When it comes to your running shoes, you don’t want to be caught flat-footed. The difference between a hobby and a chore can often be how comfortable you are doing it, and that especially applies to exercise.
Strenuousphysical activity like running can be hard on your feet if your shoes aren’t up to the task. One of the many ways to improve the comfort of your running experience is the use of special cushioning insoles, which are orthoses.
Don’t subject yourself to aching knees and blistered heels when on your runs by buying orthotic implants like these below.
Orthotics is the term for the application of orthoses, implements intended to help the structural integrity of your skeleton, and are so most often applied to the legs and feet by way of braces and insoles.
For the purpose of this review, orthotics will generally refer to specialized detachable insoles that are inserted into shoes for the purpose of improving posture and movement, often via raised heels or reinforced arches.
Whilst often recommended as a medical remedy for back and leg pains as a result of injury, rheumatoid arthritis or flat feet, the ergonomic advantages that orthotics provide make them the ideal card up your sleeve – or down in your shoe – to help achieve maximum speed and comfort.
Here we’ll consider your market options for running shoe-friendly orthotics and see which is the best fit for you.
Our buyers’ guide below will also help you learn what makes a good shoe orthotic and how they work so that you can make your next purchase an informed one, because good consumer sense is a marathon, not a sprint.
In a hurry – Our top pick is the ASICS Gel-Fortitude 8
If you’re in a hurry, don’t go running away yet! Our top pick for the best running shoes are the ASICS Gel-Fortitude 8, which accommodate orthotic inserts to get you out there as fast as possible but with the added bonus of being the best option on the market. Here’s why we think this is the one:
- For starters, its somewhat cheaper than some of the other running shoes considered below yet provides a lot in quality.
- Has brand-specific qualities SpevaFoam and ComforDry to improve its wearing experience.
- Made with a support last intended for orthotic inserts.
ASICS Gel-Fortitude 8
- I.G.S (Impact Guidance System) Technology - ASICS design philosophy that employs linked componentry to enhance the foot's natural gait from heel strike to toe-off.
- Rearfoot and Forefoot GEL Technology Cushioning System - Attenuates shock during impact and toe-off phases, and allows movement in multiple planes as the foot transitions through the gait cycle.
- Guidance Trusstic System Technology - This Trusstic System Technology integrates Guidance Line construction for enhanced gait efficiency while providing midfoot structural integrity.
- Guidance Line Midsole Technology - Vertical flex groove decouples the tooling along the line of progression for enhanced gait efficiency.
- SpevaFoam Midsole Material - Improves bounce back characteristics and decreases midsole breakdown.
Our top choice is the ASICS Gel-Fortitude 8. It’s a prestigious piece of kit as is, from its SpevaFoam midsole material to reduce midsole wear and preserve the shoe’s structure to its ComforDry sock liner that cushions and wicks moisture away from your feet for a cooler in-shoe environment.
It is tailored to the biomechanical foot motions of a runner with gel sole implants to cushion your heel and forefoot strikes, and so reduce impact forces that could cause undue stress on your feet and legs.
As a running shoe it boasts many special design features that puts it a foot ahead of the competition. The shoe also was also made with a maximum support last so that it can accommodate wider volume feet or, you guessed it, orthotic inserts.
This makes it not only an adept running shoe but a very suitable option if you need shoe inserts but don’t want to sacrifice quality and performance in order to fit one in.
It is also cheaper – though only marginally – than other shoes in this review, and so provides many of its features for less than other options which lack its ergonomic features.
- SpevaFoam midsole reinforcement and ComforDry sock liner to ensure the shoe keeps its quality with use.
- Gel cushioned to reduce the impact force of running.
- Fits well and designed with maximum support last to accommodate most orthotic inserts.
- One of the cheaper options.
- Limited selection of neutral color options so can look a bit plain.
- Quite bulky.
Brooks Dyad 10
The Brooks Dyad 10 is designed to be a more neutral running shoe, one that isn’t so specialized so that it can appeal to a wider variety of people. If that kind of muted, casual look is what you look for in a running shoe then this could be the option for you.
It is also constructed with a wide fit to guarantee orthotic compatibility, but this leaves a wide toe box which may take some getting used to if you’re not used to your toes having an abundance of space within the shoe.
It’s made to be a casual, lightweight alternative to Brooks’ other sports shoes but in the pursuit of stability they’ve had to sacrifice some flexibility in the shoe’s upper. Many sports shoes achieve orthotics compatibility by making this upper flexible, but instead Brooks have made a wide fit shoe and kept the upper more rigid to keep the shoe stable.
- Constructed to be lightweight (at only 14ozs) and with stability in mind.
- Designed for those with a low or flat arch, and for orthotic insertion.
- Constructed in a wide fit, so affords extra room for orthoses.
- BioMoGo DNA cushioning to reduce impact shock.
- Is wide enough that the toe box may disturb runners by how wide the fit is.
- Sacrifices upper flexibility for stability
Saucony Echelon 7
- A roomy toe box provides ample room for feet to splay, while the midfoot and heel elements frame your foot to hold it in place
- The echelon 7 is also helpful for runners who suffer from underpronation, also known as supination
- Closure Type: Lace Up
Another selection from Saucony made for more casual use much like the Dyad 10, the Echelon 7’s foam insoles mold under the weight of your feet to match their shape and gait movements.
Those movements can be done with confidence thanks to the reflective strip on the heels for increased visibility when running in the evening or at night.
With a wide fit and toe box to better emulate a natural barefoot sprint, they may not be for everyone and can seem bulky when strapped to your feet but these shoes are crafted with considerations not only for ‘over-the-counter’ and market varieties of orthotics, but custom made ones too!
So if you have specific orthotic needs for a specific and less common condition ailing your feet, your orthosis should fit in these shoes with little problem.
- Wide fit supportive of orthotics, including custom inserts.
- Adaptable foam insoles that mold to your foot shape.
- A reflective strip on the heels for increased visibility.
- External heel protects from rolling your foot, reduces injury chance.
- Can feel heavy.
- Wide toe box can take getting used to.
- Lack durability, susceptible to wear and tear.
Mizuno Wave Horizon 2
- Cloudwave offers a plush stable and lively feel
- Airmesh upper
- Fit in motion upper for flexible support
- Soft anatomical sockliner for extra arch support and cushioning
- U4ic Midsole for cushioning
Boasting Mizuno Cloudwave technology, which utilizes plush in a convex geometry to make for a softer run, the Wave Horizon 2 was also made with stability in mind to insulate the foot against impact forces, particularly at the heel.
It’s made with plates and extra cushioning to achieve just that, as well as a very durable piece of footwear.
It has a soft, anatomical sock liner designed to cushion and provide extra support for the arches and ease the transition from heel to forefoot during natural foot movement.
It has built in flexibility support via a synthetic airmesh upper for breathability and ease of wear for newcomers to running and those who need some extra flexible wiggle room to put their orthoses in.
- Special Cloudwave technology.
- Constructed lightweight and with stability and midsole support in mind.
- Very stable and durable.
- Its insole drops significantly from heel to toe.
Saucony Redeemer ISO 2
- EVERUN Topsole for continuous cushioning
- Engineered mesh upper for dynamic lightweight fit
- Foundation Platform for a more volume fit throughout
Catering to those with flat feet or an inconsistent gait, the Saucony Redeemer ISO 2 has a flat insole and sole which makes it a suitable shoe to wear with your orthotics. There’s only an 8mm difference in the height between the heel and the forefoot, in comparison with the industry standard of 12mm, and so this makes for a smoother run.
It also comes with responsive EVERUN foam topsole to cushion every step.
A dynamic fit system called ISOFIT ensures these Redeemer shoes flex and adapt around the shape of your feet to better fit and avoid the issue of having too much space.
This makes it extremely helpful for those who suffer with their pronation where they either under or over-rotate their feet when running, this makes for a more specialized but less breathable running shoe.
- Smooth 8mm insole height reduction, compared to a 12mm standard.
- ISOFIT and TRI-FLEX systems to reduce foot rotation and improve sole flex respectively.
- Gum rubber soles for a smooth run on the hardest of surfaces.
- Very durable.
- Its insole drops significantly from heel to toe.
- Higher price point than the others.
- Not as breathable as other options.
New Balance 1340v3
As one of the cheaper offerings from New Balance, this shoe is also one of the cheapest in this list and so a fine option for the more frugal buyer. It boasts many of the standard features of running shoes, a breathable upper mesh, rubber outsoles and their own trademarked use of foam to reduce impact forces upon the middle of your soles – ABZORB.
Reviews of these shoes online have expressed dissatisfaction with how tight the fit of the shoe can be. This is obviously not ideal for many orthotics, earning it a place at the bottom of our list.
However, with many wider fitting shoes that have compatibility issues with narrow feet listed above, a tighter fit might be what you’re looking for.
The functionality of the shoe’s multi-density polyurethane insert designed to cater to your foot across a variety of impact shocks from a variety of running surfaces could also be compromised were you to remove parts or all of it to accommodate your orthosis.
- ABZORB midsole foam for added impact resistance.
- Breathable upper mesh.
- Blown rubber outsole for added bounce.
- One of the cheaper market options.
- Shoe has a tighter fit, not ideal for swollen feet.
- Loss of the default multi-density polyurethane insert if modified with orthotics.
- Limited colour availability.
New Balance 1540v3
- Premium Performance Running Shoes: The Made in US 1540v3 Running Shoe is crafted with premium materials and technologies for discerning consumers who are serious about athletic style and performance
- Modern Construction for an Outstanding Fit: The leather/mesh upper on these New Balance kids' running shoes features a stitched-down tip and foxing details to provide flexible support and durability
- Soft Underfoot Cushioning: The ABZORB midsole absorbs impact through a combination of cushioning and compression resistance, giving these kids' running shoes a comfortable feel that lasts all day
- Designed for Support and Durability: These kids' performance shoes feature a strong rubber outsole to offer long-lasting durability, built to stand up to daily use and playground wear-and-tear
- Available in a Range of Colors: From neutral tones to bold hues, these cushioned running shoes for kids are available in a range of shades to suit the style and color preferences of your little one
These pricey shoes from New Balance claim to have been designed with optimum motion control in mind. Their mission statement is to combat overpronation, and so the shoes are specifically engineered to be soft on your feet when running.
Some women seem to report discomfort with the women’s variant of this shoe, the common problem of sports shoes having wide toe boxes rearing its ugly head again. Whilst something that can be coped with, it seems to be jarring since women’s shoes are generally a more snug fit for their smaller feet.
Because of that, some of the problems could be attributed to unfamiliarity with having such a spacey toe box. On the plus side, this is an indicator of more free room on the interior for your orthosis.
- ROLLBAR with medial and lateral TPU posts for maximum motion control.
- Designed with combating overpronation in mind.
- Larger toe box, especially a sticking point in the women’s variant.
What to look for in a running shoe
When choosing your running shoes there are many factors to consider whether you plan on using an orthotic insert or not. Going from the top downwards, the first thing to consider is the upper. The fabric above your foot when wearing the shoes should be comfortable and not pinch or chafe anywhere, with snugness or wideness depending on your preference.
Many orthotic friendly running shoes tend towards wideness for the extra room, and if you do have orthotics its good practice to choose sneakers with flexible uppers for added wiggle room.
As for the ankle collar, you should aim for a shoe that doesn’t let your heel slip when walking and, more importantly, running. It should also have ample padding so that rubbing contact against the bonier parts of your ankle doesn’t result in soreness.
Below the ankle collar is the heel counter, the harder material cup that cradles your heels in the sneaker. This should simply allow a great deal of ankle motion to be considered up to scratch.
The next part of the sneaker to consider is one that can often go overlooked, the saddle. This is the reinforced brace in the instep of the shoe that cradles your arches, and so tends to be less of a problem area than the heel, forefoot and toes.
What to look for in a decent sneaker saddle is again for it to not allow you to slip within the shoe, for it to be comfortable and encourage the flexing and doming that naturally occurs when running.
Next, the toe box should be roomy enough to stay out of the way and allow for the flexing of your toes within the shoe, spreading out as they would if you were barefoot without having to contend with the width and length of the sneaker’s front.
This is to avoid painful bunions from excessive rubbing. Many of the selection above are wide fitted to accommodate orthotics, but a common and relatively minor complaint for some of them is that the larger toe boxes can be jarring to those not used to having what they feel is too much room for their toes.
For running shoes its also important to know what to look for in the outsole, where your shoe hits the ground. You should look for gum rubber for added bounce and to lessen running impact. Some of the more specialized products above have other advantages built into their outsoles to try and be the best in the business for stability, durability and traction.
All these bells and whistles can make sneakers rather bulky, so a good quality to look for is a lightweight construction if that is your preference.
Part of the outsole is the toe spring where the outsole is sometimes segmented to allow for a more flexible front of the sneaker as opposed to the more rigid heel counter, since your toes will flex and bend unlike the back of your foot in the shoe.
These should just complement the natural movement of your toes as you roll from one step to the next. Once again it is important to make sure it works best for the intended use of the shoe, in this case for running.
The general cushioning of the insole is something that can feel off if the sneaker isn’t right for your foot. You can instinctually tell if a midsole is too hard or too soft, or whether your forefoot and heel, being the two major points of contact when running, are unsupported or don’t provide the feel of a natural push-off when you stride.
The heel-toe drop (or the offset) is the difference in height from the highest point at the heel to the ball of the foot. This difference in height changes the way your legs and feet react to the impacts of your strides.
If you have a certain weak part of your foot, a change in drop can redistribute the impact pressure on the foot and may alleviate some of these concerns. The average offset drop is 12mm, but some sneakers will boast shallower drops from 8mm to just 3mm in order to combat pressure buildup and make for a flatter base for insert compatibility.
Shoe geometry such as dual density or medial posts are used by many sports designers and so are in-built into many sneakers to combat excessive foot movement – overpronation. This isn’t a problem for the average person, but the extra control these devices can provide is only positive for runners.
Lastly, sock liners are the removable foam pads that come in some sneakers for added comfort and moisture wicking. This means they should be breathable and not overly tight on your foot.
When to consider orthotics
Orthotics are usually recommended by sports trainers or medical health professionals in cases where tendons, ligaments and joints are resting in ways that cause conditions such as plantar fasciitis that bring about discomfort, pain and fatigue.
If strenuous activity involving a lot of foot traffic on your part results in your feet being worn and aching, an orthosis may be for you.
Though custom-fit orthotics are unparalleled in their compatibility with your feet, it is recommended to try off-the-shelf insoles first due to how pricey getting prescription ones can be.
Orthotics for runners to, among other things, reduce the impact of their foot strikes, make shoe inserts not just something for a doctor to recommend, but something for anyone serious about running to consider.
How to tell an orthosis is good for shoe compatibility
Orthoses on the market come in all shapes, lengths and widths to cater to every foot type. Naturally, you’d need your feet measurements in order to find corresponding insoles for the best fit possible. A large part of the fit of an orthosis is whether they match your feet or not within the shoe.
A thinner orthosis will generally fit in less specialized shoes and are available for casual or smart shoes that may not have been made with orthotic compatibility in mind. When used with the right shoe and the right dimensions, you shouldn’t really notice the orthosis in your running shoes since it’d feel so natural to wear.
What footwear is best for fitting an orthosis?
Enclosed shoes with a relatively horizontal sole will work well with any appropriately measured orthotic that has a wide and stable, supporting base. A heel of higher than about three centimeters will usually make shoes unsuitable to get orthotics.
Due to this, sneakers are the most popular fit for them. However, care needs to be taken when considering the size of the insole as many slim, casual shoes tend to not have much upper room in them and so don’t accommodate insoles very well. Running shoes often take this into consideration, like our selection above, and so tend to be the best fit due to them needing to withstand repeated physical activities.
Shoes manufactured with a straight last, and so are roughly a consistent rectangular shape on the inside, have the best accommodation for orthotic inserts. Its simplistic construction also means straight-lasted shoes will often be more durable and so longer lasting than more specialized variants, a quality useful for running shoes that will see a lot of activity.
More forgiving uppers help to increase the room inside shoes, too.
Custom orthotics or over-the-counter inserts?
Custom orthotics are supplied by medical professionals like chiropractors and podiatrists. As such they can get expensive since they are prescribed and tailor-made to the dimensions of your foot.
The trade-off here is that no insert will fit your foot as well as one that is, well, literally modelled from your foot, and so the comfort is unparalleled.
That said, cheaper insert options are available that can be a good match for your feet if you suffer from common posture and foot problems where a specialized approach may not be needed. There’s no harm in trying alternatives to see if they can enhance your running experience on a budget before trying to get some tailored.
Do I have to go up a shoe size for my insole to fit?
Depending on the size of your foot compared to your shoe, half a shoe size increase may be necessary to fit the orthotic into certain types of shoe.
This also depends on the shoe itself, of course, as more restrictive shoes around your feet will limit the room that an orthosis could potentially fit into.