- Dec 4, 2018 at 4:06 pm #3567357
Wondering if anyone else is dealing with — or has successful solved — my issue. I have rather flat feet and tend to pronate, especially as I get into lighter-weight shoes. Trying various combinations of shoes and insoles. If you have fallen/low arches, what has worked for you? My go-to boots are Lowa Sesto boots that hold my feet in position pretty good. As I try trail runners and light weight hikers, I haven’t found any that seem to give good support. Your thoughts?Dec 5, 2018 at 3:07 am #3567475
Diane PinkersBPL Member
@dipinkLocale: Western Washington
I have flat arches, high volume thick insteps, square forefoot, with short toes, and my second toe is longer than the big toe. I joke that the shoebox would fit my foot better than the shoes. I love zero rise shoes, and wear either Altra Lone Peaks or Timpanogos on and off the trail. What sort of support are you looking for?
I often think that the notion that your foot “shouldn’t” pronate, and that you “need” support, is an industrialized, Western perception. If I have pain in my arch, it plantar fasciitis, it means that my calf muscles are tight and overworked, not that I need more support. I have more pain from crowded toes that I do from lack of arch support.Dec 5, 2018 at 3:18 am #3567481
Thanks. Useful comments — I am meaning to try Lone Peaks. By over-pronation, I mean that my heel is not stable and my foot moves around some inside the shoe, flattening toward the inside, which makes walking uncomfortable. I do not have plantar fasciitis (glad of that) — just looking for a shoe.insole combination that keeps my foot fairly stable so I can walk comfortably. I am going to try Superfeet Trailblazer insoles — should arrive tomorrow.Dec 5, 2018 at 7:07 pm #3567559
I think the best insoles out there are the Powerstep Pinnacles. I found them at a medical device-oriented pharmacy but you can buy them online. The cushioning is unlike any other brand and so far it appears that the cushioning does not flatten and it is one of the only insoles I have ever seen that has sufficient cushioning in the forefoot. The plastic arch shape is similar to brands like Sole or others like that.
I do like the zero-drop Altra Timps, mostly for the footbox. I’ve enjoyed hiking in minimalist shoes and sandals of all kinds. In the end, my feet get really sore on long walks so good cushioning helps me go longer and if shoes are too minimal, I actually get burned on the bottom of my feet walking on hot pavement or rocks. So I don’t go for minimalist unless I wear sandals, and so far the only sufficiently cushioned minimalist sandals I’ve found are Luna Monos. The Altra Timps with their enormous cushioning are my favorite hiking shoes and I only put the Powerstep Pinnacles in them to walk around town.Dec 5, 2018 at 7:54 pm #3567567
Diane PinkersBPL Member
@dipinkLocale: Western Washington
That’s interesting, Piper, because I have wondered about replacement insoles for the Timps, but haven’t tried it because of the unusual shape of the foot box–I figured it wouldn’t fit, and my toes would be hanging off the sides of the foot. Maybe I’ll try some, because I would like just a little bit more arch sometimes.Dec 6, 2018 at 8:01 am #3567753
Bob ShuffBPL Member
I get custom orthotics from a podiatrist every year because my medical insurance allows it. I’ve asked him for ones with extra cushioning in 2017 because I was prepping for a Philmont Trek last summer. I have a collection of them now, and although the technologies change a little each year, but they all seem to work fine for a few years, and are mostly interchangeable in my shoes.
When I started wearing orthotics over 10 years ago it changed my everyday show wearing, in that I only buy shoes where I can replace the insole, and I buy larger shoes because the stability does not require a tight fit. I wear my casual shoes loose – I often can slip them on and rarely untie them. This works for casual hiking, although I tighten the laces when going downhill for any distance.
You have to be careful on shoe selection because some removable insoles are VERY thick, and by removing them you lose a lot of the shoes’ intended cushioning. Some are very thin, and depending on the orthotic it may make the shoe fit poorly or tight. It’s best to try the shoes with your orthotics, but I often order shoes online after I’m familiar with the brand and how it fits me. I really wanted the Topo Athletic shoes to work, but they did not fit me with the orthotics too lose on the heel or too tight on the foot volume. In general, though, good orthotics seem to make more shoes work for me than the standard insoles.
I’ve found maximum cushioning shoes work well for me. I had a pair of Hoka One One first, but the toe box was tight. I hiked with the NB Leadville for a season, and still use them casually. Lately I’ve been hiking in the Altra Timp Trail. Let me say that I tried the Lone Peaks, and took the new pair I had from Roadrunner to my podiatrist appointment, and he said they looked like they were defective – forcing a bad overpronation. I took them back to the store, and found the next pair similar. That’s when I upgraded to the Timp Trail and have been happy with them.
My son got custom orthotics from Roadrunner. They aren’t as cushioned as mine, but he doesn’t seem to need that. He liked them better than the superfeet and sole brand insoles sold at REI.Dec 6, 2018 at 8:49 pm #3567830
D MBPL Member
@farwalkerLocale: What, ME worry?
I have had the exact same thing, starting with overpronation of my right foot then my left and terrible PF for years and like someone wrote above it’s been mostly “cured” by paying regular attention to my tight legs/calves. And finally, after a decade of buying every insole on the planet (seemed like it!) I found that Oboz fit the bottom of my foot. But because I have so many miles and been on my feet so much of my 60 years the docs tell me that I have no fat pads left. Hence the instinct to “pad” everything with inserts. I’m sick of them, seriously…to have to spend $$$ and then more $$ (including custom 500 dollar inserts from a physical therapist that I eventually “outgrew”) on both shoes and pads I decided to just use the Oboz that work and not line the pockets of any more doctors and insert companies and just be more aware of when I need to work on my legs. Meanwhile, I pray that Oboz doesn’t change their lasts or go out of business, cause that’s the way it usually goes when one finds shoes that work….they go away! I have a drawer full of $$$ inserts still, I could open an insert store.:-( My advice, in the end, is to make sure you do as many strengthening exercises as you can and to recognize any pain as the red flag that it is and STOP and correct it before damaging yourself farther. I was a long distance athlete for decades and we are taught to push on through pain and that resulted in what is now a lifelong PITB for me, don’t do it! If you feel like you need support while strengthening, get it, but also vary your regimen by going barefoot or using things like zero drop sandals or shoes every once in a while, this helps to strengthen your feet rather than creating crutches from supportive insoles and shoes. Our feet change a LOT with more miles, different sports and age so adaptation while strengthening is the way to go. If you are particularly athletic regular sports massage helps immensely as most injuries are caused by tight muscles, and practicing proper warmups/cooldowns and stretching can go a long way towards nipping problems in the bud. JMHO ;-)Dec 7, 2018 at 4:54 pm #3567944
The tight calves thing is really important. I had something really wrong with my right foot where the top of it hurt really bad. I couldn’t walk without severe pain. Sort of felt like my foot was coming apart. The doctor said the problem was actually tight calves and I should stretch them. I thought he was nuts, but I stretched them for a couple of minutes every morning. I was amazed that it worked. It comes back if I stop stretching or if I stop stretching and keep doing a lot of walking, because it’s not as bad if I’m lazy.
As for the insoles not fitting inside the Timps, yeah, sometimes if I try I can feel the edges a little bit by my outer toes, but not enough that I notice it while I walk around or hike.Dec 23, 2018 at 12:53 am #3569819
Patrick WBPL Member
A few years ago i started wearing minimalist and zero drop shoes because of knee pain. It got me to thinking about how the foot evolved without shoes, and how we have distorted the foot with pointed toe boxes and heels. When it comes to arch supports I wonder if immobilizing the foot arch is wise. First, the unencumbered arch can absorb the shock of the step. Second, immobilizing a part of the body always leads to weakening that part of the body. As I get older I find myself going to simpler and less when it comes to shoes. So far it is working for me.Dec 25, 2018 at 10:45 pm #3570062
My right foot tends to do the opposite of pronate, and eventually I wear out that shoe so bad that I’ll end up limping or walking weird. I noticed this first on the PCT and I’ve noticed it since. Shoes don’t really last very long before my right foot breaks them. I realized I could put a thick layer of hot glue down the side of one of these insoles and that would help keep my foot flat even after my foot has ruined my shoe. Next time I’m going to try just cutting a strip off the edge of the factory insole and gluing that to the edge of my insole.
My boyfriend has made his own insoles himself for years. That’s how I got the idea. You might consider making/modifying your own insoles.Dec 26, 2018 at 12:40 pm #3570099
Thanks to everyone for the great discussion. For some of us, foot comfort is the key to successful hiking. I have made some progress since my initial post. I have tried several types of insoles and the Superfeet Trailbazers seem to work pretty good for me. With them, I can wear lightweight hiking shoes, like Merrell Moabs, without discomfort for extended periods of time. That’s a big improvement. I had an old pair of Moabs that I wore out, but the new ones seemed wider and my foot flopped around too much. The Trailblazer insole stabilizes my heels and fills some of the extra volume. Nice stable fit without feeling tight.Dec 26, 2018 at 3:22 pm #3570105
Larry SwearingenBPL Member
@larry_swearingenLocale: NE Indiana
I have Flat Feet. I’ve been using off the shelf orthotic inserts since I got Plantar Fasciitis in my right foot in New Mexico in 2015. I went to a Podiatrist when I got home and he sent me to a high end shoe store locally to get some Inserts. They hooked me up with the Powerstep Pinnacles. It took me about 3 weeks to get used to the “teeter tottering” effect but everythng was fine after that. Eventually my other foot started aching from the high arch support and I bought another brand of Insert CurrexSole Low and use just the left foot insert. Problem solved, other than having to buy 2 pair of Inserts to get one usable pair. It seems to work fine for over a year now at least.
LarryJan 19, 2019 at 11:19 pm #3573914
Matt SBPL Member
I also have flat feet and used to wear custom orthotics. They solved a bunch of problems for me and I thought they were essential.
However, with the help of a running coach, some PT and zero drop shoes (Altras), I slowly transitioned away from othothics. I no longer need the orthotics. I run regularly and have gone on multi-day backpacking trips without using the orthotics that were once necessary.Jan 22, 2019 at 2:50 am #3574370
Norman NBPL Member
Howdy folks, first post here… so go easy on me! I worked in footwear at REI not long ago, so what I’m about to say comes from my training, personal experience from working with a whole bunch of people with various feet issues, as well as using Superfeet insoles in my own backpacking boots.
I think the most important thing to do when you think you need insoles is to talk to an expert. That means seeing a podiatrist. Sometimes, as has been mentioned above, you may just need to exercise or stretch of certain muscles. Other times you may have some serious misalignment issues that require orthotics to correct. The idea is to ensure that the bones in the lower leg down to your feet are in their optimal positions to ensure stability and reduce pain. One concept that I often see get confused is the difference between having a low arch and having a collapsing arch (over-pronation). If you have a high arch that flattens under your body weight, you may (though not necessarily) have an over-pronation problem. Alternatively, you may simply have a low arch from the start that does not collapse much under your body weight. The question that a podiatrist can answer is whether or not your bones are in optimal alignment under your body weight. It is very possible that your arch collapses INTO an optimal position.
With that said, I think most people don’t NEED aftermarket insoles, however one can still significantly increase comfort with good ones. Aftermarket insoles increase comfort primarily by increasing “support”. I put the term in quotation marks because it is such a vague term, and it is often difficult to determine what people mean when they use the term. If you’re standing barefoot on rocks, then the rocks are providing “support” for your feet, no?
Anyway, what I mean by support is that your body weight is more evenly distributed across your feet, thereby reducing the pressure on any particular point. If you were barefoot on a hard flat surface, you would likely have high pressure on your heels and balls of your feet. Pressure can be reduced with two methods. First, you can increase cushioning. This is what most cheap insoles you find at Walmart or drug stores do. The high pressure points under your heel and ball will compress the cushioning until the lower pressure points (like under your arch) make contact. This reduction in pressure under the heel and ball will generally increase your feet’s comfort.
The other method aftermarket insoles can increase “support” is by utilizing a contoured profile. In other words, the insole itself is pretty rigid or at least no more cushioned than your factory insoles. But it spreads your body weight more evenly across your feet because it is shaped like the bottom of your feet from the get-go. This is what Superfeet and Sole brand insoles do. These are preferable for hikers/backpackers because the insoles provides much more STABILITY under your feet than those that are highly cushioned. Cushioning is like having soft suspension on a car- it feels nice by absorbing shock, but it handles sloppily.
Superfeet makes their insoles in various arch profiles as well as cushioning thicknesses. A lot of people like the green ones, which have a high arch profile. I have the Superfeet “Trailblazers”, which are designed specifically for hiking/backpacking. They only come in one arch profile and thickness, but certain feetures (sic) make them trekking specific: They have a more rounded heel cup. This really helps reduce the pressure directly under your heel. The forefoot has two different densities to help reduce pressure under the balls of your feet. The heels have a little small patch of gel material, which help absorb some of the shock under your heel as well as help prevent the insole from sliding forward on descents.
Wearing Superfeets, I can honestly say they feel much better than the factory insoles in my Scarpa Kailash boots. The factory boots felt too flat on the inside. As designed, the insoles really do spread my body weight more evenly across my feet. Keep in mind, I had already done about 200 miles on the boots before putting the insoles in. Now, I can hardly imagine not putting in nice insoles when I buy new boots.
Of course, if you don’t want to add $55 insoles to your already expensive backpacking boots, you can always buy shoes that already have a nice supportive insole from the start. I’ve put SOOOO many people into Oboz shoes/boots. They have a real engineered insole in them. They work really well for people looking for arch support. Aside from the insoles, the boots themselves are of excellent quality and cannot be beat for the price either. The word is that Oboz and Superfeet are actually owned by the same parent company (I haven’t verified this).
Anyway, I hope at least something I said here was useful! lol Sorry if the post wasn’t focused enough.Jan 26, 2019 at 5:37 pm #3575183
Nick GrbaBPL Member
I’ve got severe pronation in my right foot and moderate in my left. I’ve used Superfeet green insoles in most of my shoes (casual, hiking, workout, etc.) for about 25 years with great results. FWIW – I’ve got custom orthodics in my ski boots and my combat boots I used to wear in my Air Force days.
My favorite backpacking footwear (w/ a pack weight around 30 – 35#), has been Salomon XA 3D Ultra 2. They’re very supportive for the weight. With a few exceptions, Salomon’s last tends to fit my fairly narrow feet best.Jan 28, 2019 at 2:43 am #3575444
Steven ThompsonBPL Member
John, what kinds of foot/knee/leg problems do you get? Me, I get blisters on the balls of my feet and I ended up with custom orthotics to get a high enough arch to prevent that for me. But what works for you could be quite different if you have a different issue.
As to trail runners these are also personal preference/need. There are barefoot shoes, super cushioned shoes, and shoes with a rockplate. What is best depends on what you need.Jan 28, 2019 at 6:18 am #3575470
Dale WambaughBPL Member
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
A good running shoe store can be really helpful. You want a shop supporting marathon and tri event runners. Anti-pronating trail runners is what I would start with. I prefer low top hiking shoes for better arch support and protection from stone bruising.
There are several brands of insoles out there and each feels a bit different, so it may take some trial and error. All are typically better than the stock ones. My podiatrist found that I need lots of padding, so I go with an antipronating shoe and a cushy insole.
If you can afford it or your insurance covers it, custom orthoics are great for flat feet. Get a referral from your MD for a good podiatrist or sports foot specialist.Jan 28, 2019 at 8:55 am #3575474
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
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