

TAPING

Physical therapists also use athletic tape to support the bottom of the foot.

NIGHT SPLINTS

Your doctor or physical therapist may recommend a night splint that flexes the foot and stretches the calf and arches while you sleep, holding the plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendon in a lengthened position overnight.

PLANTAR FASCIITIS INSOLES

Orthotic insoles are specially designed to alleviate pain and tension away from the plantar fasciitis tendon with for fitting arch support that distributes pressure more evenly over the footbed throughout the day, providing added comfort.

OVER-THE-COUNTER PAIN RELIEF

Ibuprofen and naproxen sodium can ease the pain and inflammation associated with plantar fasciitis.

APPLY ICE

To reduce inflammation, especially after a long day at work or intense exercise, icing the heel of the foot can help manage pain.

SUPPORTIVE SHOES

Wearing shoes with a supportive heel and that stabilizes the foot is important if you want to manage your foot pain from plantar fasciitis. Footwear like flip flops and high heels are only going to aggravate the problem. According to Dr. Kenneth Jung, an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, California and featured in Prevention Magazine, adding a shoe insert or insole for plantar fasciitis can enhance the effectiveness of the shoes you already own.

Jung says that adding a shoe insert will externally support the arch, thus reducing the stress or load on the arch. Plantar fasciitis insoles also provide a cushy cup for your heel to relieve pressure, and together help make your foot more comfortable.

AT RISK FOR PLANTAR FASCIITIS

People can develop plantar fasciitis without an obvious cause, however, there are factors that increase your risk.

WORKING ON YOUR FEET

Nurses, factory workers, teachers and others who spend most of the work day walking and standing on hard surfaces can damage their plantar fascia.

FOOT MECHANICS

The shape of your foot and how your foot makes contact with the ground can put added stress on the plantar fascia and cause irritation. This can include having flat feet, high arches, and overpronation of the foot.

AGE

People between 40-60 are most likely to be affected by plantar fasciitis. 

HIGH-IMPACT EXERCISE

Any activity that places a lot of stress on the heel can be a contributing factor to plantar fasciitis, including long-distance running, crossfit, and even ballet.

WEIGHT

Adding extra pounds can put stress on your plantar fascia.

Anyone who struggles with the pain of plantar fasciitis, whether it's first thing in the morning or after a long day at work, is looking for simple, affordable relief. If you are experiencing foot pain, your first move should be to see a doctor. You will find there are many treatments for plantar fasciitis that do not require a prescription.