Is it possible for me to make my own cheap shoe inserts?
December 31, 2003 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible for me to make my own cheap shoe inserts? They don't necessarily have to be perfect, orthotic, form fitting works of art, just some extra padding. I am tall (6'7) and fat (250 lb.) and sometimes my shoes need a little help. That Dr. Scholl's crap sold at the supermarket for $15 a pop hardly seems worth it, and I have worn out the inserts in some of my existing shoes.
posted by mecran01 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total)
i once tried making some by cutting up fairly stiff fabric (linen) into several layers and sewing them together (in my case the layers got smaller, with one side missing, so that the final result was angled, because i was seeing if i could correct a slight under-pronation, iirc).

they worked, in that they kept shape over several uses. but they didn't add much padding (and probably did nothing for the under-pronation).

anyway, sewing several layers together made something surprisingly rigid.

in hiking boots i've used sorbothane insoles. they're not cheap, but would probably last longer than anything made by scholl and give lots of padding. try walking shops (sorbothane is a kind of rubber - mine are one piece rubber, although more recently i've seen cheaper versions with "standard" insole and rubber together).
posted by andrew cooke at 8:04 PM on December 31, 2003

I went to my doctor, and he referred me to the local orthopaedic hospital. 4 weeks later, i had some inserts which allowed me to go hiking for the first time ever. My quality of life has been immeasurably improved by this simple act, plus I have the casts stored in my cupboard for when/the polycarbonate ever wears out.


You don't live in England, do you?
posted by dash_slot- at 8:15 PM on December 31, 2003

Response by poster: My only experience with a podiatrist was when I had some plantar fasciitis, and he charged me a ton of money for inserts, non-custom, that weren't covered by insurance and looked suspiciously similar to off-the-shelf goods.

I'll look into the sorbothane inserts, thanks!. I know bicyclists are fond of "super feet."

(I am in Northern Utah, USA)
posted by mecran01 at 9:47 PM on December 31, 2003

Northern Utah, land of giants. (I live there also, and am 6'5", 265+, even post-low-carb dieting).

Thankfully, I've never had foot problems, just knee and back.

HOWEVER...the "Relax the Back" store that Mark Eaton is a partner in has some GREAT stuff. I wouldn't hesitate to ask around there, since tall fat folks like us tend to have foot, knee and/or back trouble, or all three.

4844 S Highland Dr
Salt Lake City, UT 84117
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:05 AM on January 1, 2004

6'7" / 250 is fat??
posted by PrinceValium at 1:07 AM on January 1, 2004

Response by poster: Yes, 6'7 250 is fat with my body fat ratio. I look relatively thin, because I am an ecto-ectomorph, and then have that wonderful gift of evolution, the bowling ball pot belly. My body would thank me if I took off 40 pounds, as would my feet.

I'm a big fan of big Mark Eaton. I'll check out Relax the Back.

but I still wish I could roll my own...
posted by mecran01 at 7:24 AM on January 1, 2004

have you tried cutting them out of pillow foam? (from a craft or sewing store)
posted by amberglow at 7:57 AM on January 1, 2004

Okay, listen up: you can not make your own orthotics. Period.

For starters, you can not put your foot into its neutral position without the assistance of a foot-knowledgeable helper. You need to be standing up while someone else manipulates your foot. The orthotic shape is based entirely on the shape of your neutrally-positioned foot, not a loaded or unloaded foot.

Secondly, cushioning is NOT good for your feet. Pillow foam, sorbothane, and layers of felt are NOT orthotically-correct. Indeed, they all cause foot problems because they do not supply a solid base. The squooshier your foot platform, the more likely you are to end up with serious, significant ankle problems.

Thirdly, the closest approximation to cheap near-orthotics you're likely to find are Superfeet and other $30+ inserts. These have a rigid plastic baseplate with a supportive arch and deep heelcup. The rigidity provides the stable foot platform; the arch support supports all the little bones in your feet; the heel cup locks your foot into position.

So there are only two sensible things you can do: hope that your feet are close enough to average that Superfeet will do the trick, or cough up some dough to a local physiotherapist for some custom-formed, true orthotics.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:40 AM on January 1, 2004 [1 favorite]

physiotherapist, podiatrist, orthopedic hospital.... I notice these different names for health care providers and wonder about the differences... and which is better to go to if you want custom-fit orthotics?

(another MeFite with foot problems in Utah -- and since one of the main points of living here is the outdoor recreation, that becomes a big quality of life issue)
posted by weston at 1:44 PM on January 1, 2004

Response by poster: Secondly, cushioning is NOT good for your feet. Pillow foam, sorbothane, and layers of felt are NOT orthotically-correct. Indeed, they all cause foot problems because they do not supply a solid base. The squooshier your foot platform, the more likely you are to end up with serious, significant ankle problems.

Yet some shoes are more comfortable for me than others, typically those with softer soles, i.e. Birkenstocks.

I share Weston's question about the best place to go for foot advice and help.


Why do I need Custom Insoles?: "

Every foot is unique. Yet the shoe manufacturers make shoes for the 'average foot'. There is no such thing.
The foot is a complex biomechanical machine which requires proper support.
The only way to properly fit your foot is by measuring every contour and nuance perfectly. Archcrafters does that using our easy at-home measurement system ... The 'FootPrinter'.
Simply press your feet into the patented FootPrinter foot measurement system. Then just drop it in the even has prepaid postage! (US customers only)
Upon receipt of your foot impressions, ArchCrafters uses a unique computer scanning technique to record the contour. We then use a state of the art CAD/CAM manufacturing facility to custom grind an insole just for you."

posted by mecran01 at 4:08 PM on January 1, 2004

The FootPrinter is bullshit. Your footprint without someone forcing it to a neutral position is not a guide to fitting feet.

The only way to do it right is to find a podiatrist/physiotherapist/whateverist that has training in feet. They will build a custom orthotic for your particularly unique feet.

The second-best way of doing it right is to find a really good set of insoles. These will have a stiff bottom, a deep heel cup, and probably what looks like a terribly high arch.

If you're using foam or jelly inserts, or there isn't a deep heel cup, or the arch isn't supported with stiff material, then you're trading very short=term comfort for long-term foot health.

It's worth noting that orthotics will probably be very uncomfortable for the first few days. Your feet aren't used to being well-supported.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:39 PM on January 1, 2004

Response by poster: Ok, I'm convinced. Thanks.

I realize I am beating this to death, but I'm trying to figure out why I like some shoes over others. My rockports are great. I've worn other expensive shoes that feel like crap. Anyway, I am approaching sheer patheticness here, thinking out loud about my feet at 11pm.
posted by mecran01 at 9:43 PM on January 1, 2004

I highly recommend the Superfeet. The sure-fire place to find them is the local backpacking outfitter's shop. The ones you probably want are green: they are designed to entirely replace your insole. They also make a blue model which is meant to go over a non-removeable insole. They should cost about C$30 (U$20?) and will likely last about a year in your main walking shoes.

There are other brands: I recommend Superfeet only because they're the only good insoles I can purchase off-the-rack in my town.

I wear mocassins in the house, and I put a pair of my oldest Superfeet insoles in them. Wow, talk about nice. Support for my foot, but the comfort and light weight of a mocassin.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:36 AM on January 2, 2004

I like my custom orthotics, at least with an extra layer of padding on top, but I was lucky to have them covered by insurance. You might want to check out a running store like Fleet Feet if they have one near you. You'll have to pay 15-30$, but they'll probably be a lot better than the Dr. Scholl's. As for shoes, some are better than others, some are just better for you. I recently got some Naot, which are great even without orthotics.
posted by callmejay at 10:09 AM on January 2, 2004

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