Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.
Sometimes my feet hurt. Typically my feet ache a little bit, but sometimes it feels like someone has worked the bottoms of my feet over with a baseball bat. Today was one of those days.
I don't know if I have bad feet or bad shoes. I have a pair of Fila tennis shoes with memory foam insoles that feel great. It's also great that I got them at Famous Footwear for only $25 using a coupon. But the bad news is that I can't really wear tennis shoes to work. I need to wear either my black or my brown shoes. Both are years old, and both are uncomfortable.
I have been able to make my shoes last for years, sometimes even repairing shoes to save money instead of buying new shoes. Over time, the shoe insole has worn down and becomes flat and hard. I decided to try to use my $25 Walgreens gift card to solve my immediate problem of sore feet. Since Walgreens doesn't sell shoes, my options were to get some ibuprofen or get some new insoles to make my old shoes more comfortable.
What Are Shoe Inserts?
Shoe inserts are also known as shoe insoles. They are made of foam or rubbery plastic materials and make a cushion for your feet at the bottom of your shoes. Some are simply cushions, and some provide arch support as well. The packaging of the products describes the problem that specific insole is intended to solve. Some inserts are designed to relieve back pain or aching legs. Others specifically mention relieving foot pain.
You can find ones specifically for "work" and some for running. The inserts for work are intended to help people who are on their feet all day at work. The running insoles provide extra shock absorption for running on pavement.
How Much Do They Cost?
I was surprised at the variety available at Walgreens. I also checked at another pharmacy and found a similar selection. The lowest cost for new insoles that I found was 99 cents for some generic foam inserts that you cut with scissors to the size of your shoe. Compared with the fancy molded foam inserts and plastic inserts with gel cushions, the simple flat foam pad seems entirely inadequate.
Most of the orthotics for sale were in the $5 to $15 price range. Some of these feature arch support and shock absorption. I think any of these would improve the comfort level of old shoes with worn-out insoles.
Some insoles are more expensive than others. It's about $40 or more for custom fit shoe inserts. Some stores have "foot mapping" machines that measure the pressure on the bottom of your feet as you stand. After measurement, the machine recommends a specific type of insert based on the measurements. This may be worth the money if the "off the shelf" inserts in the $5 to $15 price range don't solve your issues.
Which Is the Best Shoe Insert?
I found some cool-looking inserts with gel in the heel that looked promising and cost about $15. However, these inserts were intended to help with back pain according to the description on the package. I decided to go with ones that specifically help with foot pain.
I picked out some Dr. Scholl's Tri-Comfort inserts. These have features that help with foot comfort in three areas of the foot—the ball, the arch, and the heel. The Tri-Comfort inserts are foam inserts with arch support, but no gel.
The inserts I selected were 3/4 length inserts. This means that the insert does not go all the way to the toe of the shoe. This makes it easier to insert and remove them. Easy removal and insertion of the inserts are important to me since I plan to move the inserts between my black shoes and my brown shoes frequently.
How Long Do Shoe Inserts Last?
Before spending money, I was interested in knowing how long the inserts typically last. According to the packaging, they last for six months. I would assume that the six-month life expectancy would be for daily wear. If you don't use your inserts every day, I would expect them to last longer than six months. I suspect the foam and elastic materials lose their springiness and get flattened down over time.
Do Shoe Inserts Make Shoes Comfortable?
So far, my feet feel a lot better with the new insoles. I installed the inserts immediately after I got back to my office. The first thing I noticed is that they seem to make me a little bit taller. I am pretty tall already, but I am fine with a 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch extra height. Of course, you can buy shoe inserts that are designed to make you taller if that is your goal.
After putting the inserts in my shoes, my feet felt better the more I walked. I think the bottoms of my feet had become bruised from walking with the very hard soles of my old shoes. Also, the lack of arch support was not helping. I think spending $12.50 for something that will work in both pairs of my work shoes was money well spent. I guess since I had a gift card, I didn't actually spend any money, but even if I really paid $12.50, this seems like a good value.
Someone recently suggested that I should invest in buying better shoes. The thought was that I could save money by getting good shoes that last longer. Perhaps next time I buy shoes, I will get higher quality shoes. For now, it is sure nice to have comfortable shoes without spending a lot of money!
© 2014 Dr Penny Pincher
Dr Penny Pincher (author) from Iowa, USA on January 16, 2014:
Thanks, kidscrafts! For some reason, it didn't even occur to me to get shoe inserts until I ended up with a gift card and started thinking about what I could get at Walgreens. It sure makes sense to me now: I don't need to get new shoes and my feet don't hurt anymore.
kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on January 16, 2014:
Shoe inserts can be a great solution to have more comfortable shoes. I know all about it because I have plantar fasciitis to my left foot and I need all the comfort I can get! Great hub! Thank you for sharing! This article will definitely help a few people :-)