One of the most important things a runner should pay attention to is their shoes. But if you also wear orthotics or inserts, you should pay careful attention to these as well.
We know that shoes need replacing every year or every 500 miles. But how long do orthotics and insoles last?
Just like shoes, they are compressed every time you walk or run, so it’s important to make sure you replace them before they lose their support.
If you don’t replace your insoles often enough, the support and cushioning can fall flat. This means they’re no longer performing the job they’re meant to do.
In this article, we’re reviewing the lifespan of orthotics and insoles so you know when you should replace them.
Why Use Orthotics or Insoles?
Orthotics—also called insoles or inserts—are devices that provide extra cushioning, extra support, or both to your shoes.
If the shoes you’re wearing don’t provide the right support or cushion for your feet, you don’t have to go out and buy a new pair of shoes. You can simply use an insole to add support or extra cushioning.
When your feet are properly supported, you’d be surprised at how much better you perform—whether running, walking, or simply doing daily tasks.
What’s the Difference Between Orthotics and Insoles?
The words “orthotics” and “insoles” are often used interchangeably to refer to the same device. However, while they perform the same functions, there are slight differences.
Orthotics are the correct term for insoles designed by a specialist. They are often measured from and created to fit your feet.
Insoles on the other hand are general devices you find at the store. They work and often look the same but they haven’t been customized for your specific feet.
If you want to get the best support possible, choose orthotics. They’re more expensive, but your podiatrist will measure and possibly take a cast of your feet to create something exactly right for your feet. This also accounts for any structural differences between your left and right feet.
Insoles are cheaper, but they’re designed to fit a wide range of the market, not customized for you. Our general recommendation is to try insoles first and if they aren’t working, then try getting a more expensive pair of orthotics.
How Long Do Orthotics and Insoles Last?
The lifespan of your orthotics or insoles depends on a few factors. These include:
The Quality of the Insoles or Orthotics
The higher quality of the insoles can make a big difference to their lifespan. If they’re made of cheap polymer materials, chances are they’ll flatten more quickly.
Also, custom-made orthotics are usually much higher quality, as they’re made from more durable materials and won’t wear away much as they fit exactly to your foot.
To give you an idea, high-quality, full-length insoles can last anywhere from 6 to 12 months. These include orthotics and top-quality insoles like Superfeet or Tread Labs.
Lower-quality ones bought over the counter or at the drug store can last as little as a week to a month, depending on what you do when wearing them. If you run or do high-impact sports in these insoles, they’ll flatten much quicker.
They may last a few months if you’re only wearing them for daily activities like walking around. But you’ll be replacing them more often, which can cost you more in the long run.
Type of Insoles or Orthotic
Orthotics and insoles differ in their stiffness and their material. Soft insoles—often made of silicone, foam, or cork—are less likely to have a long lifespan. They flatten much faster from your body weight, and the materials naturally wear away quicker.
Rigid insoles and orthotics made of things like graphite, carbon, or plastic tend to last longer. They hold their shape better and bounce back when you take your body weight off them.
The Way You Use Them
They won’t last as long if you’re wearing your insoles to play sports. Especially if you’re doing things like running or playing basketball.
Sports’ repetitive, high-impact nature puts excess strain on the materials, so you’ll probably have to replace them sooner—in around 4 to 6 months.
If you’re just using them for everyday activities like walking through the mall or being on your feet for work, they’re likely to last a little longer—up to 12 months.
How Often You Use Them
If you’re using your orthotics to support your feet during everyday use, you should be wearing them every day. If you’re using them for sports or running in them, you’ll need to wear them every time you play that sport or run.
Some people use the same pair, but others buy three or four pairs, so there are insoles in multiple pairs of shoes so they can switch between them. This can increase the lifespan of your insoles!
If you wear them every day, they won’t last as long. But if you’re rotating them and wearing each one every third or fourth day, it can significantly affect how long they last.
Heavier people tend to be harder on shoes, the same holds true for insoles. They’re likely to wear out faster the heavier you are.
It’s important to check them on a regular basis because as they wear out, they’ll stop providing the support your feet need.
How to Know When Your Insole Needs Replacing
When should you replace your insoles? Here are some telltale signs that yours are spent and should be replaced!
They Begin to Hold Onto Smell
Insoles are designed to be washed lightly throughout their lifespan so they don’t hold onto smell. If they start to stink even once you’ve washed them, then you know it’s time for a replacement pair.
If bacteria is set into the insole, it will cause a bad smell even if you wash it. This is because you can only wash the insole’s surface, not the inside!
Their Structure Has Changed
If your insole shows signs of being deformed, then you need a new one. This could include cracks or tears in the material, being misshapen, or flattening. You may also notice that the top cloth of the insole is wearing away, although this is less worrying.
Once the structure of your insole has changed, it won’t provide support in the same way it used to. Continuing to wear them may lead to injury rather than support, as your foot is no longer supported in the right places.
You’re Having More Foot Problems
If your insoles reduced your pain in the beginning, but the pain is starting to come back, it’s a sure sign that the insole is no longer doing its job.
This is likely to be because the insole is worn out and needs to be replaced, but if the insole is new or doesn’t show any other signs of wear, then it may be a good idea to get your feet checked by a podiatrist to ensure that there’s no underlying cause.
You’ve Experienced Lifestyle Changes
Certain life events may change your feet. Foot trauma is one of them—if you broke your foot or had foot surgery. Other life changes that can make your insoles ineffective include pregnancy, significant weight gain or loss, or knee or hip surgery.
All of the occurrences change how your body weight is distributed across your foot. This means the insoles you were wearing before may not work as well as they used to, so it’s worthwhile getting new ones. Better yet, get custom orthotics so you know you’re well supported on every step!
How to Make Orthotics Last Longer
While you will need to replace your orthotics every so often, we all want to make sure they last as long as possible! Here are the best ways to ensure that yours have a long lifespan.
Get the Right Ones For Your Feet
If you’re wearing insoles that don’t conform to your feet, they won’t fit flush against your arch. This means that instead of them supporting your feet on every step, each step will cause them to flatten instead.
The pressure of your body weight will be placed on the part of the insole that shouldn’t be under heavy weight.
By getting ones that fit your feet properly, you’ll save yourself money in the long run! We highly advise getting your feet measured by a podiatrist and having custom orthotics made.
That way, you know they fit exactly to your feet and will support you in all the necessary places without being intrusive.
Get More Than One Pair
Investing in a single pair of insoles means you’ll need to move them from shoe to shoe every time you want to wear a different pair of shoes.
This can be tiresome, and it also means you may end up quickly pulling on a pair of shoes without thinking and going without your insoles inadvertently.
This isn’t the end of the world, but it does mean that your feet will be unsupported for that time. This could undo some of the supportive work the insole is doing, and lead to pain and fatigue in the feet.
By buying more than one pair and leaving them in your shoes, you’ll be protected no matter which pair you choose. They’ll also last longer as you won’t use the same pair daily.
Get Your Feet Re-Measured After Life Changes
If you’re pregnant—or were pregnant—gained a lot of weight, lost weight, or had foot injuries or surgery, it’s a good idea to get new insoles. You may not be able to tell if the structure of your foot has changed, but it’s best to err on the side of caution here.
Using the same old insoles, you’ve always used after a life event could cause pain or injury if your foot has changed. Rather be safe—go back to your podiatrist and get a new pair of custom orthotics made for yourself.