Insoles or Orthotics-Which Do I Need?

Did you know that healthcare professionals estimate that 75-80% of people will experience foot pain at some point in their adult lives? Foot pain can have many different sources, but when you’re the one whose feet hurt, your biggest concern is how to get relief. Insoles and orthotics are often able to help alleviate foot pain and discomfort. It’s vital to get foot pain evaluated promptly. Your podiatrist will take several factors into consideration when deciding if insoles or orthotics can help you. Your assessment will include your medical history and a thorough examination of your feet, which may or may not include X-rays or other imaging studies.

Five indicators that you might be a good candidate for orthotics include:
    1. Your shoes appear to show uneven wear.
    2. You have issues with the arch of your foot—either weak or no arch (flat feet) or an overly high arch
    3. You are currently experiencing a fair amount of pain in your foot or heel
    4. You’ve recently had an injury to your foot, ankle, or lower leg
    5. You typically stand for five or more hours a day

A specific diagnosis of the problem causing your foot pain will guide how to resolve it.

Insoles vs. Orthotics—What’s the Difference?

Inserts that you place inside your shoes can have a beneficial effect, reducing pain and increasing comfort when you’re on your feet. Shoe inserts fall into two basic categories: insoles and orthotics. The purpose of insoles is to add cushioning to your shoes which helps feet feel better and can take pressure off a sore or vulnerable area. Orthotics, on the other hand, while they can also increase comfort, are aimed at repositioning your foot and redistributing weight in an effort to correct a biomechanical problem that is the source of foot pain.

The information below can help you decide the best type of insert for your individual foot and ankle problems.


Insoles are made with a variety of materials and designed for their purpose. For example, the issue may be having a job that requires you to be on your feet for long hours. And, because it’s natural for the fat pads on the bottom of your feet to get thinner as you age, using insoles will add an extra layer of material that helps cushion and serves as a shock absorber as you stand and walk, thereby decreasing the chances of foot pain developing from daily activities. Patients with a wide range of foot disorders and problems can benefit from insoles.

Some of the more common conditions that improve through the use of insoles include:

-Overly high arches  -Low arches or flat feet  -Bunions  -Heel pain/plantar fasciitis  -Neuromas  -Arthritis
-Sesamoiditis and other ball of foot pain issues

Insoles also have varying levels of rigidity, or stiffness, including:

Soft insoles are made from materials like gel and foam and are designed to cushion feet and relieve pressure and pain in specific areas. Soft insoles offload the impact on specific pressure points and protect vulnerable areas, like when you have a bunion or a sore on your foot.

Semi-Rigid insoles provide comfort and support. Fabricated using layers of soft materials reinforced by rigid shells, semi-rigid insoles increase stability and balance and provide cushiony comfort. Many people who experience foot pain when working out or enjoying athletic activities find the semi-rigid insole the most beneficial.

Even simply using an additional insole layer in your sneakers can help prevent sports injuries, like shin splints, and prolong the life of your athletic footwear.

Rigid insoles are generally meant to be worn in formal shoes. They help with aches and pains in your feet and reduce strain due to foot movement. Rigid insoles are made from harder materials such as plastic or carbon fiber. Rigid insoles are usually not recommended for extended wear.

On average, insoles last approximately six months, depending on how often you use them and how you care for them.

Two insoles we recommend are:

PediFix® GelStep® Full Length Replacement Insoles—made of 100% medical-grade silicone, these full-length insoles provide complete foot comfort by cushioning, absorbing shock, and relieving pressure on heels and metatarsal heads. These are highly favored by people who suffer from heel pain and benefit from additional arch support.

PediFix® SockLess® Terry Comfort® Insoles—do you like to go “sockless?” These plush terrycloth-topped insoles absorb moisture, keeping feet dry and cool. They offer a dual-layer design that makes them more comfortable than ordinary foam insoles. You can custom-trim them to fit perfectly in any shoe.


Orthotics are designed to reposition your foot in order to improve your gait and manage podiatric medical conditions generally caused by bone or structural issues within your feet. Often a podiatrist will recommend custom orthotics made from a mold of your foot. These can be expensive and are frequently not covered by health insurance.

Orthotics typically last longer than insoles. Since their goal is to help the internal working of your feet and correct improper alignment, orthotics may also relieve discomfort in your legs, knees, hips, and back. Depending on the type you choose the potential benefits orthotics offer include:

-Help restore more natural foot function  -Improve foot biomechanics  -Relieve pressure
-Offload uneven stress on specific parts of the feet

Some of the conditions orthotics address include:

-Bunions  -Plantar fasciitis  -Overpronation  -Flat feet  -Low or fallen arches  -Bursitis  -Arthritis
-Diabetic wounds and ulcers

PediFix is pleased to offer everyone affordable alternatives. If you suffer from any of the above foot problems, here are two of the many PediFix product solutions to consider:

PediFix® Action Orthotics™ 3/4 Length Arch Supports These arch supports feature our unique Forefoot Slant that limits pronation. The deep heel cup will help stabilize and align feet properly with ankles, knees, and hips. This style fits right on top of existing shoe insoles.

PediFix® Arch Cradles®  Arch Support is essential in treating and preventing heel pain issues such as plantar fasciitis and overall balance and foot health. Our PediFix Arch Cradles provide soft and comfortable support and padding to support weak and fallen arches and counteract the pain caused by flat feet. The three-quarter length fits easily into most shoes.

Get the Most Out of Your Inserts

A good first step to ensure your orthotics and insoles perform at the highest level is to confirm they properly fit. Order inserts based on the size shoe you wear. In some cases, inserts can be trimmed for a more perfect fit. If your insert is trimmable, follow these simple steps to cut it to the proper size:

    1. Remove the manufacturer’s insole from the inside of your shoe.
    2. Place your shoe’s insole on top of the new insert making sure that both the backs of the heels and inside edges are aligned.
    3. Use a pen to carefully trace the outline of the manufacturer’s insole onto the insert.
    4. Cut along the outside of the traced line.
    5. Insert the insole or orthotic into the shoe and test the fit. The insert should be able to shift about 1/16 of an inch (the width of a nickel) front to back in the shoe.
    6. If the insert curls up at the toe area of your footwear, take it out and trim a little more until you get the perfect fit.
Tips for New Insoles and Orthotics

Give new inserts a chance! It may take a week or two before they feel “normal” to your feet. They should not rub on the skin of your feet or cause any discomfort, pain, or pressure.

Follow the instructions that come with your inserts. Some are worn directly on top of the insoles of your shoes. For others, you may need to remove additional arch supports before putting the new inserts in your shoes. For best results and longevity, maintain them according to the included care and cleaning instructions.

Insoles and orthotics can be a safe, effective, and economical way to relieve foot pain and improve the biomechanics of your feet. This will result in greater comfort, and ease of mobility and can help prevent many common foot conditions from worsening.

If you have questions about how our products can support you, please call 1-800- PEDIFIX (733-4349) to learn more. Our product specialists are ready to support your needs! You can also visit our website for additional expert guidance and top products which support numerous foot and ankle conditions.