When you’re looking to buy the most comfortable and supportive shoe, whether it be for exercise, work, or daily use, there are so many factors to consider. Maybe your perfect shoe needs extra cushioning at the heel for balance or extra traction on the bottom for long walks with your dog.
But one of the most important aspects of a good shoe is often overlooked: the footbed.
What is the footbed of a shoe and why is it so important? Read on to make sure you’re considering this crucial factor as you search for your next pair.
What Is the Footbed of Shoe?
The footbed is at the bottom, innermost part of the shoe that runs from the heel to the toe. It is a soft layer that supports the bottom of your foot and is the part of the shoe that your foot is directly on.
You might also know the footbed as an insole or insert. They may be attached to the shoe, but there are removable options so you can customize the fit and support that you need.
Exploring Shoe Comfort: The Science of Footbeds
Footbeds are designed to provide comfort to the foot, reduce fatigue, and may ease pain in the feet, ankle, and hips. Footbeds do this in two main ways:
- Encourage natural biomechanics – Biomechanics refers to the way the bones and joints naturally interact and move. Arch support in footbeds influences biomechanics by realigning your feet and ankles as needed.1
- Absorb shock – Footbeds are made from a material that can absorb and redistribute the kinetic energy from an impact. This can reduce the stress placed on your joints which alleviates pain and risk of injury.2
From those two main categories, we can break the footbed down even further to demonstrate its functionality.
An In-Depth Look at Shoe Footbed Design and Functionality
The footbed does more than add a protective layer between you and the bottom of your shoe. Each insole design has different features intended to meet the specific needs of your feet, including shock absorption, stability, odor control, and arch support.
While every shoe insole may have a unique design, here’s how we do it:
- Shock absorption – The heel of the footbed is designed with a contour and cushioning, which provides stability and shock absorption.
- Odor control – The top layer of a footbed is a thin cover that’s all about odor control. This layer is antibacterial, which helps absorb the bacteria causing that odor.
- Stability and motion control – At the base of the footbed is a reinforced, hardened plastic shell with a contour at the heel. These features provide added stability and motion control.
- Arch support – A footbed includes a contour under the arch for added support. Depending on the needs of your foot, the arch may have more or less cushion and varying levels of height.
While every aspect of the footbed’s functionality is important, arch support may be one of the most popular reasons why you look into customized orthotic insoles.
Choosing the Right Shoe Footbed for Arch Support
One of the footbed’s main functionalities is to realign your feet into their natural position. But with so many options, how do you know which footbed will provide you with the best arch support?
Before choosing a footbed, it’s important to determine what type of foot you have. There are varying levels of arches: a high arch, a medium or normal arch, and a low arch (flat foot).3
Determining Your Arch
To determine what type of arch you have, just wet the bottom of your foot and step on a piece of paper, cardboard, or the sidewalk—anywhere you can see your footprint.
If you can only see the ball and heels of your foot, you have a high arch. If you can see most of your foot minus the innermost part, you have a normal arch. If you can see your entire footprint, you have a low arch or flat feet.
Choosing Your Footbed
After you determine what arch you have, you can look into the arch support that’s right for you.
High arches are also known as underpronation, or where the heel rolls outward. High arches are uncommon and can be painful. Finding the proper footwear for high arches is tricky, as they require additional care.4
If you have high arches, the right footbed for you may feature an extra high arch to help support your foot. You may also want a footbed that is firm at the base and around the heel to help relieve the excess pressure around the heel and ball of your foot.
If you have high arches that are causing additional foot problems, talk to your healthcare provider and look into orthotic footbeds to support your feet with the care they need.
Even if you have normal arches, your foot muscles can benefit from added arch support. This is where wearing orthotic insoles comes into play as they can help prevent flat feet from forming in the future.
The right footbed for you should be contoured to your foot for a secure fit and stability. The arch in your footbed may only need to be mild—whatever is the most comfortable for you.
Flat feet are also known as overpronation, or when the foot rolls inward. Flat arches are somewhat common, but may cause foot pain while walking or other physical activity. Overpronation can also mean a greater risk of injury.5
If you have flat arches, the right footbed for you may be focused on realignment. This may include a dense arch, a firm and contoured heel for stability, and a wide base to support the rest of the foot.
You may also want to look into orthotic footbeds, which can be prescribed by a podiatrist, and are custom for your unique shaping needs.
Orthotic Footbeds vs. Standard Insoles: Which is Right for You?
We keep mentioning orthotic footbeds, but what actually are they, and are they right for you? Knowing the goal of each type of footbed may help.
- Orthotic footbeds – These are medical devices designed to treat foot and ankle conditions like underpronation and overpronation. You can consult with a podiatrist to have a custom insole prescribed to you after a medical examination.6
- Standard insoles – A standard insole is not custom for your feet and is for general use. They are not intended to correct medical issues, but rather to provide additional support and comfort while wearing shoes.
If you are experiencing pain or know you’re experiencing overpronation, orthotic footbeds may be right for you. If you’re just looking for general support, try standard insoles.
How Shoe Footbeds Impact Your Walking Experience
Shoe insoles can make your walking experience a whole lot better, whether or not you are experiencing pain related to specific foot problems.
The additional support and cushion that footbeds provide can make your walk more comfortable. As they alleviate pressure with their shock-absorbing features, you will be able to walk for a longer amount of time and feel strong while you do it.
Insoles may also create a better fit inside your shoe, so your feet don’t slide around and you have better motion control during your walk.
The Role of Footbeds in Athletic Shoes
Adding footbeds to your athletic shoes may even advance your athletic performance. The features mentioned above—shock absorption, stability, and motion control—are all aspects that impact performance.
With footbeds, your body doesn’t have to work as hard to retain stability and motion control, leaving you with more energy to focus on the workout ahead.
They also reduce the risk of injury, so you can push harder while remaining comfortable and pain-free.
Tips to Optimize Shoe Comfort
Here are some of our tips for adding extra comfort to your footwears:
- Know your goal – A padded footbed for someone spending long hours on their feet will be different than a firm footbed meant for someone needing arch support. Know your footbed goal so you can find what’s most comfortable for you.
- Trim your insoles – When it comes to shoe insoles, one size doesn’t usually fit all. Many footbeds are thin and flexible, allowing you to trim them for the perfect fit inside your footwear.
- Gradually increase wear – Wearing insoles for the first time might feel like a weird adjustment. Wear them for a few hours at a time when they’re new, and then gradually increase the amount of time you wear them. (The brief adjustment period will be worth it in the long run.)
How Shoe Footbeds Impact Overall Foot Health and Extend the Life of Your Shoes
A shoe footbed can improve your overall foot health by correcting the alignment of your feet and ankles, protecting you from pain, soreness, and injury. This can help you in the long term, as wearing insoles with arch support may prevent overpronation and other foot issues.
Footbeds can also extend the life of your shoes, as the extra shoe cushioning reduces the wear and tear resulting from daily use. This leaves your shoes looking and feeling great for longer.
Maximize Shoe Comfort With Vionic
In short, footbeds are essential to the equation of the perfect pair of shoes. From providing arch support that realigns your feet to shock-absorbing features that alleviate the force on your joints, comfortable and supportive footbeds are the key to foot health and comfort.
Looking for orthotic footbeds? There’s no need to pay an exorbitant amount of money for a prescription footbed of shoe. Our Relief Insoles are podiatrist-designed and clinically proven to reduce overpronation.
- “What Is a Biomechanics Assessment?” The Foot Care Group. https://thefootcaregroup.co.uk/what-is-a-biomechanics-assessment/
- “The Science Behind Insoles in Shoes” Medium.https://medium.com/@masoomab4u/the-science-behind-insoles-in-shoes-7c24095717dd
- “Choosing The Right Insoles.” Sports Injury Clinic. 27 June, 2023. https://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/treatments-therapies/foot-biomechanics-gait-analysis/choosing-the-right-insoles
- Smith, Logan. “How Much Do You Know About Your Foot Arches?” WebMD. 11 August, 2021. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/how-much-do-you-know-about-your-feet-arches#1-4
- Fletcher, Jenna. “What is overpronation?” MedicalNewsToday. 4 October, 2023. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320383#treatment-options
- “You Don’t Have to Live With Foot Pain Orthotics Can Help. Information on Orthotics.” Podiatric Medical Board of California. https://www.pmbc.ca.gov/forms_pubs/orthotics.shtml