By Ashley Gainer
We have all experienced long days spent standing, walking, reaching, rushing, pushing, and doing countless other things that keep us on our feet. It’s not uncommon to experience significant, if not excruciating, pain at the end of these long days – especially if we have multiple days in a row without much opportunity for a break. Having a hot soak and a foot rub can work wonders to relieve tired, aching feet, but many of us simply lack the time and a spare pair of hands to go through that routine each night.
Fortunately, there are other things we can do to provide some relief. I don’t have a spouse to help work the kinks out of my metatarsals in the evenings, but I do have an overzealous dog with a licking habit! And while the papillon can bring some relief on occasion, he’s not really a winning long-term strategy. No – the best thing I’ve been able to do for my feet when I have long days of standing, walking, standing, hauling, and more standing, is wearing good shoes lined with supportive insoles.
I’d been wearing Birkenstock sandals for years because I thought they were comfortable, but when I was pregnant I really began to realize the importance of good arch supports. I could get away with my trusty sandals during the early months of pregnancy, but it wasn’t until I was very pregnant in the cold winter months in chilly Colorado that I realized the real impact that arch supports had on my aching body. The only shoes my feet and hips could tolerate were my hiking boots, which had built-in arch supports. And with that, I became a life-long convert to arch support insoles.
There are two basic schools of thought when it comes to arch supports. One is to provide cushioning, which also provides significant shock absorption. The other school of thought is to provide firm support to keep the arch propped up and fully functioning, which provides stability and prevents strain or weakness.
People with tired but otherwise healthy feet can benefit from cushioning insoles because they ease the pressure on tired heels and mid-foot joints. The added comfort and shock absorption bring a lot of relief, but the foot’s resting surface is softer and can lead to some instability when there’s a weak arch. A lot of us have weakened arches if we spend a lot of time standing and walking in footwear that isn’t very supportive, and when this is the case, an arch support insert can be beneficial. Having the added support keeps the arch raised, which puts the foot in proper alignment. Properly aligned feet most directly affect the ankle, reducing fatigue and promoting continued alignment all the way up the legs into the knees and hips. When your feet are in the right position, the entire skeletal frame is able to function more efficiently and with less pain. Less pain, less fatigue – key elements of self-care.
Ashley Gainer is a freelance writer and editor living in Chapel Hill, NC, who would be happy to tell you all about the insoles in her sneakers. After years of dealing with foot pain of varying causes and degrees, she and other members of her family founded Insoles and Beyond, an online retailer of orthotic shoe inserts. Whether you need inserts for plantar fasciitis, arch supports for high or low arches, or cushioning insoles for work shoes, you can find relief at InsolesandBeyond.com.