No pair of running shoes is complete without the perfect set of running insoles inside them.
But should I wear insoles in my running shoes? My shoes already come with them, you might say.
True, all running shoes have thin, built-in soles. After all, you need some kind of cushion to protect your feet.
But that’s pretty much where the function stops–at the bare minimum. Standard-issue soles can be flimsy and wear down quickly. Worse, they’re not tailored to your specific foot, meaning they’re often lacking support.
The right insoles will turn ordinary running shoes into ones that feel specially molded for you.
Why bother with running insoles?
Well, they’re basically a superhero power-up for your shoes.
The best insoles for running can:
- add cushion
- reduce foot fatigue
- increase running efficiency
- support arches
- correct the fit of your shoes
While running shoes can do wonders for your form, insoles will keep you comfortable and pain-free.
The Benefits of Running Insoles
They last longer. The cushion in running shoes starts to wear out every 300-500 miles. Insoles typically outlive two or three pairs of running shoes, as they’re made of higher-quality materials.
They can be slipped into many types of shoes. Not just for running shoes, they can also fit into your boots or work shoes. Simply pop them out when you’re ready to switch shoes and you’re good to go.
They reduce injury. Built-in soles can be little more than scraps. You’ll want the cushion protecting your footstrikes to be stable and heavy-duty.
A study on the effect of cushioned insoles found that they significantly reduced the force of impact while running. Peak impact lowered by 6.8%, and tibial acceleration went down by an entire 15.8%. Another study found that people with flat feet benefited from the shock absorption and evenly distributed stress.
A lack of support or enough cushion can lead to truly painful injuries such as plantar fasciitis. If you haven’t heard of it before, plantar fasciitis is a condition where the thick band of tissue along the bottom of your foot becomes inflamed. This tissue connects your heel bone to your toes. It’s necessary for standing and walking comfortably.
There are a whole host of other running injuries to watch out for when on the track or trail. Make sure you’re protected!
They can help you through an existing injury. There are even custom ones you can have made for you. Like plantar fasciitis mentioned above or knee/lower back pain, there’s an insole for them all. You don’t have to completely stop your daily activities when an injury gets you down. There’s help.
What to Look For in Running Insoles
When considering Should I wear insoles in my running shoes?, remember that insoles come with a wide range of options for any type of feet. You’ll see ones on the market for flat feet, overpronation, injuries, and a variety of arches. So knowing which ones are right for you can be daunting.
The 4 main things you want to consider are:
Pay attention to the padding. Will it be enough when you pass mile 5? Insoles may feel comfortable now, but you’ll want them to stay that way throughout your run.
The right shape can prevent some nasty injuries later by keeping your heel in place. Look for heel cups and a good ergonomic shape.
Everyone has a certain arch to their foot. Some have completely flat arches, some medium or neutral, and some have high arches. These differences mean you have certain things to watch out for to lower your risk of injury. Selecting an insole with good support will ensure your shoes are tailored to you.
Like running shoes, insoles may need a bit of an adjustment period to fully settle. Still, they should be comfortable from the very first use. No matter which insoles you pick, make sure they’re the right size and shape above all else.
When shopping for new shoes, bring your soles along to make sure they slot well inside the new ones. You can always trim them down, but if the shoes aim for arch support on their own, you could find they fit a bit awkwardly.
Be careful not to buy ones thinking they’ll be better once they’re “broken in.” If they don’t feel good now, they won’t be right for you later either.
The Many Materials of Insoles
For cushion, insoles are made of foam compounds or gel. Gel can be great for reducing impact and lessening the stress on your feet and leg muscles. However, they are sometimes less ideal for running in terms of stability.
For support, you may also find cork, carbon fiber, or plastic in them. Your feet take a beating, so runners in particular will need insoles made from sturdier materials.
Many come with an anti-odor treatment as an extra perk.
Should I get a custom insole made?
The short answer: it depends.
Custom orthotics cost between $300-600. These are not always covered by insurance.
If you’re not ready to make that investment, there are plenty of ready-made options out there. A good strategy is to buy one or two insoles, find out if they’re really the perfect match for you, then consider custom insoles down the road.
Our Top 2021 Picks for the Best Running Insoles
1. Best Overall: Physix Gear Sport Full Length Orthotic Inserts
These insoles from Physix focus on a number of factors:
- heel support
- walking pattern correction
- flat feet
- pain in the feet, knees, and lower back
They’re made with two types of foam: medical-grade Dual Base Layered High-Performance EVA and PU materials. This means they deliver a whole lot of function while being light enough to not get in your way.
Physix insoles aren’t just for running: these powerhouses support you through rock climbing, ball sports, manual work, and more. They are designed with long-term use comfort in mind. You won’t have to worry about your feet getting tired as you trek up the side of a mountain.
2. Best Budget: Spenco Polysorb Cross Trainer Athletic Cushioning Insoles
These insoles justify their long name by specializing in shock absorption. This is just what you want when cross-training as you prepare for your next marathon. Cross training for runners is important for conditioning your muscles for race day.
Fortunately, these affordable insoles are up to the task. What makes them so great for cross-training is their flexibility. Materials include lightweight polysorbate polyurethane foam, combined with 4-way stretch fabric and nylon. When you move, they’ll move with you.
As an added bonus, they’re antimicrobial, so fewer odors will linger after your workout.
3. Best Cushioning: Currex RunPro Insoles
You’ll notice right away that these insoles have multiple parts. The colors on these insoles perform different functions. The blue minimizes the shock from footstrikes while the grey supports your arch. Lastly, the orange redistributes the strain on the foot and lowers overall stress on it.
The curved design around the heel keeps your feet in place, with enough stability to save you from injury. Sturdier than the Spenco insoles, the Currex brand makes support their main focus.
If you’re using them for more than running and are on your feet all day, insoles with maximum cushion are the way to go. While the ones featured are for medium/neutral arches, these are also available in high and low profiles.
4. Best Stability: Superfeet RUN Comfort Sport Insole
As the name suggests, the Superfeet RUN insoles are designed specifically for running. We can’t have you sliding all over when training for a marathon!
They get that stability from their own technology called an EVOLyte stabilizer cap. This enables flexible support and features a deep heel cup to cradle your foot. Finally, they include a heel impact pod made of gel to disperse impact.
Superfeet is great for making a variety of running insoles for different arch types. Plus, they come with moisture wicking and odor control.
Can I Wash My Running Insoles?
Most insoles are just fine to wash. We recommend hand washing them in warm water with a small amount of gentle laundry detergent. Rinse with cold water, then let air dry.
Do not wash these in a machine. A dryer is also a no go. The rough tumbling combined with the high temperatures will be an easy way to warp them out of place. This exposes you to injury down the line and can knock the arch support out of alignment. Don’t do it!
Choosing the right running insoles for running shoes is the easiest way to make sure you’re efficient and supported when you step out to run. Be sure to check out our marathon training plans to get you in your best shape.