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8 best insoles for running, walking and hiking

Take the pressure off with these tried and tested selections

Lydia Willgress
Monday 24 May 2021 14:00 BST
<p>We put these insoles through their paces on a range of different routes</p>

We put these insoles through their paces on a range of different routes

Insoles are not a particularly sexy subject. But wearing them can have both short and long-term benefits – so if you’ve never considered it before, or are prone to pain while exercising, then keep reading.

Insoles work by helping to relieve and prevent joint and muscle pain in your feet and legs. In the short term, this can increase your comfort as they provide additional support and protection.

In the long term, there is evidence they can help to reduce the risk of injury and improve your recovery time.

Whether you’re a runner or a walker, or just someone who spends a lot of time on their feet, there are plenty of options for a variety of functions – from ready-to-wear designs, to smart insoles that can track your pronation. So, how do you choose the right pair?

Luckily, we’ve done the testing for you. We used insoles from across the market over the course of a month to see how they performed during long hikes (at least three hours), everyday activities and running.

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We measured them in terms of comfort and support, as well as how easy they were to adjust to ensure we got the perfect fit. We gave additional points to those which didn’t smell after being left in our wet trainers for an unthinkable number of days, and we considered price too.

Whether you’re prone to injury, looking for a product to help you get back on your feet or just want to take the pressure off, there’s an option for you below.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

The best insoles for running and walking in 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Enertor walking insoles: £34.99,
  • Best for short runs – Sidas run 3feet protect: £31.49,
  • Best for long runs – Enertor running insoles: £34.99,
  • Best for structured shoes – Sidas 3feet outdoor: £31.49,
  • Best budget buy – Decathlon run 700 soles: £12.99,
  • Best for long hikes – Superfeet trailblazer comfort for hiking: £40,
  • Best for data lovers – Nurvv run: £249.99,
  • Best for everyday life – FootBalance quickfit balance: £39.95,

Enertor walking insoles

Best: Overall

The roll call of athletes linked to Enertor is impressive. The brand says it’s not only helped Premier League footballers and Tour de France winners, but its insoles are endorsed and worn by none other than Olympic superstar and eight-time gold medallist Usain Bolt.

So, could they ever live up to the hype? The short answer is yes. We tried Enertor’s walking insoles, hiking up to 12 miles in them with no problems at all. In fact, these were the most comfortable pair we tried, striking the balance between protection and support. The unique PX1 shock-absorbing technology works by transmitting impact forces horizontally through the insole, reducing shockwaves through the leg. We found this stopped the dull ache we usually experienced in our knees and hips while walking, and reduced muscle fatigue. Unlike other insoles, which can be very rigid to give you the right support, these are softer and more flexible, with cushioned arch support to prevent pronation.

And these aren’t just for walkers – they would also be great for people who have to spend hours on their feet at work. Plus, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, plantar fasciitis or a number of other injuries, then the brand says these insoles could help. They are available in sizes from a UK 3 to a UK 14, with the brand recommending that you wear them gradually over the first couple of weeks to allow your feet time to get used to them. One pair is £34.99, but there are some great offers if you’re looking to buy more. We can’t fault them.

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Sidas run 3feet protect

Best: For short runs

Specialist brand Sidas was established by a group of ski instructors who wanted to make skier’s feet more comfortable. Fast forward nearly 50 years and you don’t have to be a skier to love the brand. From running and hiking to just going about your daily life, Sidas says its products can help to eliminate foot pain.

We tried the run 3feet protect insoles during a week of heavy running and found they offered good levels of protection, absorbing shock via a heel gel pad which helped to dissipate impact. These kept our feet stable via a dual-density structure and a top cover that stopped our feet from slipping. Perforations in the insole helped to stop the insoles from smelling and prevented our feet from overheating.

Unlike some of the other products we tested, these insoles are tailored to both your foot size and your arch type (if you aren’t sure what you need, you can dip your foot in water and step onto a piece of cardboard to work it out… trust us!). We found they were great on short or mid-length runs – but we preferred a softer-style insole when we were pounding the pavements for more than about 90 minutes.

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Decathlon run 700 soles

Best: Budget buy

These are a good buy if you’re looking for a pair of insoles on a budget – or if you just don’t want to splash out. For just £12.99, the brand has developed a super lightweight pair that absorb shock whether you’re pounding the pavement or the trails. They are 5mm thick and are made from foam in three different densities, helping to cushion and support your feet where they need it most.

There are plenty of sizes to choose from, from a UK 4.5 to a UK 12.5, and the brand recommends that you use your original soles as a guide to cut the insoles to size. We’d recommend these for shorter runs, as they provide less support than some of the other pairs we tested – and we’d suggest wearing thicker or athletic-style socks if possible as otherwise we found our feet slipped around on their smooth outer coating.

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Superfeet trailblazer comfort for hiking

Best: For long hikes

We tested these insoles during a five-hour training hike for an upcoming ultramarathon – and boy were we glad to have had them on hand. Usually, we would have experienced a dull ache in our ankles and knees from the two-hour mark; but we got all the way to the end without the usual niggles. It’s clear from the design that the brand – which specialises in insoles and recovery footwear – knows what it’s doing, from the deep-heel cup, which helps to support the foot, to the dual-comfort foam, which really does help to absorb shock.

Available in five sizes, the insoles fitted perfectly into our trainers, with their shape helping to keep our foot in place to prevent blisters. They’ve even got a little “pod” in the heel to help disperse impact on the heels. Superfeet says they should keep their shape and perform for up to 12 months or 500 miles, whichever comes first – and while we haven’t met that landmark yet, they won’t be being removed from our trail shoes any time soon.

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Nurvv run smart insoles

Best: For data lovers

OK, so these aren’t your typical insoles. They’re not going to absorb shock and they definitely aren’t going to cushion your feet. But what these smart insoles are going to do is transform your running in a different way. So, how do they work?

It’s probably easier to think of Nurvv more like a wearable than an insole. The brand accurately captures data from the point of action – your feet. Admittedly, it does do this through two specially designed insoles – but they each boast 16 sensors to enable them to collect data a whopping 1,000 times per second (hence the name “smart”). All of the data is then fed through to a slick coaching app, which not only provides you with insights on your distance, time and pace, but also your pronation, foot strike, step length and cadence.

The Nurvv insoles fit neatly under your usual trainer insoles and, unlike the princess and the pesky pea, you genuinely would have a hard time knowing they were there. They fasten neatly onto the side of your trainer, keeping them in place and enabling you to clip on the lightweight trackers.

As well as insights, the app provides you with training tips and exercises you can do to help adjust and optimise your running style. Available from a UK 5.5 to a UK 14 for men, and a UK 2.5 to a UK 12 for women, these are considerably more expensive than the other insoles we tested – but you get so much for your money, we’d recommend them time and time again.

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Enertor running insoles

Best: For long runs

Much like the brand’s walking insoles, these are worn and promoted by the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt – but you don’t have to break Olympic records to feel the benefits. These offer the same high level of shock absorption and protection as the walking insoles, with the brand’s unique PX1 technology designed to reduce impact – and injuries – on your feet, knees and hips. Where they differ is in formulation, with a slightly firmer cushion to help absorb a bigger load (there are higher forces at play when you run, with your feet coming down more heavily than when you’re out for a leisurely stroll). As well as preventing injury, Enertor says the extra shock absorption helps to reduce fatigue and maintain performance, so you can train for longer.

We loved the arch support, helpful for those of us with a high instep. They fit well in all kinds of sports shoes, including football and rugby boots; just make sure you take the existing inner soles out and wear them in before you try anything too long. If you really love them, they offer a discount if you buy more than one pair.

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FootBalance quickfit balance

Best: For everyday life

Founded by a physiotherapist specialised in podiatric medicine, FootBalance can be relied upon for expert advice and high quality products. It’s unsurprising, then, that the brand’s ready-to-wear QuickFit Balance insoles are a great choice for those who need a little extra support.

Unlike some of the other products we tried, these insoles can be used as they are or heat-moulded in the oven at home for a personalised fit. We thought we’d give the do-it-yourself version a go, and were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was. We started by trimming the top of the insoles to shape using a pair of scissors. We then heated the insoles for five minutes at 80C, popped them in our trainers and walked for five minutes as they cooled to shape them (the brand also has a handy YouTube video you can watch for extra tips).

The result is a simple, comfortable insole that offers good support for the arch of your feet. We found they didn’t lose their shape and didn’t smell – even though they got absolutely soaked on several occasions thanks to the unseasonal weather.

The brand also has a custom insole, which can be moulded in store if you are looking for something a little more bespoke. But we found the QuickFit collection highly effective. A wide range of foot sizes are catered for, with insoles available from a UK 3 to a UK 15, while there is also a narrow version available for tight-fitting sport shoes, skates or casual trainers.

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Sidas 3feet outdoor

Best: For structured shoes

If you’re not a runner, but you’re still keen to give Sidas’ products a go, then the brand’s 3feet outdoor insoles are a solid option. These insoles are more rigid than the ones above, and have a large foam heel pad, instead of a smaller gel one, to help absorb shock. They also have more perforations at the front to increase breathability and comfort, helping your feet to stay cool and dry, while the design helps to reduce strain on the arch of your foot. This means they are a good buy if you’re looking for something to fit into more structured shoes, like walking boots, or if you’re doing a lower impact exercise like hiking over a longer period of time.

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The verdict: Insoles for running and walking

After a month of testing insoles, our feet, ankles and knees are feeling better than ever. Overall, we absolutely loved both the walking and running insoles from Enertor, and will be using them during our double marathon in a couple of weeks. FootBalance’s quickfit balance insoles should be highly commended for their personalised fit, while Nurvv run takes data to a whole new level.

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Go the distance with the best men’s and women’s running shoes

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