Whether you are an avid hiker or a beginner looking for some great insoles, you’ll find that there’s a lot of information to consider when you’re selecting the best insoles for your feet. It is important to find the right hiking boots and insoles to protect your feet. The best hiking insoles will give your boots the support you need and should keep your feet comfortable while preventing the irritation of blisters.
To get the most out of your hiking boots, you need the right insoles! These are the add-ons that will help you get the most use (and wear) out of your boots. It’s a good idea to size insoles to the exact current length of your boots, so that they are not too short or too long, and get them with the appropriate arch and heel support.
What Is The Difference Between Inserts, Insoles and Orthotics?
Honestly, not much these days. But there is more to this story, I promise.
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The vast majority of shoes, hiking boots, and trail runners will come with a factory liner. The factory liner is that thin, flimsy thing that lines the inside of your boot and goes between your sock and the midsole of the boot, to provide a little extra comfort.
You can buy inserts, insoles, or orthotics to replace the factory liner in your boots for even more comfort and support. In general, those terms have all become interchangeable. Typically, the terms inserts and insoles will refer to super soft, squishy, gel-based inserts that go inside your shoe. While orthotics, more typically, refers to a more supportive, rigid, plastic thing that goes in your shoe to keep your foot and heel locked in the proper place to prevent unwanted, painful, repetitve movement.
You can get insoles at many different stores, and can even find hiking-specific insoles at most gear stores. If you have known issues or injuries in your feet, you might benefit more from custom orthotics from a podiatrist.
Do You Really Need Insoles For Hiking?
In short, yes! Or at least yes, eventually, you will want them and need them in your hiking boots.
Factory liners don’t actually provide that much if any, support for your foot, arch, heel, ankle, and joints while hiking miles and miles over uneven terrain. If you’re sure you bought the correct size hiking shoe, but are still having foot pain or blisters on the bottoms of your feet or around your heels, the insole might be the culprit.
Insoles, especially factory liners, get absolutely smooshed to smithereens after the repetitive, high-impact action of your foot, along with all your body weight and pack weight, pounding down on them for days and days on end. If you start out just wearing your hiking boots as they are, you might eventually notice they don’t feel as comfortable or maybe the bottoms of your feet, balls, or heels are just getting sore when they didn’t use to – that means it’s probably time to replace or upgrade your insoles.
Benefits of insoles for hiking
The way our feet fall when we walk affects almost every other part of our body including our ankles, shins, knees, hips, and back! Replacing your factory liners with more solid, supportive insoles or orthotics has many benefits and I can’t recommend them enough. New insoles for hiking boots can:
- help prevent injuries and foot disorders from developing
- decreases shin splints
- relieves plantar fasciitis
- stabilizes the foot and corrects balance
- prevents bunions from forming or worsening
- relieves common foot and back pain
- relieve discomfort of high or low arches
- prolongs endurance and reduces fatigue
- extends the life of your boots (seriously though!)
Buying and using insoles or orthotics is not just for old people or people with a diagnosed foot problem. They can help hikers and backpackers prevent injuries and issues from developing, improve performance on the trail, and save you money in the long run by simply replacing your insoles when they’re worn out instead of buying a whole new pair of boots each time.
Best Insoles For Hiking Shoes and Boots
If you’re in a store or pharmacy looking at insoles, be sure to choose a pair that is very firm and supportive in the heel and arch. There should be a pretty solid ‘heel cup’ to cradle your heel and hold it in place to help your foot from moving and sliding around in your shoes. Also firmly press on or squeeze the arch area of the insole – if the arch gives way at all, it’s not supportive enough.
Other than that, look at the insole description and sizing carefully to choose one that best matches your foot. For the most part, insoles are either going to have very low or no arch, for people with flat feet; a very high arch; or another ‘medium arch’ for people in between.
Some insoles are made to be cut to size, meaning you overlay your old insole over the new and trace a line to cut it to the same shape. And some insoles are sold in precise sizes or measurements, so double check to make sure they match if you find insoles like this.
If you have any medical conditions that affect your feet, it’s probably best to chat with your doctor or podiatrist about ordering custom orthotics. For the majority of people, over-the-counter insoles work wonderfully.
I personally use and love the Berry Superfeet insoles because I don’t have very high or very low arches. But I’m excited to try out their Trailblazer Comfort Insoles next. Insoles, even high-quality brands need to be replaced every so often, especially if they’re put through the abuse of long-distance hiking and backpacking. Superfeet recommends replacing their insoles every ~500 miles.
Best Hiking Insoles For Women
The Berry Superfeet Insoles were made specifically for women with a slightly slimmer heel and an arch length to better fit our feet. With the extra forefoot cushioning, these are the perfect all-purpose, high-impact insole for active women.
The Superfeet Trailblazer insoles were made specifically to help stabilize your foot on uneven terrain. The Moisturewick layer helps control odor while the Heel Impact Technology Pod helps disperse impact on descents, making it the perfect insole for hikers and backpackers.
Best Insoles For All-Purpose, High-Impact Activities
These Superfeet Orange were specifically engineered for high-impact, long-distance activity. The medium arch design and the extra forefoot cushioning make these perfect for almost any hiker or worker who’s on their feet all day.
Best Hiking Insoles For High Arches
The deep heel cup and high arch support on these Green Superfeet insoles make them perfect for those with high arches or those who are looking for a more affordable, effective alternative to custom orthotics. These offer professional-grade orthotic support and are great for active, all-day wear.
Now that you know the wide range of benefits of upgrading your insoles in your hiking boots, go out and get a pair to try out on your next trip!
For more hiking and backpacking boots and clothes recommendations, check out:
About the author, Mallory Moskowitz:
After studying Recreation, Park & Tourism Management, Mallory spent several years teaching environmental education, guiding hikes, and leading backcountry trips. Her life-changing trek from Georgia to New York on the Appalachian Trail is what sparked the creation of Your Adventure Coach, to share backpacking tips and resources with as many new hikers as possible.