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The Best Custom Insoles, an Ultimate Guide

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Have you been struggling with foot pain and want to know if finding the best custom insoles will help ease your pain? Perhaps your back and your knees hurt, or possibly you feel like your shoes are wearing out more on one side than the other. All of these symptoms indicate that you might need custom orthotics. These help support your feet and make your daily time spent walking, running, or standing more comfortable. 


Many people confuse orthotics with insoles, but these are not the same items. Custom orthotics are made just for you and are designed to help you to move correctly. They help with each footfall and to balance the weight of your body over your feet correctly when you are standing.

What are Custom Orthotics and Insoles?

Custom orthotics and insoles are very different from the insoles that you can get at the store to slip into your shoes. Those are simply foam inserts that provide a small amount of cushion to your shoe’s existing sole. Custom orthotics are made from a mold of your foot and fit you exactly. These are items that help alleviate pressure on your feet, correct gait abnormalities, and treat painful conditions like plantar fasciitis, bursitis, or ankle and back pain.


Custom orthotics are made from various materials depending on your unique needs and are designed to be as supportive or as soft as necessary. This takes care of your specific kind of foot pain. You will wear these items to train your feet to perform their job more effectively when you are in motion. Plus, they will cradle your feet correctly to alleviate poor shoe fit when you are standing still.


Custom orthotics are so much better and more effective than generic insoles that you cannot place these items into the same category. You will find that no generic insole that you can buy from the store will help with your very flat feet, extremely high arches, or gait problems that are leading to pain.


Custom orthotics are a very advanced and specific item that will help you to achieve the foot comfort that you have been desperate for.

Best Custom Insoles

Shouldn’t Shoes Take Care of the Needs of My Feet?

It can be true that a better-quality shoe that is properly fitted might make your feet slightly more comfortable than they are today. Shoes that come off the rack are not made for any kind of specific need. They are designed to fit many people and to work for lots of general kinds of use. This means that people with very flat feet, people with very high arches, or people with gait problems and other health conditions that impact the feet will not be comfortable in generic shoes.


While you could have custom shoes made for each need that you might have, this is a very arduous process and shoes will break down over time. This can lead you right back to foot pain problems. This is why orthotics are so effective. These are treatment devices just as much as they are comfort devices. They will help your feet to heal at the same time as they take care of your comfort and the balance of your foot inside your shoe.


No pair of shoes will ever be designed to offer you what a custom orthotic can. Custom orthotics are designed to make up for the things that your shoes lack. You will have a much better experience with any closed-toe pair of shoes that you own if you have custom orthotics to help with the fit and function that they can offer you.

Types of Custom Insoles

There are a few types of orthotics and the survey that you fill out when you order yours will guide the determination that is made as far as materials and the necessary design for your unique foot pain needs. You will have made a mold of your foot that will be sent in to the company making these custom orthotics or insoles for you (more on this later) and they will have your exact measurements of your feet.


Certain kinds of foot pain and gait issues will require specifically designed orthotics. This means that you might get a pair of orthotics that is more rigid than someone with a different need. This is normal and should not concern you.


The different kinds of orthotics are specifically crafted to help you with your foot pain needs and to resolve your issues.


  • Rigid
    • When you have issues with the control of your foot below the ankle, this is the kind of orthotic that will be made for you. This is the orthotic design that handles supination or pronation and can help improve gait abnormalities of other kinds as well. Your back and knee pain can be improved through the use of this kind of orthotic. The slightly more rigid support of the orthotic will train your foot to travel in a more correct flight path.
    • These kinds of orthotics are made of polyurethane plastic or ABS in most cases. There will be foam and microfiber layers added on the firm base. Your feet will be comfortable as you wear your orthotics every day.
      • Consider the following:
        • The base layer that is rigid and supportive will usually be made using a 3D printer or another means of crafting a perfect set of curves and shapes into the support layer of your orthotic. This can sometimes be a task that is done by a third party. Then the rigid layer of the orthotic will be sent back to the maker you ordered from to be made into a complete custom orthotic for your needs.



    • While it might sound like rigid orthotics will be uncomfortable, your foot may not travel smoothly and with even pressure through each of your strides. You can even be causing damage to your knees and inflaming your lower back. Runners might have shin splints or knee pain issues and you could have problems with coordination or tripping and stumbling.
    • The rigidity of these orthotics is critical for them to help you to improve your gait and control your pain and discomfort. You will not feel like the orthotic is stiff or rigid when you use it because of the comfort layers that will be placed around the firm base.
  • Soft
    • This kind of support is made for those who need shock absorption for the whole foot. This might be the kind of orthotic that is made for you if you have bursitis problems. It is also often used if you have diabetes or other health conditions that are leading to your foot pain or to risks of foot ulcers and other skin problems. This can also be the right choice for people who suffer from corns and bunions that are not the result of gait issues.
    • When you get a soft orthotic, it will still feel much sturdier than an insole that you can buy at the store. This is still a device that is intended to help your feet to distribute weight more evenly as you walk or stand. The softness of the layers of this kind of orthotic does not mean that it was not carefully layered together to match the specific shape of your foot.
    • Soft orthotics are the least commonly made items in this category since almost everyone who needs an orthotic support base for their feet will also have gait issues. They also likely have some problems with the arches of their feet that necessitate a more supportive layer inside the orthotic. The survey that you complete when you order your orthotics will dictate a lot about this part of the design of your orthotic. So if you are sure that you do not have gait issues or any kind of problems with the arches of your feet, this needs to be reflected in your survey.
  • Semi-Rigid
    • This is probably the most common style of custom orthotic that might be made for you. You will get a blend of soft and weight distributing materials along with a more rigid insert layer. This will support a high arch or match your very flat feet. You might also need adjustment for slight pronation or supination that is not yet causing issues with back or knee pain.
    • Semi-rigid orthotics will have their supportive layers made from plastic, leather, or in some cases a sturdy foam. This is the most common of the orthotic styles for use in those that play sports. This is because a more rigid orthotic might be too stiff for lots of running, jumping, and other athletic endeavors. You will still get the right amount of support with a semi-rigid orthotic without the stiffness that is needed to work on severe gait issues or foot shape problems.
    • This is also the kind of orthotic that will be made for those who are not interested in playing sports but who do not need rigid orthotics to help with their foot’s flight path and to treat issues with conditions like plantar fasciitis. Semi-rigid orthotics are very versatile and can help you to enjoy any kind of activity with much more comfort than ever before.
    • Rigid and semi-rigid orthotics are not suggested for those with diabetes, due to nerve-damage and the possible resulting injury of wearing them.
Different Types of Insoles

What Are Some Conditions That Can Be Improved With Custom Insoles?

There are many foot conditions that can be helped with custom orthotics use. You might not even realize that you can get help with the conditions that make your feet painful and make it hard for you to engage in your favorite activities. Foot pain can come on slowly over time and many people who struggle with foot discomfort believe that this is normal and is related to working out, standing or walking too much.


While foot pain can happen when you do not have a foot or gait condition that is the root cause, the kind of foot pain that you are probably dealing with never really goes away. When you have foot pain that plagues you each day, you probably have a gait issue or an arch problem that is leading to it.


The best option for daily foot pain that does not resolve is to support your foot shape and your gait in a more effective way through the use of custom orthotics and insoles. This technology has become increasingly effective at alleviating these kinds of pain. You will probably be shocked at the improvement in your comfort as soon as you start using your custom orthotics or insoles.


These are the most common foot conditions that can be improved with the use of custom insoles. There are other foot issues that can be treated through the use of these custom devices as well that are not included in this brief list.


  1. Bunions
    • This can be a very painful condition that is often caused by the toes being pressed into too small of a space. This might happen due to shoes that are too small but it can also be the result of other problems with gait or with the arches in your feet. This condition causes pain and swelling in the ball of the foot behind the big toe. Over time, this joint can become so damaged that surgery is needed to correct the problem.
    • A custom orthotic can help keep your toes separated and make it possible to alleviate pressure on the inside of the foot and against the toes. When you have narrow heels and flat feet, this might be a common outcome for you when wearing regular shoes without any special support. This is one of the places where custom orthotics shine.
  2. Hammertoe
    • This condition happens when very flat feet lead to toes that always have to grip at an odd angle but it can also be a genetic condition. This problem can lead to pain at the front of the foot as well as gait issues that can cause heel pain. Your custom orthotic will make sure that your toes are given the room to flex and bend as they should. It can also support your heel and make sure that your foot is not being injured by gait issues related to your toe problem.
  3. Plantar Fasciitis
    • One of the most common conditions associated with very flat feet, this condition can also impact those with very high arches in some cases. This is an inflammation of the tissue and tendons that connect the ball of the foot to the heel. This condition can lead to pain so severe that even lying down is painful.
    • Orthotics are very good at relieving the pain of plantar fasciitis by supporting the arch of the foot correctly and by allowing for proper flexion of the foot with correct support as you move. A custom orthotic can also improve the distribution of the weight of your body over your feet when you are standing. This is one of the most common reasons that people seek help from custom orthotics and plantar fasciitis is almost always easily treated with this solution.
  4. Diabetes Pain
    • Diabetics can deal with all kinds of foot pain problems that are hard to treat. Some of these conditions are related to neuropathy causing gait issues and a lack of awareness of pressure on the foot which can lead to sores that will not heal. Custom orthotics are perfect for treating this kind of problem because they support the foot and help with gait issues. They also alleviate the pressure that could lead to sores or other kinds of problems like corns. However, it is important to note that rigid and semi-rigid orthotics are not suggested for those with diabetes, due to nerve-damage and the possible resulting injury of wearing them.
  5. Pronation and Supination
    • These are opposing conditions related to gait issues. Supination means that you walk on the outsides of your feet too much and pronation means that you walk on the inside of your feet too much. Both conditions can lead to lots of pain in the knees and back as well as shin splints, heel pain, and general foot pain. This discomfort is more obvious in some cases in those that are very active. However, you could have trouble with foot pain due to these issues just walking around some each day.

Orthotics can help to redirect the gait that you use when you are walking and running. You will be much more comfortable as soon as your feet start to get used to walking in a correct, and level fashion. When your feet travel from the heel to the toe correctly, you will be much less likely to deal with other kinds of physical discomfort as well as foot pain.

How Do I Get Measured for the Best Custom Insoles and Orthotics?

When you decide that it is time to invest in some custom orthotics, you will need to do a few things. The company that you decide to order from will send you a kit that includes everything that you need to measure your feet and guide the creation of the perfect orthotics for your needs. You will need to follow the directions closely that are included with the kit to make sure that you are not missing any steps.


It is usually a good idea to fill out the survey or questionnaire first. This will ask questions about any health conditions that you have, your usual activities each day, and the kind of foot pain that you are struggling with on a regular basis. You will want to answer all of these questions as carefully and accurately as you can to ensure that you get the right kind of support built into your orthotics.

Bilt Labs Custom Orthotics

Order A Custom Orthotics Kit Online

The kit will come with an impression molding kit that will allow you to take an impression of each of your feet. These are much simpler to use than you might think. You will simply need to place the mold somewhere level, and take off your shoes and socks. Step evenly into the mold with each of your feet and be careful not to push your foot into the mold with the foot flat. You will want your feet to be in their natural resting position when you take your foot mold.


Once you have completed all of this information and taken your foot molds, you will use the directions in your kit to package them both up and send them back to the company that you are working with. The time that it can take to make your orthotics might vary depending on the season and the amount of support that you require, but you will usually get your orthotics back in the mail quite quickly.

Do I Need to Know my Foot Size in order to get the Best Custom Insoles?

While the molds that you have taken off your feet will tell the maker of your orthotic what your foot size is with a lot of accuracy, it can be helpful to relay what size shoe you have been wearing in your survey. If you are not sure what your correct shoe size is, you might actually have been wearing shoes that are too small or too big for your needs.

If you are not really positive about your shoe size, you can head to any sports gear store or shoe shop and they should be able to measure you correctly. You will then know what your actual shoe size is, the kind of arches that you have in your feet, and the width of your heel and the ball of your foot. This can help a great deal with getting the right size shoes to use with your new orthotics. It can also be helpful information for the company that is making your orthotics.


You will also need to be sure that you are not telling them what size of shoe you would like to fit into but do not actually wear. Sometimes people are hopeful that their orthotics will make it possible for them to fit into a different shoe size or a different shoe style, but this is not going to be the case. The size and shape of your foot will not change due to wearing orthotics, so you will need to be certain that you have a good idea of your overall foot shape and your overall foot size before you order your custom orthotics.


Some custom orthotic makers, such as Bilt Labs, can tell you what your shoe size should be based on your foot mold impression.

Do I Need To Wear special Shoes With My Custom Orthotics?

The only rule of thumb for use of orthotics with shoes is that the shoe needs to be an enclosed shoe with laces for the best fit and comfort. You will find that you cannot make your orthotics stay in place in heels or in shoes like flip-flops, and you should not try to make them work in this way.


You will want to wear your orthotics in closed-toe shoes like sneakers, that fit correctly and offer you support for your daily activities. Heels and flip-flops are not considered supportive shoes. They can even be part of the reason that you are dealing with foot pain each day. Make sure that you are wearing your orthotics with the right kind of shoes that have laces and a closed toe for the best experience with them.


Most people who have uncomfortable feet or painful foot conditions are already wearing shoes like this each day in any case, but it is a fair point to note.

What if I Already Have Arch Supports in My Shoes – Will I Really Need The Best Custom Insoles?

If you have purchased over-the-counter arch supports for your shoes, you can usually remove these items before putting your orthotics into your shoes. The arch supports that were built into the shoes will be mild enough to be no trouble for the orthotics. But you can cause damage to the orthotic by adding it to a shoe that has an additional glued-in arch support or insole in it.


Most of these over-the-counter solutions will not provide meaningful assistance with your foot pain or gait issues anyway and can be removed from the equation entirely since they are not helping your condition. If you do not have the ability to remove these added items from the shoes, you might need to get a new pair of shoes to use with your orthotics once they arrive. You do not want to warp or bend your orthotics the first time you wear them and having the right base for their use is critical to their success in helping with your foot pain.


Another consideration that you need to remember is that you might have added insoles to try to make shoes that did not really fit work for your needs. Even if you remove the added insoles or arch supports that you put into these shoes, if they are the wrong size for your feet, they might damage your custom orthotics.


It is always a good idea to just get a new pair if you are worried that anything that was added to the shoes you have been wearing might impact the effectiveness of your new custom orthotics.

What if My Custom Insoles Make My Feet Sore?

This is not an atypical thing to experience when you first use your orthotic insoles. Your feet might need a little time to adjust to the change that you are asking them to make. This is particularly true if you have a gait issue that has been going on for some time.


It is usually recommended that you wear your custom insoles or orthotics for a few hours each day and slowly build up to wearing them all the time. Your feet will slowly get used to this new way of walking and being supported. And as the inflammation that you have been dealing with heels, your feet will get increasingly comfortable. In some cases, you might need to take a couple of weeks to help your feet recover from being uncomfortable or painful and to allow them to get used to the new support of your insoles.


Slowly increasing the use of your insoles will also allow your feet the time to gain new flexibility and strength that was missing before. This can make all the difference in your foot comfort as you introduce your new insoles or orthotics into your routine. Some kinds of foot issues and gait problems can lead to a breakdown of fatty tissue at the heel and the ball of the foot which can take some time to recover as well.


When you allow your feet the right adjustment period, you will find that your orthotics or insoles will immediately start to improve your discomfort and help alleviate your pain. Adding slowly to your exercise schedule can also help slowly heal your feet and train them to be comfortable with your new insoles.

If you have been struggling with foot pain or knee and back pain for a long time, it is likely that custom insoles are your best bet for alleviating this pain. You might have a gait issue that has not been diagnosed correctly, or maybe you have very flat feet or very high arches. These conditions can all lead to daily foot pain that grows worse over time and can eventually become debilitating.


When you are considering options for the treatment of your foot pain, you need to look at custom insoles as a great solution for your needs. Fully supporting your foot in a way that regular shoes cannot is a key aspect of supporting a healthy foot that is pain-free. While shoes are made in many general sizes that work for lots of people, average shoes sizes and designs might not provide the support that your unique foot shape or gait requires.


There is nothing wrong with this and your shoe fitting woes can be ended with ease if you invest in some custom insoles. Imagine being able to walk, run, or stand without foot pain each day. This kind of pain-free daily experience is possible with custom insoles! Take our free quiz today to find out which orthotic type is best for your feet.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any decisions about your health. If you have any questions about your health or are experiencing any medical problems, please contact your doctor or other healthcare provider immediately. Do not delay seeking medical attention based on the information provided in this article.