Cushioning for Feet
Outdoor activities such a walking, backpacking, mountaineering and fell running cause a lot of force to be applied through the knees and onto the feet. Most walking boots and running shoes provide some cushioning against this. Simple insoles can be put inside walking boots and running shoes to provide additional cushioning and absorb impact shock made by feet that are pounding on rocky trails all day.
Foot, Knee, Leg and Back Pain
Podiatry is the field of healthcare devoted to the study and treatment of disorders of the foot and leg. Many instances of foot, knee, leg and back pain can be attributed to the way the feet are oriented and the way someone stands, walks and runs. Orthotics are a technical type of footbed or insole that do far more than provide cushioning. In Podiatry, orthotics are used to support and position the foot, improve gait and provide pain relief. Orthotics are often made for a particular individual by taking a mould or impression of their feet.
Overpronation is a very common problem that orthotics are often used to alleviate. Pronation is when the feet are angled inwards along the length of the foot. The arch of the foot becomes flattened and the knees are closer together than normal position. People whose feet pronate will have shoes that are worn along the inner edge of the sole.
Conversely, supination is when the feet are angled outwards along the length of the foot. People whose feet supinate will have shoes that are worn along the outer edge of the shoe. Feet that supinate form a bowl shape in the space between the feet, as in a bowl of soup. So this provides an easy way to remember what supination is: bowl of soup-ination!
Orthotics, Footbeds and Insoles for Hill Walking
Increasingly, off-the-shelf orthotic products designed for sports and outdoor pursuits use are available and these provide much more than cushioning against impact. Ideally an orthotic or footbed should provide support for the arch of the foot without pushing onto the arch, and it should cup the heel of the foot. A good orthotic footbed will relieve pressure as well as help to improve gait and balance, which is desirable when hill walking or fell running.
The double shock gel insole from Trekmates can help relieve pressure on feet and improve balance. Modern gel insoles for walking boots have the advantage that they do not become compressed and flatten through use.
For general advice about choosing hiking footwear please see our walking boot advice page.
For professional advice about treatment of problems of concerning feet, ankles, knees and legs or about the use of orthotics we recommend that a podiatrist is consulted.