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Shoe insole tests fail to impress

Posted Monday, February 7, 2011

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Plus tips for happy feet

Yonkers, NY — As heels get higher and higher, shoe shoppers are left deciding between four inches or five inches for their next pair. But is there room for comfort in the world of sky high stilettos? Not if shoppers are looking to shoe insoles to relieve their aching feet. Tests from the March 2011 issue of ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, reveal that shoe insoles may not be worth the money.

“The shoe trend right now seems to be the higher the better, but not everyone wants to teeter on 5” platforms every day,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “Our tests found that shoe insoles make little difference when it comes to comfort. But women can avoid killing their feet and causing permanent damage using ShopSmart’s tips.”

Almost 90 percent of women wear painful footwear at least some of the time, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association. And about one-third of women suffer foot pain on a daily basis. ShopSmart’s advice: Just skip the ridiculously high shoes and wear flats sometimes. Also watch alcohol intake when wearing heels and be mindful when walking.

Step by Step: Insoles Flop

ShopSmart enlisted 14 female staffers to don a pair of their high heels to see whether some popular insoles would make the shoes more comfortable. Each staffer wore her shoes at work for 6 or 7 hours and used fresh samples of each insole for two to three days. They walked around the office twice a day, on a course of about a third of a mile, indoors and outdoors on a driveway.

Panelists rated the insoles for cushioning, comfort, stability, and how easy they were to put in and take out of shoes. The verdict: None of the products impressed. Panelists said they would advise women to save their money instead of buying insoles.

The fact is, high heels aren’t comfortable, and a little insole probably won’t make a big difference. Here’s the skinny on the sole savers:

  • Fab Feet ¾ Insole and Foot Petals Killer Kushionz provided some cushioning, making the shoes more comfy than they were without the insoles. They also made the shoes feel more stable.
  • The Foot Petals insoles fasten to shoes with super-sticky adhesive, so it won’t be easy to take them out and move them from shoe to shoe. Some tore the shoe lining when panelists tried to remove them.
  • Dr. Scholl’s For Her High Heel Insoles made no noticeable difference, although some panelists said they provided some cushioning and arch support.
  • Insolia High Heel Inserts were the biggest disappointment. Testers said these insoles didn’t provide any more comfort than their shoes alone and actually made the shoes less comfortable and stable than the other insoles.

5 Foot Shockers (And what to do)

Abused feet can start looking real ugly, real fast. Mind this list of risky common missteps and simple fixes to avoid pain and deformation down the road:

  1. Teetering on high heels. Steep stilettos can lead to hammertoes, bunions, blisters, stress fractures and pain in the balls of the feet because weight is distrusted abnormally.
    What to do: Go for shorter heels. Try 3 inches, max, instead of 4 or 5. Round toe boxes are roomier than pointy styles.
  2. Wearing shoes that are too tight. Many women still buy the same shoe size even though their feet have grown, leading to ingrown toenails, corns, calluses, blisters and cramps.
    What to do: Get measured. The ligaments in the feet stretch over time, affecting length and width. To ensure that shoes fit, measure a pinkie’s width between the end of the toes and the end of the shoe. Or try on a half-size bigger.
  3. Wearing flip flops often. The comfy summer staple can widen your feet and cause stubbed toes, sprained ankles, and dry, cracked heels.
    What to do. Wear sandals with heel straps for better protection and support and to reduce the risk of cracked heels. Use moisturizing cream at night and a pumice stone in the morning on dry heels.
  4. Standing for hours at a time. Standing for long periods at a time causes ankles to swell. This inflammation can lead to varicose veins, tendonitis, or joint instability.
    What to do. Wear supportive, comfy shoes for long standing sessions. Foot pads can also give some relieve and compression stockings might help prevent varicose veins. Stretch calves, walk around often and elevate feet on breaks.
  5. Going barefoot. Having no protection can cause cuts and even a tetanus infection or hepatitis. Walking too far without shoes can also cause heel pain, including plantar fasciitis.
    What to do. Walk barefoot at home, but cover up outdoors.

About ShopSmart magazine:
Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon Consumer Reports’ celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. The magazine features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and “best of the best” lists. ShopSmart is ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Borders, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is available by subscription at

Consumer Reports has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor appearing on this newspaper's web site.

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Shoe insole tests fail to impress
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