How to choose insoles for boots

Why are hiking boot insoles important?

Having good fitting pair of hiking boots is one of the most important considerations you need to make before you set off on the trails. Probably the second most important is the choice of insole. 

But why?

On a trek or hike, your feet are subjected to constant pounding which leads to high levels of stress and, in turn, other common injuries. If your insoles don’t provide adequate support and protection this will only make matters worse.

Read our guide to hiking boots for more information on buying, preparing and get the most out of your boots.

What’s the difference between hiking and shoe insoles?

Hiking insoles for boots differ from standard insoles in that they provide more support, breathability and a greater degree of comfort than those you fit into everyday walking shoes. They also help reduce the amount of movement, or slippage, of your foot inside the boot which helps in preventing blisters and the dreaded hiker’s black toenail.

Every sporting activity is different and the stresses placed on the body by each type requires a different solution. And the longer you walk the more stress the weight of your back put on your feet.

What about insulated insoles?

As many of you know, I’m a great fan of treks in extreme cold environments. For me, it’s vital that my feet are protected from cold weather injuries such as frostbite (which I’ve already suffered from). Even if you aren’t hiking in super cold places (-20C and below) it’s well worth investing in insoles with a good level of insulation and will protect your feet from cold injuries. 

The best insulated insoles for cold weather include:

How do insoles for boots work?

They are designed to absorb impact and reduce the effects of vibrations when you’re walking, or running. They also provide support to your arches which reduces the risk of injury.

Some are technical and therefore pretty expensive because they are built with high-tech materials and provide an almost slipper-like experience to your hike. Insoles designed for plantar facilities, are made from deep cushioned memory foam.

If you’re heading out on a long-distance track, or multi day hikes, you should consider buying insoles specifically designed to  reduce the effects of shock absorption on your heels.

Another consideration you need to make on a long-distance hike is is arch support. Walking for extended periods of time will cause your foot arch how to flatten, which places a lot of stress on your muscles and joints and leads to a higher risk of injury.

Why do do hiking boot insoles need to be breathable ?

When you hike your feet start to get warm and with that warmth comes sweat. if your insoles aren’t breathable this moisture will build up inside your boots causing friction. this in turn leads to the formation of blisters. it also leads to very smelly feet, but you were talking about that one today.

Understanding the types of insoles

Supportive insoles

These are made from harder materials to provide support and stability. Instead of providing comfort thorugh cushioning, you get this from the the support.

Supportive insoles are best for:

  • structural misalignment of your lower limbs space-space which can manifest as discomfort or pain in the joints of your legs and lower back.
  • plantar fasciitis. A painful condition caused by tears in the plantar fasciitis, the connective tissue which joins the heel to the forefoot. Medical Research has shown supportive insoles to be the best for this type of condition.
  • overpronation and supination. These are conditions where your feet roll excessively inwards or outwards when walking running.

Memory foam insoles

This type of insolles moulds to the shape of your foot in order to reduce pain and fatigue. Most have improved heel protection.

We don’t recommend memory foam as they better suited to peole who spend long periods of time standing in one place.

Gel insoles

The design principles are similar to those of memory foam: the gel shapes to your foot to provide maximum protection and support. The gel filing of the insole is designed to evenly spread the shock of impact and stress across the surface of the insole.

Both Jake and I have used gel insoles with mixed results.

What is insole volume?

This is the amount of space the insoles take up inside your footwear. The greater the thickness, or arch support, the more volume the insole has.

Points to note about insole volume:

  • the best insoles for hiking and other high impact sports activities is a high volume type.
  • some people with very low arches will benefit from using a low volume insole.

Tip: when trying on on a new pair of insoles wear the socks you normally wear are for the given activity.

Testing your insoles before you buy them 

We recommend finding several pairs of insoles that fit your needs and testing them before buying. Ask an expert will give you guidance, but if there’s no one on hand here are a couple of tips that will help you gauge if they meet your requirements:

  • Put the insole on the floor,  place a foot on the insole and lift the other that your balancing on one leg. if you can, shift your centre of gravity back and forth to get a feel for stability. While carrying out this feat of acrobatics,  try to notice any points of excessive pressure. if you can can copper these aren’t the right insoles for you you.

If the heel is cupped ask yourself if your foot fits snug.

  • Now fit the insole into your shoe or boot. and put it on what you looking for at this point is is any pinch points, or tightness undue tightness caused buy the insole volume. walk around for a little bit it and check to see C4 stability and comfort. 

Insole care

Looking after your insoles so that they have a long life and protect your feet is pretty easy. after each hike, no matter how frequent or infrequent, do the following:

Regular earring of your insoles will help to remove trapped moisture and extend their life.

Wash them after every hike using a small amount of detergent, then air dry them before fitting them back into the boot.

Carry out spot checks left bracket that sounds very official… right bracket and look for damage, or excessive wear that indicates they should be replaced


Some of the most common questions about insoles are:

Which insoles are best for plantar fascilitis?

Supportive insoles are best for plantar fasciitis as they are designed to distribute weight and provide an arched support at the point where the muscles are weakest.

Should you wear orthotics in hiking boots?

Yes, if you have orthotics in your everyday walking shoes you should wear them in your hiking footwear to accustom your feet and body to the feel and balance. Wearing different insoles in your boots and shoes is not recommended.

Are cork insoles good for hiking?

Yes. Cork insoles are supportive, wick moisture away from your feet and are incredibly durable. Be aware that, over time, the insoles will harden which will lead to discomfort when you’re walking. Regularly test your cork insoles for flexibility and if any hard spots form, replace the insoles.

Are memory foam insoles good for hiking?

No. Memory foam insoles are not the best option for hiking. Gel, and other supportive, insoles are a better choice. Memory foam insoles are better suited to people who stand in one place for long periods of time.

How do I know when I need new insoles?

Replace your insoles when they become hard, or no longer provide support. Other common signs your insole are worn out include higher levels of fatigue when you hiking and of hot spots as a result of slippage.

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