Best Insoles for all Shoes: Dr Mark Cucuzzella, champion endurance runner, running coach, running shoe shop owner.
Choosing your running shoes and insoles to maximise performance
The whole concept of minimal shoes is to give the runner an experience similar to what they would get if they were actually barefoot. A primary goal is to get the athletes in the least amount of shoe that is safe for them today and gradually reduce the shoe as the foot strengthens
Why go minimal running shoe or barefoot?
One of the main benefits about being truly barefoot is maximizing proprioception, the valuable sensorimotor information we receive from the foot/ground interface. The foot’s dense proprioceptive system plays a critical role in the activation and efficiency of muscles controlling gait, posture and alignment. When we introduce a layer between the sole of the foot and the ground we add a layer of sensory insulation. For many runners going barefoot is not an option they would like, so if you are going to wear a shoe let’s look at the role of a critically important aspect of the shoe – the insole layer, the layer that is in contact with the foot.
What do insoles do for you?
Insoles have traditionally been broken down into 3 main categories;
- support and
- custom orthotics.
However, a 4th category, foot strengthening or proprioceptive feedback insoles, have recently been introduced.
1. The cushioning products use terms like shock absorption and energy dissipation. The basic premise is that the material, through physical changes in the material properties and/or material breakdown, dissipate harmful impact energy and provide cushioning. Top products in this category, SofSole and Spenco, use materials with viscous properties. The viscous property materials tend to be heavy and the softness of the product dampens our interactions with the ground. This does not produce the desired effect for efficient walking and running activities.
2. The second category of insoles support the foot and most commonly the foot’s medial arch. Variations of these insoles exists which feature wedging effects to alter pronation. These insoles mimic the custom orthotic concept. Variations of these insoles also exist where you can heat form the insole to match your foot, making it more like a custom orthotic products. In the support category are Sole, ALINE and Superfeet. In many cases the brands offer devices that both support and cushion.
3. Another device is the prescription orthotic. The Webster’s Dictionary defines an Orthotic as “: a device (as a brace or splint) for supporting, immobilizing or treating muscles, joints or skeletal parts which are weak, ineffective, deformed or injured.” Although typically not sold at retail, virtually every retailer has a percentage of consumers who come in and must ensure that their orthotic will fit into their new shoes. Although I believe there are several skeletal structural flaws that benefit from orthotics; we often take a structurally normal foot which has atrophied through years of bracing and support, make a cast of the weakened foot, and make a support to brace the weak foot. We allow the foot to continue to weaken and make another pair in a year. Taking the foot and making it reliant on a brace or support is counter intuitive to those wanting to strengthen and rehabilitate so the foot can become a self-supporting structure.
Once a joint is braced it will often require bracing indefinitely until an active rehab is prescribed.
What do and don’t Athletes who embrace healthy foot movement want from their shoes and insoles?
- We don’t want sensory insulation
- We do want full foot range of motion
- We do not want excessive bracing, cushioning or support
May the 4th be with you!
4. A unique category of insoles is a Proprioceptive Based insole by Barefoot Science. This is not a new concept – Barefoot Science insoles have been around for almost a decade and the underlying science it is based upon is 2 decades old.
The patented insole focuses on the use of the body’s own sensory perception and proprioception to introduce a mild stimulus to a region corresponding with the foot’s centre of mass. The body’s natural response to the stimulus is to move away and thus a series of continuous and minute muscle contractions are begun. The insole works with a progressive series of inserts, much like a progressive resistance training program, to gradually introduce this active strengthening component to the foot.
Strength training for your feet!
So, as opposed to the concept of brace or support or the concept of cushion and insulate, here the concept is strengthen / rehabilitate. “For those of us that have begun questioning the benefits of the brace- support and cushion footwear products this makes perfect sense”.
Another interesting aspect of the insole is how it interfaces with the foot. The typical science of insoles focuses on primarily supporting the foot’s medial arch and possibly, depending on product, the transverse and lateral arches. The shape and concept behind Barefoot Science is in interfacing with the foot’s centre of mass. This key region is also aligned with the body’s line of action through the foot and thus it creates a dome like effect that the foot can rotate about. From an anatomical point of the view the hip is like a ball-socket, the knee is like a simple hinge and therefore the foot, to interact multi-directionally with the ground, it needs to have a ball-socket multi-directional capacity also. This aspect is especially beneficial for those running or doing any sports on uneven surfaces.
Creating barefoot reactions from inside the shoe
Apart from the sock, the insole is the layer in most immediate contact with the foot. The features and benefits of this insole comes as close as can be found to bringing the benefits of actual foot/ground interface inside the shoe to the foot/insole interface. It is also transferable into daily footwear effectively providing progressive barefoot like stimulation for every step taken which in theory should reduce the injury rate and shorten the transition time that some have associated with the minimalist/barefoot transition.
Why do stronger feet help?
Overall the advantages of improved foot strength translate into more efficient and a less injury prone movement. The natural mechanics of the musculoskeletal system are capable of providing the shock absorption and support our body requires for most activity. This starts with strengthening the 20 intrinsic muscles in each foot.
Insoles focusing on the strengthening and rehabilitation of the foot make the most sense. These insoles are ultra-light weight, flexible and come in full and ¾ length. This product makes sense for not only minimalist runners but for the entire shoe wearing population.
Anyone that puts Barefoot Science insoles in their shoes will have an increase in performance and a greatly reduced chance of injury. I now wear my Barefoot Science every day and recommend them to all of my clients.
Richard Pady, CanadaTriathlon Coach, Trainer and Competitor
I wear Barefoot Science, I know that every football player will benefit from an increase in balance, performance and reduced risk of injury that this product provides!
Roger Spry, UKUEFA staff coach educator and Sports Consultant
I have used Barefoot orthotics on some of my toughest casesof plantar fasciitis, tibialis posterior tendinosis and metatarsal- gia and have had excellent results. These are people who have tried and failed traditional orthotics, stretches and various other devices. Barefoot orthotics are easy to sell as people can see the logic in the approach. Thoroughly happy with the product and service
Mark GillhamPhysiotherapist, Cowra NSW, Australia
Immediately from stepping onto my insoles with level one insert I felt a subtle but reassuring change in posture and balance. 8 weeks later I am up to level 6 and two weeks ago I was able to start running again pain-free for the first time in 14 months since a back injury. By way of an update; "Thank you Barefoot Science:- I am completely stoked as I just ran a personal best for a 10k trail over mixed terrain, pain-free!" ...........This afternoon's time was 57:28 - pretty ordinary for many but great for me as my goal has been to get 10k covered in under an hour......... and, after all, I am 186cm, 108kgs and 49 1/2 yrs old! I first 'ran' again in May and took 11 mins to cover 1.6km / 1 mile!
Tim in Alton, HampshireA member of EDC Crossfit
In our office, Barefoot Science (BFS) has been effectively used to help improve this proprioceptive deficit. Barefoot Science is a non-orthotic mid-arch stimulator. Due to its ability to create mid-arch activation, BFS mimics barefoot walking in sand and over time can dramatically help to reduce a proprioceptive deficit and improve foot strength. We highly recommend that all take a look at this wonderful product.
Dr. Peter Gorman and Dr. Chelsea KeeslerChiropractors New York
I wanted to let you know how I’m getting on with the Barefoot Science insoles as I just moved up to insert no.5 after almost 6 months, which I am finding very comfortable. I can feel them, but in a comforting sort of way. I have to report that I have had hardly any instances of dizziness since about a week from starting to wear them. I am so IMPRESSED! I am trying to do a few balance exercises every day as you recommended, and as a near 70 year old with seven small grand-children, four of them only two so they need floor level attention, I am conscious of the need to keep my balance while getting down and back up! The knee bending is okay up to a point and I’m hopeful it will improve as I use it more. But, as far as the balance side of things go I am thrilled. I think it is positively miraculous and am very grateful to you for suggesting them.
Veronica BarrattA Guildford lady with balance issues
Hi There, My name is Andrew Coltart. I was a golf professional on the European Tour for 19 years and a former Ryder Cup player. I now walk the fairways of the world commentating for a Major Satellite TV Company. My problem came to the fore when I was 47 years old. I had developed Plantar Fasciitis and it was becoming unbearable and debilitating with pretty much constant pain out on the course and in spite of various types of treatment no signs of improvement. I was starting to wonder if I’d be able to carry on working in my current role. Then I met Stuart Gordon of All About Balance and he explained The Barefoot Science Foot Strengthening System. Basically, because of these simple little nerve stimulating plugs that you insert into the underside of the insole, walking has become pain free and enjoyable again. These are no ordinary insoles. Don’t be fooled by expensive orthotics. The Barefoot Science Foot Strengthening System worked wonders for me, not only helping me continue in my work without any pain, they have also improved my balance…an essential factor in general life and massively important to achieving a consistent golf swing! I highly recommend investing in some.
Andrew Coltart UKFormer European Tour and Ryder Cup Golf Pro., Satellite TV on course Golf analyst.
I have been using Barefoot Science insoles consistently since the beginning of the year. They took me a while to use regularly but with the addition of extra pairs, I am able to ensure that I am using them on almost all occasions. This includes walking, CrossFit WOD's, running and every day wear. As you know, my flat feet caused me terrible pain with shin splints and tight calves every time I did any high impact training including running, even just the shortest distance. I haven't rushed through the stages and have only just moved onto level 3. Tonight I completed a 5km run with zero pain. This is the furthest I have run since 2011 and I even shaved 1 minute off my best 1 mile time!! I've found something comfortable that offers me a solution to pain free training, and I'm only half way through the 6 level programme. Thank you so much for introducing me to the Barefoot Science insoles. ☺
Claire ChiversCrossfit athlete EDC Alton, Hants.
Personal, Barefoot Science testimonial 26 April, 2013 To my fellow Pod people and persons that have foot related problems, I've found a product called Barefoot Science. I like this product and I use it daily, both for myself, and my Podiatric patients, I personally have had foot related injuries and deficits that caused daily foot pain for years as a result of my military service, not any longer though with my Barefoot Science inserts. I would not go without these inserts in my shoes. I was introduced to this product at a foot healthcare symposium, by Mr. Derek Denton of Alamo Medical services... As an employee of a Podiatry Service of a VA hospital in Texas, I perform highly technical work involved in the design, development, fabrication, alteration, assembly, fitting and repair of orthotic foot braces and orthotic shoes for Veterans as related to their post military service, i.e.: disease ,injury and overuse of the feet and ankle(s). I interpret Podiatrist' prescriptions and perform all steps required in the fabrication and fitting of the several types of orthotic braces, for many of which there are no models or precedents, including but not limited to ankle, foot and lower limb, as related to Podiatric disabilities and advise physicians concerning all types of corrective devices available and modification necessary; to help heal or ameliorate these conditions. *Presently now with the Barefoot Science product(s) I personally have noticed over the years the Pedorthic/Podiatric appliances and more complex appliances in the Pedorthic /Podiatry labs were more accommodating to the “functional foot conditions” that kept the foot aligned and rigid, yet never strengthened the foot, although there is a myriad of devices that claim they do so. I have tried most and until now none of them worked for this purpose of strengthening the intrinsic muscles. I started working with Barefoot Science a few years ago, and it has really turned our practice into a healing clinic. Helping ameliorate painful Podiatric conditions such as plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia, claw toes, hammertoes, corns, plantar fasciitis, patellar misalignments, chrodromalacia patella, ITB syndrome. I have been working in this field of Podiatry since the mid 1980’s, both with U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel, now with Veterans of all armed services as a triple Board Certified Pedorthist and Podiatric clinic manager. I wished we would have had this Barefoot Science product while I was on active duty as a Navy Corpsman, this may have prevented a lot of future/past foot related conditions that we see now. I have also noticed currently within our Podiatric practice a remarkable shift for continuity of care while using these barefoot science rehabilitative foot inserts. The patients get better and stronger while walking not sitting with their feet elevated and hoping the Nsaids do the job. I’ve noticed a reduction of fatigue from all our patients now that they can walk and repair themselves; we have reduced the need for pharmaceuticals (pain meds), orthotics, foot-braces, or surgical interventions, finally solutions ,for these chronic and painful foot problems! *I agree with the following statement of use, and I could not have said it better! Each Barefoot Science Arch Activation SystemTM comes with a pair of insoles to fit into your existing footwear and a series of progressive arch activation inserts. To start, just pop Level 1 into the underside of the insole, slide them in your shoes and get on with your day! It feels like a mini foot massage, sending waves of comfort throughout your body. That sensation is actually your foot muscles waking up and getting stronger. When the sensation fades, usually within a week, your feet are ready to move up to the next level. It’s that easy! With each step, your feet become stronger and more efficient. I recommend this product, and I am not just a practice of one, I work with Dr Karen Brooks, a Podiatrist, we tag team on every Veteran that enters our offices for Podiatric services, she too has over 25 years’ experience in Podiatry Practice and is also very happy with the results of this innovative design and the multiple uses of this barefoot Science rehabilitative and preventative shoe insert to help our Podiatric patients/Veterans. Sincerely, Mike Olden... P.S. Please note: We have a Zebris gait lab pressure measuring platform onsite in our clinic’s Pedorthic lab, that is used to measure our results on every patient pre and post usage of the Barefoot Science rehabilitative inserts. Both static and dynamic is monitored, along with postural sway, including the shoes that they are worn in. The proof is in the pudding, try it for yourself! Michael P.Olden, H.t; Ost; C-Ped; Pmac. Department of Veterans Affairs American Board for Certifications in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics. *Board Certified Pedorthist cert no: Cped0724. KD DIV.HERT Team Decon Coordinator /Instructor KD DIV.Podiatry PAVE TEAM Coordinator/Trainer KD DIV.Local AFGE 2281 Steward+SGT-AT-ARMS KD-Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System-Team Coordinator Advanced Disaster Life Support Instructor-Cert. Advanced Disaster Medical Response for Providers-Cert. AHA-Basic Cardiac Life Support Instructor-VA-Cert. ECU2 Containment Unit- Staff Trainer-KD-Div. Surgical Service, Code 11C Podiatry / Pedorthic Clinics KD -Div. South Texas Veterans Health Care Systems 3600 Memorial Blvd., Kerrville, Texas. 78028-5768 Wk: (830)-792-2660 Fax :( 830)-792-2532 VA Cell (830)370-2887 Twitter – DEMPS17 Email: Michael.Olden@med.va.gov
Michael P.Olden, H.t; Ost; C-Ped; Pmac.Department of Veterans Affairs American Board for Certifications in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics. *Board Certified Pedorthist cert no: Cped0724
Hello Barefoot-Science Team :-) I wanted to let you know I've been using your products for more than twenty years. This product is the one and only item I ever purchased from a TV infomercial back in the early 2000s! At the time I was struggling with orthotics. They were expensive and I found that anytime I was not wearing my orthotics, I had pain and strain issues. This technology is brilliant. It has given me the strength and freedom to run and play in my bare feet. It's also good to see you have continued to advance and add to the technology. I'm looking forward to receiving my new pair of Therapeutic Plus full-length insoles. With gratitude, Zeta Lay
I have been using Barefoot Science Innersoles for almost a year now. I have quite flat feet and was getting bad shin splint pain when running. I very slowly over 5 months went from the smallest to largest inserts of the Innersoles and find they have really helped me. I now run 10k without foot and ankle issues. My advice is to go slowly up the insert sizes and run less until you are used to them. I will keep using these innersoles, they have worked really well for me. I used them in all of my shoes. Thanks, James.
James ClarkeRunner, Godalming, Surrey
As a personal trainer I will run approximately 25 miles a week and Nordic walk a similar distance with my clients. I am always trying new kit that will benefit clients and prolong my working life. I started using Barefoot Science Foot Strengthening System in January 2020 and a year later can report that my feet and legs, and my balance have never been better. I have happily recommended them to clients who have all reported similar benefits. I have finally found an insole that I will be sticking with long-term.
Andy WebbPersonal Fitness Trainer Haslemere, Surrey.
I am a 51 year old long distance runner and completely ruptured my plantar fascia in the left foot a couple of years ago. I was told by an orthopaedic foot surgeon that I should ‘change my sport’. After 6 months of no running I slowly got back to it but it wasn’t until I tried the BFS system one year later that I started to be able to run better and pain free. I would like to see more of this system tested in the NHS and, where appropriate, used by musculoskeletal and orthopaedic doctors and physiotherapists. I think they have a role to play both in sports and in the role of improving mobility in all age groups. The system certainly gave me more benefit than my expensive ‘custom made’ orthotics a few years before!
Dr Susie Cooper MBBS, MRCP, MRCGP, BSc(hons), PgDip (SEM)GP and Rheumatologist with a post graduate Diploma in Sports and Exercise Medicine
The Barefoot Science people know their insoles work – they’ve done extensive trials that show dramatic pain relief and improved energy. But I honestly don’t think they realize how truly remarkable a product they’ve invented. These insoles help so many people with such a variety of complaints – not just because they align posture or provide cushioning and support for feet (like orthotics) – but because they activate the plantar musculature and foot bed proprioception which I believe cross trains the body out of the core bias that underlies a multitude of inefficiencies and subtle imbalances. I believe it literally completes the upright posture circuit and brings about posture without effort!
David M. Lemke, NMT, sEMG TechDave offers neuromuscular therapy and wellness consulting, while he also conducts research to develop and test core wellness exercises and equipment.
Foot and ankle injuries are a huge problem in professional and amateur sports. BFS is the only product out there that allows for complete foot and ankle strengthening.
“As an athletic development coach who works with professional athletes on a daily basis, the BFS system has become the greatest tool to have at my disposal for strengthening the lower extremity musculature. It’s been especially helpful in correcting muscle imbalances that might negatively affect foot strike patterns in gait as well as strengthening and stretching the ankle and foot following an injury.”
Gray CookBoard-Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist, a Strength & Conditioning Coach and a USWLF Weightlifting Coach. Author of Movement: Functional Movement Systems—Screening, Assessment, Corrective Strategies (2010) and Athletic Body in Balance (2003)
As a Somatic Movement Educator and Comprehensive Pilates teacher I have found the Barefoot Science Insoles Incredibly useful for myself and for my dancers. Right from the beginning you are able to feel very subtle shifts happening within your body which travels beyond the feet, through the legs, pelvis and beyond. I have found them incredibly useful because those subtle shifts help the body to realign itself and maintain a more accurate centre of gravity, which can often get thrown out through injury, overuse or tiredness. As a result, not only have I found these insoles help with the technical demands and fine motor control needed for dance and movement, but also provide increased levels of comfort for the joints during the course of a busy working day. Having tried many different products for feet over the years covering a full spectrum of cost, for me, Barefoot Science insoles come out on top and are a really worthwhile investment to help optimise your dancing and, more importantly, have great potential to be part of your toolbox for healthy, happy dancing feet!
Sarah Pritchard, RSME (Registered Somatic Movement Educator) and Comprehensive Pilates Teacher
Since using the Barefoot Science insoles I’ve seen and felt improvements both in gym based training and athletic performance. As I've progressed through the levels over the last 3 months, currently on level 3 of 7, I have increased my Back Squat by 10kg, and Snatch by 5kg! The security in the position is most noticeable with leg drive, and positioning in squats seeming far more stable and powerful. Within my athletic performance in Cricket I have also noticed significantly increased stability in my movements, especially my bowling action, with far clearer and stronger foot contact at delivery. Looking forward to continuing up the levels and see what comes next!!
Shae Taylor. HE lecturer on Sport Science (Human Performance) programme. Strength and conditioning Coach for Athlete Movement, Liphook, with main focus on Olympic lifting.
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