Friday, July 26, 2013

Inside Scoop to Shoe Inserts

Alright, people!  A few months ago I mentioned shoe inserts in a post which seemed to spark curiosity in a bunch of you.  So, FINALLY, here is the (maybe not so exciting) insider's peek into my shoes.

Let me start by saying that I don't *really* know if I know what I'm doing...but I'm doing it.  Haha.  Everything that I'm telling you has been figured out by experimenting and trial and error.  Here goes!

Above are the types of inserts I use, though there are plenty more that exist in the world.  As you can see, there is both different types of inserts and different brands, and each brand has different textures and thicknesses to work with.  Let's start by first talking about types of inserts and briefly about their function, then talk about brands.  Then we can talk more about how to choose which kind to use.

Types of Inserts
Based off the picture above (and this may not be the official terminology):
  1. Insoles.  Lines the bottom of your shoe and provides a little extra cushion.  These can come with extra padding on the ball and heel as shown above, or with heavy arch support, or as an even/level padding.
  2. Heel liners.  Lines the back of the inside of your shoe (topline) to improve grip or fit.
  3. Rub relief strips (pack of 4).  Small strips of padded tape to place anywhere your shoe is rubbing you painfully to provide a cushion.
  4. Non-skid tread.  Placed on outer sole of shoe under ball of foot to prevent slipping and improve traction.
  5. Ball of foot cushions.  Lines inside of shoe where ball of foot goes for focused cushioning.
There are some other things like heel cushions, arch supports, and clear high heel liners for open shoes.

I've really only tried two brands, which are the two I see at Target.  (Go figure.)  As you can see in the pictures, I mostly use Dr. Scholl's for Her and Fab Feet.  They can also be found on Amazon.  But even if Target isn't accessible in your neck of the woods hopefully you can just take note of how brands can differ in a general sense so that when you search through the brands that are available to you you'll have a better idea of what to look for.

Dr. Scholl's for Her
You can see Dr. Scholl's for Her products in items 1, 2, 3, and 5 (the gel ones) above.  The characteristics and some pros for these are:
  • both normal cloth texture or gel texture available
  • gel has great padding
  • gel texture provides great grip
  • sticky adhesive on the gel texture allows you to reuse the inserts on other shoes - you can wash with soap and warm water to restore stickiness and reuse (love that!)
  • on thicker end of spectrum regarding padding

Fab Feet
You can see these products in 2, 4, and 5 (beige).  
  • on thinner side of padding spectrum
  • usually adhesive is one small rectangle
  • have lots of colors and designs


ball of foot cushion - Fab Feet (L); Dr. Scholl's for Her (R)

Here's a side by side of the texture of the two brands.  On the right, the bottom gel insert is flipped bottom up so that you can see the texture of the sticky adhesive.  The entire platform is sticky, and it has those curly ridges for more grip.

The main overarching differences I've noticed between the two:
  • Fab Feet tends to be thinner than Dr. Scholl's.  I've found this true for insoles, ball of foot cushions, and heel liners.
  • Adhesive on Fab Feet only covers a small square while Dr. Scholl's adhesive (for gel products only) covers entire insert.  However, I should mention that the adhesive of the Dr. Scholl's insoles in #1 above is like the Fab Feet adhesive--just a rectangular strip down the entire thing.
  • Dr. Scholl's gel inserts are reusable.
  • People with sweaty feet might not enjoy the gel inserts.  However, Dr. Scholl's also has non-gel.
  • Dr. Scholl's tends to be more expensive.  Especially the gel stuff.  (But you can get them in multipacks on Amazon for a little cheaper.)
  • Both come in a variety of colors (beige, clear, black, printed).

Okay, now the big question--how do you use each of these?  Well, for me since those gel ones are reusable it's kind of been by testing out the different types I have on hand--without using the adhesive--and seeing what works.  But here's what I tend to do...

Usually anytime I use a shoe insert it is either to:
  • make my shoes more comfortable
  • help my shoes fit better
  • both of the above

Whenever I decide to buy the shoe I have to factor in whether or not I'm going to need inserts and if I have enough room for them.  Obviously if the shoe is already snug, then inserts aren't going to be helpful because they'll squish your feet more and I'll pass on buying the shoes.

These are the before and after pics of my blue H&M pumps.  H&M does not necessarily make the comfiest shoes, but they're not terrible either.  However, inserts can work wonders on a shoe.  Here I used both Fab Feet insoles and heel liners.

Insoles and Ball of Foot Cushions
I use these when a shoe lacks cushioning to help me endure longer periods in heels.  I tend not to need these in flats, but some of my friends still do, or they use ones with arch support.

TypeI don't have it down to a science for when I use insoles versus just ball of foot cushions.  Sometimes I need cushioning for my entire foot, and sometimes I only need it at the balls of my feet.  Sometimes a full insole will make the rest of the shoe fit weird and I need to opt for just a ball of foot cushion.  Like I said, it's a lot of testing different options I have on hand.  

Brand / Thickness - Even sized up there was only a tiny bit of room for cushions in these shoes, and Fab Feet are thinner than Dr. Scholl's so I went with those.  Dr. Scholl's thickness squeezed my feet uncomfortably.

Heel Liners
I use these all.the.time.  My heels almost always slip out of pumps and wedges.  Often times if I size down my heel won't slip out but my toes are squished and it becomes painful after just a few minutes.  There's no way I'd ever size down in shoes and tolerate squished toes--why bother buying the shoe if I don't want to walk in them?  I already know I'd never want to wear them if they hurt.  I'd rather see if sizing up will unsquish my toes and stick in a heel liner.  

It's so hard to walk when your heel keeps slipping out!

I really like Dr. Scholl's gel heel liners because the gel gives great grip and they're also thicker to make up for my narrow heels.  Obviously if I don't need it that thick I reach for Fab Feet instead.  My preference for heel grips is always Dr. Scholl's though.  However, if the heel liner is too thick it pushes my whole foot too far forward and squishes my toes, which is not helpful.  And in other shoes, I might need two liners on top of each other!  (One foot is smaller.)

Rub Relief Strips & Non-Skid Tread
I don't really use either of these, but I suppose I should try the non-skid tread since some of my shoes slip on surfaces, especially when it's raining.  Kinda scary.  

I haven't used the rub relief strips much, but I've seen people use them on strappy heels that cut into their feet or the instep where the shoe rubs.  It's basically like wearing a bandaid to give you a cushion from the rubbing, only you put it on the shoe instead of on your foot.

All in all, just try some out.  You can do it in a safe way by not using the adhesive yet and testing how they feel.  If they don't work out, you can either return them or you can save them for another pair of shoes.  They're bound to fit in some pair of shoes someday, right?

If you have any other tips let us know in the comments below.  Otherwise, good luck!


  1. Kiersten QuilliamsFriday, July 26, 2013

    Thanks so much! I may have fallen up the stairs at work because my heel slipped out of my shoe. I'll definitely be fixing that soon!

  2. I've used SO MANY of these! My feet are really different sizes (right & left) so often I have to fix my shoes in one way or another. One thing you didn't mention here is moleskin sheets, which I used recently to line the insides of a pair of sandals with a cute rope detail that kept cutting into my foot. Mine are Dr. Scholls, I think.

    Also, I posted my One Piece Many Ways challenge post today. Thanks, that's totally different from what I normally do and we had so much fun taking the photos! I'll be back on Tuesday to link up.

  3. I love the Dr. Scholl's arch supports for flats. Sometimes a full insert can make a flat too tight. The arch support is usually enough for me.

  4. I didn't even know heel liners existed. I have a pair of cute heels that I barely wear because my heels always slip out when I walk in them. I'll have to give it a try!

  5. Audrey I have sweaty feet 24/7...I don't like to wear certain sandals or strappy heels because my feet always slide out as it gets slippery. Additionally, when I wear flats or full shoes it gets uncomfortable & mucky. When wearing pumps I always have to wear stockings. I don't know if can recommend a good product for me.

  6. Very informative! I have also tried Dr. Scholls rub relief stick and was surprised how well it worked and so easy to carry around and use anywhere.

  7. Your posts are always so good, thorough, and well-researched! It's obvious that you are building a blog full of good content! This post is awesome enough that you should make a tab for it at the top of the blog!

  8. jordanmsanchez214Friday, July 26, 2013

    I had no idea heel liners existed! I've never been able to wear heels that weren't strappy across the top of the foot or didn't have some kind of strap across the top because my feet would always slide out. I've used inserts before and can't believe I never discovered these! I bought a pair for a wedding and got very frustrated that I kept "stepping out" of them, or so it felt like. Thank you for sharing, maybe I can wear those heels again!

  9. I love heel liners! When I put them in shoes though, I do have to take in to account whether or not I will be wearing nylons (I live in the north where it can get COLD in the winter!). If there is a chance I will be wearing nylons, I can't put in the gel liners because my heels will still slip out. However, I have found a store brand that is suede that works wonders!

  10. When I had shin splints after walking many hours on hard pavement, I discovered that my shoes had poorly made insoles. They were paper thin with very little support! So I tried Superfeet. That did wonders for me. I highly recommend this brand, especially for those who love to walk.

  11. I just tried my first pair of inserts this Spring, and I loved them! I always have the same problem; pumps will slip off my heel, but when I size down, my toes are so crammed. I used the fab feet because that is what was on hand in the Target aisle. Thanks for the information. I will try the Dr. Scholls as well.

  12. I love the Dr. Scholl's for Her High Heel Insoles, especially for my wedges that are about 3.5" height. It has gel cushioning on the arch and the ball of the foot. I found mine at one of the grocery stores, so that may be another place people can look. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0020I3750/ref=s9_simh_gw_p121_d0_i2?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0X2KC5XEY3213WXK1QJH&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1389517282&pf_rd_i=507846

  13. Where can you find the moleskin sheets? I haven't seen any in over 15 years, last time I went camping.

  14. I get mine at Target! It's in the health & beauty section near the foot lotions and powders and such.

  15. I had a pair of wedges that did the exact same thing! I bought those heel liners and they're great! They're my favorite shoes now. I wear them all the time.

  16. Thank you so much for this great insider info! I only have one pair of Dr. School's clear for high heels gel insoles and I love them! I'm not sure I could wear them with open heels because of their thickness but I use them for the boots and they are wonderful! I should really try some of the others, I've just been too cheap to buy them! (the adhesive ones anyway)

  17. I love the ball of the foot gel liners, and until this post, had no idea you could wash them! I've used them in many a pair of heels.

  18. Great tips! The only thing I'd add is that sometimes I use a thick heel insert (sort of like the ball of feet ones but for your heels) to help lift up my heel so that my ankle doesn't chafe against the edge of booties. I've asked my friends about this and I'm the only one who has this problem, but the heel inserts completely cure it!

  19. Good to know! I always just assumed those who were comfortable in their heels were wearing expensive ones. Maybe not necessarily!

  20. I use Glide (made for chafing when you run) anywhere a shoe rubs and it works great. It looks like a small deodorant and I just rub it on my foot where it's rubbing. I keep a tube of it in my purse all the time. You find it in the sporting goods dept.

  21. When I wear flats, my feet get so sweaty and disgusting. A podiatrist recommended spraying my feet with spray deodorant before putting on my shoes. It has worked like a charm - no more smelly, sweaty feet and shoes!

  22. I need to try inserts. I have weird feet and my shoes have to be VERY supportive and I cannot do squished toes because I have the beginnings of a bunion on my right foot. Sexy, I know. :-P Fortunately the comfort brands now make cute shoes! But I don't always want to spend an arm and a leg on shoes.

    Nobody should every sacrifice comfort for style when it comes to shoes. Pain isn't worth cute shoes. And you could end up like Sarah Jessica Parker, who completely screwed up her feet and now has to wear ugly granny shoes on doctor's orders.

  23. I LOVE shoe inserts and have tried several brands. I have found the Dr. Scholls and Foot Petals brands to be the best, although they are both a bit more expensive (at first). I also like the Dr. Scholls removable inserts -- I have a couple of pairs that I switch to whatever pair of flats or low heels I'm wearing. I use the sticky options for heels, so they don't slip down. I also have a Band-Aid Friction Block stick in my purse at all times, to rub on my feet if I start feeling friction on my feet during the day. Really helps keep blisters at bay!

    Jen @ Librarian for Life & Style

  24. I don't know if it's already been mentioned, but body glide will do for those rub spots too. Here's an article on youlookfab.com on it. http://youlookfab.com/2013/07/02/save-your-feet-with-bodyglide/

  25. Autumn RosenbaumMonday, July 29, 2013

    My sister just got those blue pumps last weekend! So fun!

  26. Thanks for the tips! I have a pair that apparently my feet were swollen in when I bought them, because I can barely take a step without them flipping off. {Makes for some classy moments.} I'm excited to fix that!

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  28. I use Sizers instead. They are specifically designed for adjusting the size of footwear. Nothing else like them out there. I am in love. www.shoesizers.com

  29. You need to try Sizers instead. Works like a dream. I see someone else knows about these too yay!

  30. Wow, perfect. Fortunately, I found your website! isabel marant outlet

  31. I absolutely have to wear a heel insert due to my narrow heels. I have been wearing gel inserts but they sweat from heels causes them to lose adhesiveness and fall off of my shoes. Any suggestions?

  32. I pictured some heel liners above from FabFeet that stick a little better. Those in particular are thinner than the gel ones, though. Even if it's not FabFeet's brand, there are non-gel options that have stickier adhesive in the back.


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