How to Choose Hiking Insoles

Hiking Insoles: Up-close image of hiker's feet on a ledge in a North American national park

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Are insoles, those little shoe inserts designed for comfort and support, really necessary for hiking and backpackers?

You’ve heard some swear by insoles, while others say they can do without them. It’s a debate that’s raged on for years among outdoor enthusiasts.

In this post, we’re going to explore whether insoles are essential companions on your journey.

Insoles in Hiking

Hiking Insoles: Close-up of a person holding up an ultralight Superfeet hiking insole

Insoles act like hidden superheroes for your feet in hiking gear. Though not as flashy as a tent or GPS watch, they play a crucial role. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Support and Cushioning: Insoles aid in aligning your feet properly, reducing strain, and preventing discomfort during extended hikes.
  • Better Fit: If your shoes aren’t a perfect fit, insoles can rescue by filling gaps, preventing heel slippage, and reducing the chances of blisters and hotspots.

It’s crucial to note that not all insoles are the same. They come in various types, crafted for specific needs and foot shapes. In this guide, we’re focusing on “support,” also known as “sport,” insoles.

Types of Support Insoles for Hiking

Hiking Insoles: Sole

Support insoles are crafted from a firmer material, providing structural support and stability. Unlike the softer, cushiony insoles commonly found in supermarkets.

Support insoles are typically divided by the thickness of their footbed into three main types:

  1. High-Volume Insoles: These insoles suit hiking boots, ideal for high arches or extra cushioning on rugged trails. They keep your feet comfortable and well-supported throughout your journey.
  2. Medium-volume insoles: Are like the Swiss Army knives of insoles. They work well with various arch profiles, ensuring that your feet get the right amount of comfort and stability, no matter what shoes you choose for your adventure.
  3. Low-volume insoles: A favorite for those with low arches, they provide the right balance of support without making your shoes feel cramped. They ensure that even low-profile trail runners can be hiker-friendly.

In the end, for most, we suggest choosing medium-volume or low-volume insoles. Consider high-volume insoles if you have prior experience and prefer hiking boots.

Personally, we lean towards medium-volume insoles, especially when rocking trail runners. If you’re still uncertain, click here to discover how to determine your arch height.

How to Choose Hiking Insoles

Now that you have an idea of which type of insole to go for, there are features to consider.

Hikers, backpackers, and those with shin splints often need insoles for flexible support and shock absorption. Opt for cushioned or semi-rigid arch supports with gel padding at the heel and forefoot. Other features to consider include:

  • Anti-microbial: A treatment used to reduce shoe odor. Some have brand names, while others don’t, but it’s a feature you’ll want regardless.
  • Low-Friction Top Covers: Friction generates heat, and heat creates moisture, leading to various foot problems, including blisters. Opt for insoles with low-friction top covers to keep everything running smoothly.
  • Trimmable: Most insoles (and all custom orthotics) can be trimmed at the front to fit into a particular shoe, preventing bunching up.

Maintaining Your Insoles

Now that you have a pair, taking care of your insoles is essential to ensure they provide the support and comfort you need throughout your adventures. Here are some maintenance tips:

  • Air Them Out: After a long hike, remove your insoles to let any moisture trapped between them and your shoes dry out. This prevents unpleasant odors and keeps your insoles fresh.
  • Washing: If your insoles get dirty or smelly, you can wash them by hand using a mild detergent or sports detergent. After washing, air dry them thoroughly before re-inserting them into your shoes.
  • Inspect Regularly: Periodically, remove your insoles and inspect them for signs of wear and tear. If you notice significant damage or reduced performance, it might be time to consider replacing them. High-quality hiking insoles can last anywhere from 300 to 500 miles.

Conclusion

Insoles, often overlooked yet essential, quietly enhance the comfort and well-being of hikers. They are your secret weapon to customize those factory-made hiking shoes for a better fit.

Understanding the variety of insoles, each designed for specific needs, is vital for hikers and backpackers looking for adaptable support and shock absorption – it’s the key to enhancing your walking experience for many miles.

We trust that our guidance has brought you closer to finding your ideal pair. Happy hiking!


Interested? You can also check out our TOP 5 Guides for the lightest insoles on the market for men and women.

FAQ

What does insole volume mean?

Insole volume refers to the amount of space an insole occupies inside your footwear. This measurement is crucial for achieving a proper fit, as there is often a correlation between insole volume and the arch shape they are designed to accommodate. For example, Sole Insole footbeds come in different volumes with varying cushioning layer thicknesses. High Volume insoles have a 3.2mm cushioning layer, Medium Volume insoles feature a 1.6mm cushioning layer, and Low Volume insoles have a cushioning layer of under 1mm. Understanding insole volume is key to selecting the right fit for your shoes, ensuring optimal comfort and support tailored to your foot’s needs.

What is the best material for hiking insoles?

he best material for hiking insoles varies by individual needs, but commonly used materials include EVA foam, memory foam, cork, and Merino wool. The ideal choice depends on your foot shape and the type of support and cushioning you require.

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