By: Andrew Forrest - June 2023
Hiking boot insoles are the connection between your foot and boot and can make or break a walk. Choose correctly and they can provide comfort, stability, support and help correct any biomechanical foot issues relieving painful feet, ankles and knees.
Embarking on an exhilarating hike is an experience like no other... the breathtaking views, the challenging trails, and the sense of achievement upon reaching the summit. But what if something as simple as your hiking boot insoles could make or break your experience? By choosing the best hiking insoles that suit your feet and boots, you can bid farewell to foot pain and discomfort, and fully enjoy the adventure that awaits.
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An average person takes about 2,000 steps for each mile walked, so that's a lot of friction created between your hiking boot and your foot, which is why it's important to choose the best hiking insoles and best hiking socks for your feet, to ensure that your hike is as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
In this article, we will guide you through the best walking boot insoles of 2024, factors to consider when choosing insoles, and how to properly fit, break in, and care for them. Say hello to unparalleled comfort and support on your next hiking adventure!
The Superfeet Adapt Hike Max insoles feel like they are part of your boots, with flexible, cushioned support that keeps you comfortable all day. They are designed with patented Adaptive Comfort Technology which means these comfortable orthotics flex and adapt to your foot's natural motion.
According to Superfeet, they are made specifically for hiking. I've been a convert to these over the last year for the majority of my walks.
If I'm going on rougher, more mountainous walks, I do swap over to the Superfeet Trailblazer Comfort, as I find the 2 layers of cushioning and heel impact technology pod, do protect my feet more on uneven ground.
It is always a bit of a compromise between the amount and thickness of foam used and still being able to feel stable on uneven ground and I just find the Trailblazer Comfort that bit better on rougher terrain and these Adapt Hike Max better for my other walks.
One of the main reasons for that is the responsive forefoot zone and the dual foam comfort layer make my feet less fatigued on longer walks. The inbuilt adaptive comfort technology also flexes with your foot.
There is an energising heel cushion that disperses impact on your heel area and reduces vibration, which in turn also reduces fatigue. Although this had a reasonably deep heel cup, some insoles do have better heel cups than this one to hold your heel firmly in place, but I encountered no heel slippage in wearing them. Because of all their positive features, if you did find there was any heel slippage, you could just try heel-lock lacing to keep them in place.
The top of the insole is covered in moisturewick, which helps keeps your feet dry and includes long-lasting odour control. Keeping feet dry is always key as moisture is one of the causes of blisters whilst walking.
Superfeet claims these are durable and deliver comfort and support for up to 12 months or 500 miles, whichever comes first. For the price, I guess it would be nice to think they could be made to last longer, but having said that I do use these for the majority of my walks now.
As an added bonus, as they are not too high, I do find these work well in my fell shoes as well, so can be moved easily between boots and shoes.
The Superfeet Trailblazer Comfort insoles stabilise your feet on uneven ground, enhancing your comfort on the walk even on the roughest terrains. They are available in men's and women's versions and according to Superfeet are made specifically for hiking.
There are 2 layers of Aerospring Ascent Dual Comfort foam that provide heel-to-toe cushioning, to help reduce fatigue.
It is always a bit of a compromise between the amount and thickness of foam used and still being able to feel stable on uneven ground and these hit the sweet spot in that respect. An ideal amount of foam, but still a very stable ride.
At the back of the insole is a deep heel cup that helps prevent heel slippage and your toes hitting the front of your boot. I have slightly wider feet than most and they gripped perfectly. Only one person I know who uses these said they'd encountered slight slippage, but because of the comfort was very happy to keep using them and just use heel-locking lacing to keep the heel firmly in place.
The heel bone is also well protected from impacts by a heel impact technology pod on the underside. The top of the insole is covered in moisturewick, which helps keeps your feet dry and includes long-lasting odour control. Keeping feet dry is always a bonus as moisture is one of the possible causes of blisters whilst walking.
Underneath there is an Evolyte Carbon Fibre Stabiliser Cap that provides support and stability for the trail. The additional support is provided by the medium to high arch support, which according to Superfeet is made in an orthotic shape to stabilise the foot on rough terrain, reducing stress on your feet, ankles, knees and back.
Superfeet claims these are durable and deliver comfort and support for up to 12 months or 500 miles, whichever comes first. For the price, I guess it would be nice to think they could be made to last longer, but having said that I do use these a lot.
The Superfeet Active Green insoles were one of the first Superfeet insoles and provide professional-grade support for your feet. They are designed for people with high arches, where the orthotic support helps stabilise the foot and reduces stress on feet, ankles, knees and your back.
According to Superfeet, they are an excellent choice for people with high arches, although Superfeet does similar versions for those with medium and low arches.
There is a deep heel cup that helps keep your foot in place and provides cushioning for your heels. The built-in stabiliser cap forms the base of the insole and provides structure and stability to the foam layer.
The foam layer itself is made of closed-cell foam and provides much-needed comfort. The insoles are also coated with an organic odour-control coating which helps eliminate bacteria to keep away those smelly feet!
These iFitna Plantar Fasciitis Arch Support Orthopaedic Insoles are designed to support your arch and relieve foot injuries caused by repetitive stress by cushioning, absorbing vibrations and moving pressure away from high-impact areas.
According to iFitna, these insoles help with heel pain, midfoot pain and forefoot pain.
I first bought these a couple of years ago when I had plantar fasciitis. I believe they helped with that in conjunction with stretching exercises. I did find them generally comfortable as an insole (helping with flat feet and overpronation) and being about one-third the price of Superfeet insoles, I do still use these on some shorter walks and for everyday use in training shoes etc, to give my Superfeet ones a rest.
For the price they are good value, but if your budget allows I would use and buy the Superfeet alternatives.
Pedag Viva Winter Insoles provide warmth and support and are ideal for those wanting more warmth in their boot without resorting to thicker or two pairs of socks.
Pedag says that they have an intermediate layer of special high-tech foam with thousands of closed-air cells for simultaneous insulation enhancement and impact cushioning.
This along with an aluminium underside made to trap heat and prevent warmth from exiting your shoe and the insole surface of pure wool are all designed to keep your feet warm.
Pedag Viva Winter Insoles also come complete with anatomically shaped arch supports, heel cushions and metatarsal pads.
I did find they added a few degrees of warmth to my feet, so probably ideal if that is your main concern. There are also insoles on the market that heat up, but I've struggled to find ones that also offer support.
But, as I don't really suffer from cold feet, I did find the couple of Superfeet insoles that I more often wear did provide more comfort, stability and relief for my feet on longer walks.
The line now between what is an insole and what is an orthotic insole is getting blurred and often the words are used interchangeably.
An insole is the part of a shoe or boot that lies under the sole of your foot and is also known as a footbed. In hiking boots and shoes, many of these are removable, but some are attached and cannot be taken out.
Superfeet Adapt Hike Max Insoles and Superfeet Trailblazer Comfort Insoles with hiking boots
If you have removable insoles, you can replace them with insoles specifically designed to give you more comfort and support and ones that can correct foot abnormalities and gait issues.
Other insoles are designed for particular activities or sports and have extra padding and support in the areas most impacted during these activities.
Basic insoles can be picked up on Amazon from around £5 upwards, but the ones above in our 'best of' list have been specifically designed to help with certain problems or just provide more comfort and support on your walk.
Orthotics were and still are prescription medical devices that you wear inside your shoes or boots under your feet, to correct biomechanical foot issues with how you walk. They can help to alleviate pain caused by plantar fasciitis, bursitis, arthritis, diabetes, flat feet, overpronation and supination. These were and still are custom-made for your feet by podiatrists. My first two pairs of insoles were custom-made ones.
Where the line has become blurred is that many insoles found in shops now have a lot more innovations built into them and are fashioned out of materials that attempt to do exactly the same job as the custom-made ones. The big difference between the two is the price, the insoles above range from around £20-£45, whereas custom-built insoles could be almost ten times that price.
Top and bottom of the Superfeet Trailblazer Insole
In my mind, these more high-tech insoles that correct biomechanical issues are really orthotics.
If off-the-shelf ones don't work for you, then you should see an expert podiatrist, where you will get a medical evaluation of your foot problem. They will usually take images of your feet, video and watch how you walk looking at how your feet, ankles, legs and hips move together. If they believe you need orthotics, they will make a mould of your feet, so you get that custom fit.
Custom made insoles
I've been a convert to over-the-counter 'orthotic' insoles now for almost 20 years and have quite a few different pairs between my hiking boots, fell shoes, training shoes and ordinary dress shoes.
Remember, if you have any medical conditions that affect your feet, such as diabetes, always check with your doctor first before changing insoles.
Both insoles and orthotics are shoe inserts, as they are put into your shoe, but here 'shoe insert' generally means any other insert put inside your boot to address a particular problem. They are often pads, cups or liners placed under your heel or ball of your feet.
As I do a lot of uphill walking, I have small gel inserts under my insoles just to raise my heel a little to relieve the pressure a bit on my achilles and calf.
Gel heel raisers
Many people, myself included, have issues with their feet and their gait. After many years of overpronation, whilst walking, I basically have flat feet. For me, this had a knock-on effect of causing knee pain, which I had for several years until I started wearing insoles. Since then the knee pain has completely gone and I now enjoy much more comfortable walks.
Insoles can perform a variety of functions helping to correct foot abnormalities, provide comfort and support when walking and help provide the right volume within your boot or shoe so that your foot is held stable.
So, when selecting your hiking insoles, it's crucial to consider factors such as which walking boots/shoes you will be wearing them in and what support they already provide, which socks you'll be wearing them with, arch support, comfort and cushioning, stability and alignment, durability and longevity, and odour control to help alleviate foot pain. How you tie your laces can also help alleviate many foot issues.
The importance of these factors cannot be overstated, as they contribute to the overall comfort and support you'll experience on your hikes. With the literally hundreds of insoles available on the market, understanding these factors will enable you to make an informed decision and choose the best insoles for your needs.
Let's explore each of these factors in more detail, and discover how they can transform your hiking experience from a painful ordeal to an enjoyable adventure.
Arch support in hiking boot insoles is essential as it serves as a shock absorber for the feet and facilitates even weight distribution. Insoles that provide cushioning and support are suggested for individuals with flat feet.
Those with a heavier body weight or carrying heavier packs should look for walking boot insoles with a robust heel, crafted from durable materials, and featuring cushioning and shock absorption that will not be compromised under pressure.
Proper arch support, including semi-rigid arch support, along with heel stabilization, is crucial in ensuring an even distribution of pressure across the base of the foot, thereby activating and engaging the muscles in your arch.
Remember to check what support your boot/shoe already offers and chose the insole accordingly. Also, if you have flat feet or a low arch, then insoles with high arches may dig in and not be suitable. We have shown the Superfeet Green above, but they do other similar insoles in different colour variations, where the colour rather than being some hidden fashion statement in your shoe, relates to certain features, e.g. medium arch support or low arch support.
Comfort and cushioning in hiking boot insoles provide softness and support to the foot, protecting it from shock and providing a comfortable walking experience. Insoles come with various types of cushioning, such as foam, gel, and air cushioning, each offering its own unique benefits.
When selecting cushioning and comfort for your walking boot insoles, it is important to consider your foot type, the terrain you will be hiking on, and your preferred level of cushioning and comfort. The right pair of insoles can make all the difference in reducing fatigue and ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable hike.
Stability in hiking boots means keeping your foot in place and avoiding rolling or sliding in your boot, while alignment corrects the positioning of the foot and ankle to reduce strain and fatigue. If your foot slides around, it can cause hot spots and blisters. Proper stability and alignment can be achieved by selecting a hiking boot insole that offers arch support and cushioning, as well as a secure fit that maintains the foot in the desired position.
This is done in conjunction with wearing the correct pair of hiking socks, which can also have a great impact on the comfort of your walk.
Ensuring proper stability and alignment while hiking helps in terms of comfort and support, as it can help prevent injuries and reduce fatigue.
Durability and longevity are important factors to consider when selecting hiking boot insoles. Durability refers to the capacity of a product to tolerate wear, pressure, or damage over time, while longevity is the duration of time that a product can be used before it becomes unusable or worn out.
Many manufacturers claim that their insoles typically have a lifespan of up to a year, depending on the quality of the inserts and the frequency of use. I've generally found this to be the case, as even though I usually alternate insoles between walks, so have 2 or 3 pairs going at once to let them recover, on average after about 12 months' use, I start to feel that I am losing the benefits they should be providing.
Odour control in insoles refers to any features that aid in the prevention or reduction of foot odour. A common method employed is the utilization of an activated charcoal foam layer that neutralizes and safeguards against malodorous aromas. Neoprene, ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), and latex foam are also commonly used in insoles for odour control.
If you find that doesn't work enough for you, you can try spraying them with some Grangers Odour Eliminator and then just allow them to dry naturally.
Before using a specific deodorising product, I just used a kitchen staple, and many people still do - bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). It works as a natural deodoriser that can help eliminate unwanted odours from your walking boots. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda inside the boots on your insoles, or remove them and shake directly onto them and leave overnight to absorb odours. The day after, remove the baking soda by shaking it out or using a vacuum cleaner.
Don't get mixed up with your baking sodas and baking powders. Baking powder is less effective than baking soda and you would need to use approximately 4 times as much of it, to get almost similar, but not quite as good results.
One other way to control odours from your insole or the inside of your boot is with a Boot Banana. It's a fun way (and they make excellent gifts for the walkers/hikers you never know what to buy for) to deodorise and help dry your boots. I was sceptical when I first bought one but I find they do work!
The Boot Banana Original Shoe Deodoriser is odour neutralising, moisture absorbent and has natural antimicrobial properties. Just leave it in your boot.
Insoles featuring moisture-wicking materials can also help keep feet dry and fresh during hikes, contributing to odour control and overall comfort. The less moisture, the less chance of forming blisters, which is one of the top tips for preventing blisters.
If they are damp after a walk, take them out and let them naturally dry in the air.
As with the deodoriser, one more fun way (and again they make excellent gifts for the walkers/hikers you never know what to buy for) to help dry your boots and insoles quicker is using a Boot Banana. The Boot Banana Winter Sports Moisture Absorbers help dry your boots and insoles a lot quicker. They are silica filled and absorb up to 40% of their weight in moisture.
Properly fitting walking insoles are essential for optimal comfort and support, so in addition to selecting the right size of insoles, it's important to ensure that your insoles are compatible with your hiking boots in terms of volume and width.
Besides choosing insoles that help with foot problems you may have, look for insoles that match the shape and volume of your walking boots, and consider trying different walking insoles to find the best combination for your needs. Some insoles come in 3/4 length, so that allows more room around your toes.
If your feet are narrow or low in volume, or your boots just feel a little too much on the roomy side, you can try a volume adjustor insole under your main insole. You can buy in a variety of thicknesses and are just flat, such as this Volume Adjuster from Superfeet.
3mm volume adjustor insoles
When selecting the appropriate size of insoles, one insole will cover a few shoe sizes. If your foot size is between ranges, go for the larger size as you can trim down to size.
When you have the insoles, they will then need trimming to fit your boot. On the reverse side of the insole, they often have size markings as a guide, which you can use to trim the insole.
What I find better though, is to remove the original insole that came inside the boot, as it is specific to that boot and use that as a template to cut around.
In the majority of cases, the new insole should simply then just replace the one that came with the boot. If you leave the manufacturer's insole in the boot as well, it will more than likely make the boot too tight, causing pain, friction and blisters and not let the new insole do its job of keeping your foot in the correct alignment, comfortable and supported.
One other option is to measure your feet using a ruler or tape measure to accurately measure the length and width of your feet.
Remember - it's possible to reduce the size, but not increase it, so exercise caution when trimming your insoles and keep checking whether they fit before cutting any more off!
Breaking in your hiking insoles is crucial for achieving the best comfort and support during your hikes. With my first pair of insoles, I made the mistake of wearing them out of the box on a long hike. The insoles were trying to correct the alignment of my feet to places they were not used to being in and I quickly ended up with tired aching and sore feet.
So, start by wearing your insoles around the house for a few days, ideally in your walking boots, allowing your feet to adjust to the new support and cushioning for up to 30 minutes at a time.
Gradually increase the distance and time spent wearing your insoles, eventually taking them on short outdoor walks before embarking on longer hikes. This process will allow you to get used to the insoles and help mould the insoles to the shape of your feet, ensuring a comfortable and secure fit during your hikes. Your muscles and ligaments need this time to acclimatise to their new position.
It's also essential to wear appropriate socks with your walking boot insoles in order to break them in properly. Socks can provide additional cushioning and support, as well as help prevent blisters and hot spots in your hiking shoes. Wearing the right combination of socks and insoles will make a significant difference in your overall hiking experience.
Taking care of your hiking insoles helps prolong their lifespan and ensure their effectiveness. To clean your insoles, follow the manufacturers' instructions, which are generally to handwash them with warm water and soap, gently scrubbing away dirt and grime.
After washing, you need to allow your insoles to air dry completely before placing them back in your walking boots. Avoid using heat sources such as radiators or direct sunlight for drying, as this can cause damage to the materials and compromise their performance.
Regularly inspect your insoles for signs of wear and tear. Many manufacturers recommend changing insoles every year or every 500 miles, depending on the quality of the inserts and the frequency of use. If you don't do this, you will notice a deterioration in performance.
By properly maintaining your walking boot insoles, you'll ensure that they continue to provide the comfort and support you need for all your hiking adventures. This should be done in conjunction with cleaning, drying and caring for your hiking boots as a whole.
Common foot problems such as plantar fasciitis, flat feet, overpronation and supination can cause discomfort and pain during hikes, but the right insoles can help alleviate these issues.
By addressing these common foot problems with the right insoles, boots and socks, you can enjoy a more comfortable and pain-free hiking experience.
Yes, insoles can help with plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the plantar fascia, is basically a pain on the bottom of your foot around your heel and arch.
Certain insoles are designed to have the correct amount of arch support, which distributes pressure more evenly and stabilises the bones within the arch, which means less stress, tension and pain for the plantar fascia.
Yes, insoles can help with flat feet. Flat feet, or fallen arches, are where your feet press flat on the ground. Many people have flat feet and they are usually nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, sometimes they can give rise to pain around your ankle, heel or the arch of your foot may ache.
Flat feet have also been suspected in contributing to back, hip or leg pain, ankle sprains and arthritis.
When choosing insoles for flat feet, it is important to choose an insole that is neither too rigid nor too flexible. An insole that is too firm provides little shock absorption, whilst an insole that has too much cushioning, generally lacks support, so doesn't alleviate the symptoms that can be caused by flat feet.
Wearing supportive insoles in your footwear helps give more structural support to flat feet, where the supportive arch of the insole takes over for the foot's fallen arches. This helps promote a healthy distribution of pressure in your feet, helps maintain proper foot alignment and thus reduces strain on your arch, so you're less prone to aches and pains.
Yes, insoles can help with overpronation. In a normal gait, as you walk, your foot moves naturally from side to side and this is key in absorbing shock and forces through your foot from the ground. This movement is called pronation. The neutral position is for your foot to roll inwards about 15 degrees.
If your foot rolls inwards more than that, then that is called overpronation. If you overpronate and you look at the bottom of your shoes or boots, there is more wear on the inner edge.
Overpronation over time can cause your feet to flatten and if you already have flat feet, you're more likely to develop overpronation.
Overpronation has been linked with heel pain, iliotibial band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, knee pain, back pain, achilles tendinitis and more. I certainly know from personal experience how it can cause knee pain, but also know that my issue was completely solved by using orthotic insoles.
Certain insoles that offer arch support and stability can help correct this overpronation, and reduce the associated pains.
Yes, insoles can help with supination. The opposite of overpronation, underpronation is more commonly known as supination and is where your weight roles onto the outer edges of your feet as you walk. If you look at the bottom of your shoes or boots, there is more wear on the outer edge.
Supination has been linked with ankle injuries, knee pain, back and hip pain and plantar fasciitis.
Certain insoles help prevent your foot from rolling outward, so stopping excessive strain on your ankles. Insoles do this by supporting your feet and distributing equally the pressure across your foot while ensuring that your alignment remains neutral. This stable base helps prevent alignment issues in your lower legs, knees, hips and spine.
Supination is less common than overpronation.
As mentioned above, when it comes to choosing between custom and over-the-counter insoles, there are benefits to both options.
Custom insoles/orthotics provide a more precise degree of support and comfort than over-the-counter insoles, as they are specifically tailored to the unique shape and needs of your feet usually by a medical professional. However, custom insoles are typically quite a bit more expensive and may require a visit to a podiatrist or a specialist for fitting.
On the other hand, over-the-counter insoles offer cushioning and support at a more affordable price point and are readily available at most footwear and sporting goods stores. While they may not provide the same level of precision as custom orthotics, over-the-counter insoles can still offer significant benefits for many hikers.
Author's original pair of custom made orthotics
Ultimately, the choice between custom and over-the-counter insoles will depend on your individual needs, budget, and preferences.
In conclusion, investing in the right hiking boot insoles can significantly enhance your hiking experience by providing comfort, support, and relief from common foot problems. By considering factors such as arch support, comfort and cushioning, stability and alignment, durability and longevity, and odour control, you can find the perfect pair of insoles for your hiking needs. Just remember to properly fit and break in your insoles, as well as care for them regularly to ensure their effectiveness and longevity.
So, before you embark on your next hiking adventure, take a moment to consider the importance of your hiking boot insoles. With the right walking insoles, you can complete your walks with confidence, knowing that your feet are well-supported and comfortable every step of the way.