Insoles are shaped inserts that fit into shoes. An insole may be manufactured for sale in stores or it may be a custom made orthotic insert prescribed by a podiatrist, or foot specialist. Orthotics is the science of creating products customized to help foot problems and reduce pain in the feet. Corrective insoles can help promote proper body alignment such as by keeping the heel stationary in the shoe when walking. If the heels move around too much inside footwear, the result can be painful blisters or dry, cracked heels.
People wear insoles for many reasons. Some people work standing on their feet all day and want extra padding in their shoes to add comfort and cushioning. Others have issues with their feet sweating in shoes and may choose insoles that have a deodorized, mesh fabric top designed to offer cooling comfort to feet. Many people prefer the flexible rubbery texture of gel insoles in their shoes. A transparent type of gel insole may help women's high-heeled shoes feel a little more comfortable without the insert looking too noticeable in sandals or open-toe shoe styles.
Thin-soled shoes such as inexpensive canvas types can often be made more comfortable by adding an insole that has some foam or other padding. People with skin conditions sometimes experience foot pain when the skin on their feet rubs against the inside of their shoes. Orthotic insoles with heel cups may help keep the heel in place and reduce or eliminate the rubbing problem. A heel cup is a rounded indentation created in a shoe insert that gently cups the heel to help prevent it from moving side to side.
Orthotic insoles have different types of indentations or contours to support the feet. The exact pattern and texture of an orthotic insole will vary depending on the condition or problem it is designed to correct. For example, some insoles are customized especially for people with arthritis in the feet while others are made specifically for athletes. An athletic orthotic insole is designed to prevent injury and absorb shock to the feet caused by activities that place a great deal of pressure on the foot joints such as running.