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Can I Wear Running Shoes Without Insoles?

Have you ever bought a pair of shoes only to find out that the more you wear them, the less comfortable they become? The insole may be to blame.

This small part of the shoe offers support and cushioning and helps to create the right fit. But if it’s not quite right for your feet, it can cause pain and discomfort.

You can buy a new insole to add to your shoe if necessary. But you may be wondering if you can wear running shoes without insoles at all. Do you need to replace them if you remove the insoles from your shoes?

Here’s all you need to know about insoles so you can make the decision for yourself.

What are Insoles?

Insoles are thin inserts that typically come with your shoes when you buy them. They sit on top of the midsole, and they’re often removable.

The point of these seemingly flimsy layers is to improve the fit of your shoes.

They add a little bit of volume, reducing the amount of space between the upper and the midsole so your foot fits snugly inside the shoe. A better fit means better performance and higher comfort! They also add some extra cushioning to the shoe for extra comfort.

Most running shoes come with removable insoles. You can also buy insoles at most sports or shoe stores. So if your shoes don’t support your feet adequately, it’s easy to buy insoles that offer better support and replace those in your shoes.

Usually, these insoles are full-length and can be cut down to fit your own shoes. These are known as “trim-to-fit” insoles. In some cases, you may find three-quarter insoles that are designed to provide cushion and support to the heel and midsole but not the forefoot.

If your feet need serious support that OTC insoles don’t offer, a podiatrist may recommend a custom-made set of insoles (also known as orthotics).

What are Insoles Good For?

Insoles provide support. But, they only truly work when they’re an excellent fit for your foot.

Wearing the wrong insoles can make you feel like the shoes are just not a good fit on your foot. It can even lead to pain that could hamper your exercise or just daily life.

Support

The right insoles support the feet and disperse pressure evenly so there are no pressure points. They also provide support for the foot muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Insoles are created with specific arch support. If you happen to have bought shoes that don’t quite support your arches, you don’t need to buy a whole new pair of shoes! Just swap out the insole for something that provides better support for your arch type.

Fit

Insoles are generally quite thin, but they can help you to get a better fit. Here’s a good way to understand this. Take one of your pairs of running shoes that fit you really well and remove the insole. Put it back on your foot and notice the difference!

Just those few millimeters can make the difference between a snug fit and a slightly loose fit. Ideally, you want a snug fit that doesn’t allow for your foot to move within the shoe.

If you choose to buy a separate insole, you can find both low-volume and high-volume insoles. This refers to how much space they take up in the shoe.

Got too much space between the upper and the bridge of your foot? Try a high-volume insole to bridge the gap. Got a pressure point on the top of your foot because it’s too tight? See if you can find an insole that’s thinner than the one that came with the shoe.

Comfort

Insoles may be pretty thin but just those few more millimeters of cushioning can make a difference to your comfort.

They help to absorb shock and give you a softer feeling underfoot. They can also insulate your feet to help you feel warmer in cold weather!

Should You Use Insoles When Running?

There’s no right answer here. It depends on you and your feet. That said, there are some good reasons to wear insoles.

Have a read and decide if running with or without insoles is the best choice for you.

Reasons to Run WITH Insoles

Helps Existing Foot Disorders

Have you been diagnosed with a specific foot condition? Or do you feel pain regularly that could be a sign of a foot condition?

Your shoes may make it worse if they aren’t supporting your feet properly. But using the right insoles can do wonders for reducing pain.

Those with foot conditions may feel more pain (in the foot, ankle, calf, and even knee and hip) if they aren’t using insoles.

The pain of foot conditions like plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia, heel spurs, and even shin splints can be alleviated immensely by just wearing an insole with the correct support for your foot and arch type.

Prevents Foot Conditions from Developing

If you don’t suffer from foot conditions, wearing supportive insoles can prevent them from developing over time.

Make sure the insoles you’re wearing support your feet in every way necessary. If you have high arches, choose an insole that keeps them properly supported. Those with flat feet should wear stability shoes, but a supportive insole will also help prevent the arch collapsing and putting pressure on other parts of the foot and leg.

Support

Even if you do have the right shoes for your feet, insoles provide an extra layer of support. In neutral shoes, they add more specific support for your arch type. When used in stability shoes, they complement the built-in structure of the shoe to give your feet extra stability.

Comfort

Wearing the wrong insoles (or no insoles at all) isn’t comfortable. You may not notice it immediately, especially if you’ve been wearing shoes without insoles or incorrect insoles for many years.

But the longer you wear them, the less comfortable your feet will be. Many people attribute this to aging, wear and tear, or other reasons. But the truth is, changing to effective insoles can supercharge the comfort of your shoes.

Shoes Last Longer

Insoles not only add a layer of support and cushion for your feet but also reduce the amount of wear and tear on the midsole of your shoes.

Insoles are much cheaper than a new pair of shoes! If you can extend the lifespan of your shoes by using insoles, you’ll end up saving money in the long run and having to replace shoes less often.

Reasons To Run WITHOUT insoles

To be honest, there aren’t that many good reasons to run without insoles. They aren’t excessively cheap (around $50 per pair of high-quality, properly supportive ones), so many may choose to forgo them just to save some money.

Here are a few circumstances in which you may not need to wear insoles.

You’ve Never Had Foot Problems

Insoles may not be totally necessary if you haven’t experienced any foot injuries or foot conditions. If your feet are in excellent condition, insoles other than what’s already in your shoes may be unnecessary.

But, using the right insoles can help prevent these types of conditions from developing later. You may not feel the pain from misaligned feet now, but as time goes and your feet and lower legs continue to be inadequately supported and misaligned, foot conditions can develop.

You Have Adequate Foot Support

If you remove the insoles from your existing shoes and they still support your arch adequately, give you enough cushion underfoot, and fit you properly and comfortably, then insoles aren’t really necessary.

We recommend assessing this very carefully, though, and taking note of how your feet feel after exercise. If your feet begin to ache or you suddenly develop pain in your ankle, knee, or hip, your lack of insoles could be the problem.

Also remember that while your feet may be comfortable without insoles now, that may change as time goes on. Reassess carefully on a regular basis, and if you start to feel that you’re not getting enough support, then consider using insoles.

What are Insoles Made From?

Foam Insoles

Foam is the most common material to find in insoles. It’s the most affordable material and is a good shock absorber. It’s also quite comfortable under the feet. However, foam isn’t the most long-lasting insole material.

If you choose foam insoles, you’ll pay less but you’ll have to replace them more often than if you choose a more pricey material.

Memory Foam Insoles

Memory foam is a more dense, effective, and expensive type of material than regular foam. It’s highly effective as the insole molds exactly to the shape of your foot. This helps you get support and cushion in all the places you need it most.

There’s less unnecessary wear and tear, as the majority of support is right where it’s needed. They last longer than regular foam insoles and are generally more comfortable and long-lasting as well.

Gel Insoles

Gel is an excellent shock-absorber. It’s also usually quite comfortable underfoot. Gel doesn’t pack out as easily as foam does, so it’s both comfy and durable. These insoles can also help improve the foot’s grip within the shoe.

They’re typically more expensive than foam, but considered to be worth it thanks to the durability and pain-relieving properties.

Air-Cushioned Insoles

Air-cushioned insoles offer exceptional cushion and comfort. They’re actually made of foam, but use pressurized air bubbles to cushion the foot and absorb the shock of impact.

Leather Insoles

Leather insoles aren’t great for cushioning, but they offer strong support for your arches. Choose these ones if you need a rigid, durable insole that keeps your arches in place.

Can You Run Without Any Insoles?

You can.

Most running shoes come with removable insoles. You can just take them out and not replace them with anything. Keep in mind that you may lose a little bit of cushion if you remove the insole, so your shoe won’t feel as comfy.

Here are some reasons you may choose to go without insoles:

Get a Good Fit

If your shoes feel slightly too tight, removing the insole will give you a little extra space for relief. Remember that it may also remove the support and structure your arch needs, but it does depend on the shoe.

Also, if your shoe isn’t too tight for you, removing the insole without replacing it could make your shoes feel too loose. You’ll have to wear thicker socks, or simply get in the habit of buying shoes a little tight if you plan to remove the insoles completely.

Make Space for Foot Support Gear

If you’re using things like toe spacers, metatarsal pads, or other support accessories, removing the insole can give you slightly more space to use them comfortably.

Tips for Using Insoles

We highly recommend investing in a pair of insoles that suit your feet and provide you with excellent support and comfort.

Another great thing about insoles is that you can usually move them from shoe to shoe. If you find the right insole for you, you can use it in every pair of shoes you wear, to make sure your feet are always properly supported.

Here are a few tips for using insoles and making sure they last as long as possible.

  • Test shoes without insoles and then with the existing insoles.
  • If you buy insoles, cut them carefully to the size of your shoe. Rather cut too large first and work your way down slowly, than cut too small.
  • After each use, take your insoles out to air dry.
  • Wash your insoles regularly with cold water and mild detergent, and allow them to air dry.
  • Choose insoles for the activity you’ll be doing when wearing them. Insoles for running aren’t the same as insoles for casual walking.
  • Insoles last about twice as long as shoes. When they aren’t providing adequate support anymore, it’s time for a replacement.

Bonus Tip

Insoles aren’t magic! Don’t expect insoles to fix or prevent any foot issues. If you already have foot problems, check with your doctor before choosing an insole.

If your feet are healthy, wearing insoles that offer the best support for your arches and keep you comfortable will most likely prevent running injuries and other foot and leg problems that are often associated with misalignment.

But be aware that wearing comfortable, supportive insoles instead of what comes with your shoes won’t necessarily prevent foot problems from developing. For example, metatarsalgia can develop from excess pressure on the forefoot from jumping movement.

Your insoles can provide support, but won’t necessarily prevent overuse injuries or foot problems associated with things other than support and alignment.

The Wired Runner