how do insoles provide cushioning for the heel strike when walking
how do insoles provide cushioning for the heel strike when walking

When you slip your feet into a pair of shoes and take that first step, have you ever wondered how your heels are protected from the impact of the ground? Insoles, those often overlooked inserts, play a crucial role in providing cushioning and support for your feet when you walk. But how do they do it? Let’s take a closer look at the magic behind insoles and how they help absorb the shock of each heel strike, allowing you to walk comfortably and pain-free.

What is a heel strike?


A heel strike refers to the initial contact of the heel with the ground during the walking or running gait cycle. This is the first phase of the heel-to-toe movement, where the heel absorbs the impact of the body’s weight as it comes into contact with the ground.


During a heel strike, the foot lands at the back of the heel and rolls forward, transitioning the weight to the midfoot and toes. This movement requires proper shock absorption to reduce the impact on the body and prevent potential injuries.

Importance of cushioning for heel strike

Reducing impact

One of the key functions of cushioning insoles is to reduce the impact experienced during a heel strike. By providing an additional layer of cushioning between the foot and the ground, insoles absorb and disperse the force generated when the heel hits the surface. This helps to minimize the stress and pressure exerted on the joints, muscles, and ligaments throughout the lower extremities.

Preventing injuries

Cushioning insoles play a crucial role in preventing injuries associated with heel strikes. The repetitive nature of walking or running can put significant strain on the feet, leading to issues such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, stress fractures, and joint pain. With proper cushioning, insoles can help to alleviate these problems by absorbing the shock and reducing the load on the feet, providing a more comfortable and safer walking experience.

Types of insoles

Gel insoles

Gel insoles are made from a soft, pliable material that provides excellent shock absorption. The gel material molds to the shape of the foot, distributing the pressure evenly and reducing stress on the heel during a heel strike. Gel insoles also offer enhanced cushioning and comfort, making them suitable for individuals seeking a soft and gentle underfoot feel.

Foam insoles

Foam insoles are typically made from materials like EVA foam or memory foam. These types of insoles offer excellent cushioning and support, contouring to the individual’s foot shape for a customized fit. Foam insoles provide adequate shock absorption, ensuring a smooth transition from heel strike to toe-off and reducing the strain on the feet and lower limbs.

Air cushion insoles

Air cushion insoles feature pockets or chambers filled with air, providing a lightweight and responsive cushioning effect. These insoles absorb the impact by compressing the air-filled chambers, reducing the force exerted on the feet and joints. Air cushion insoles are particularly effective in minimizing the risk of injuries caused by excessive impact during a heel strike.

Materials used in insoles

Memory foam

Memory foam is a popular material used in insoles due to its ability to conform to the shape of the foot. This type of foam retains its shape after pressure is applied, providing excellent cushioning and support throughout the gait cycle. Memory foam insoles offer a comfortable and customized fit, ensuring optimal shock absorption and reducing the strain on the feet and legs.

EVA foam

Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam is another commonly used material in insoles. EVA foam is lightweight, durable, and flexible, providing cushioning and shock absorption properties. Insoles made from EVA foam offer a good balance between softness and support, making them suitable for various foot types and activities.


Gel is a versatile material used in insoles for its ability to provide targeted cushioning and pressure relief. Gel insoles are known for their excellent shock absorption properties, absorbing and dispersing the impact forces during a heel strike. Additionally, gel insoles can provide enhanced stability and comfort, especially for individuals with foot conditions or those seeking additional support.


Polyurethane is a durable and resilient material commonly used in insoles for its shock absorption capabilities. Insoles made from polyurethane are able to withstand repeated compression and provide consistent cushioning throughout the gait cycle. These insoles offer long-lasting support and excellent impact reduction, ensuring a comfortable walking experience.

Anatomy of insoles

Heel cup

The heel cup is the portion of the insole that supports and cradles the heel. It provides stability and helps to keep the foot properly aligned during the heel strike phase. A well-designed heel cup can prevent excessive pronation or supination, reducing the risk of ankle and foot injuries.

Arch support

Arch support is an essential component of insoles, especially for individuals with low or high arches. This feature helps to distribute the weight evenly across the foot, providing proper alignment and reducing stress on the arch. Arch support also aids in maintaining stability and prevents overpronation or underpronation.

Metatarsal cushioning

Metatarsal cushioning refers to the padding located at the ball of the foot. This area often experiences significant pressure during a heel strike, so providing adequate cushioning can alleviate discomfort and reduce the risk of conditions like metatarsalgia. Metatarsal cushioning also helps with forefoot propulsion and shock absorption during toe-off.

Forefoot cushioning

Forefoot cushioning is typically found in the front portion of the insole and is designed to absorb shock during the toe-off phase. This cushioning provides additional support and comfort, reducing the strain on the forefoot and toes. Proper forefoot cushioning helps to prevent injuries such as stress fractures and enhances overall walking or running performance.

How insoles absorb impact

Shock absorption

Insoles are specifically designed to absorb shock and impact forces generated during a heel strike. The cushioning materials used in insoles, such as gel, foam, and air chambers, act as shock absorbers by deforming and redistributing the forces throughout the foot. This helps to reduce the stress on the joints and soft tissues, promoting a smoother and more comfortable walking experience.

Energy dispersion

In addition to absorbing shock, insoles also disperse the energy generated during a heel strike. By spreading the impact forces across a larger surface area, the insoles help to minimize peak pressures and prevent localized discomfort or injuries. This energy dispersion mechanism enhances the overall cushioning and reduces the strain on the feet and lower limbs.

Proper fit for effective cushioning

Choosing the right size

To ensure effective cushioning, it is essential to choose the right size of insoles. Insoles that are too small may not provide adequate support and cushioning, while those that are too big can result in an uncomfortable fit. It is recommended to refer to the manufacturer’s sizing guide and consider any foot conditions or specific needs when selecting the appropriate size of insoles.

Trimming insoles

Some insoles come with trim-to-fit lines, allowing for customization to fit different shoe sizes or foot shapes. Trimming the insoles to match the shoe size ensures a snug fit and optimal cushioning for the heel strike. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions while trimming to avoid cutting too much or compromising the structural integrity of the insoles.

Securing insoles in shoes or sneakers

Properly securing the insoles in shoes or sneakers is crucial for effective cushioning and optimal performance. Insoles should be securely placed within the shoe to prevent movement and shifting during walking or running activities. Utilizing adhesive or double-sided tape can provide additional stability and ensure that the insoles stay in place, maximizing the benefits of cushioning during a heel strike.

Benefits of using insoles for heel strike cushioning

Reduced foot and leg fatigue

The use of insoles for heel strike cushioning can significantly reduce foot and leg fatigue. By absorbing the shock and impact forces, insoles help to lessen the strain on the muscles and joints, allowing for a more efficient walking or running gait. This reduction in fatigue can enhance overall performance and comfort, especially during prolonged periods of activity.

Improved comfort

Insoles provide an extra layer of cushioning and support, enhancing the overall comfort during walking or running. The cushioning materials used in insoles help to distribute pressure evenly and reduce discomfort associated with a heel strike. Additionally, the anatomical features of insoles, such as arch support and metatarsal cushioning, can alleviate specific foot issues and promote a more comfortable walking experience.

Enhanced stability

Proper cushioning through the use of insoles improves stability during a heel strike. By providing support and alignment, insoles help to maintain proper foot positioning and prevent excessive pronation or supination. This enhanced stability minimizes the risk of ankle injuries and allows for a smoother heel-to-toe transition, contributing to a more balanced and controlled gait.

Considerations when purchasing insoles

Foot type

When selecting insoles, it is important to consider the individual’s foot type. Different people have varying arch heights, pronation patterns, and pressure distribution, which can affect the required level of cushioning and support. Understanding one’s foot type can help in choosing insoles that specifically address any biomechanical issues or foot conditions.

Activity level

The level of activity should also be taken into account when purchasing insoles. High-impact activities, such as running or jumping, require insoles with superior shock-absorbing properties to withstand the increased forces exerted on the feet. Lower-impact activities may benefit from insoles with slightly less cushioning. Considering the frequency and intensity of the activities can help determine the appropriate insoles for optimal cushioning during a heel strike.

Shoe type

Different types of shoes have varying levels of cushioning and support. It is important to match the insoles with the shoe type to ensure compatibility and functionality. For example, running shoes may have built-in cushioning and support, requiring insoles that complement those features. Dress shoes or tight-fitting footwear may require thinner insoles that do not compromise the fit. Choosing insoles that are designed for the specific shoe type can ensure an optimal fit and cushioning for the heel strike.


Importance of insoles for cushioning heel strike

Insoles play a vital role in cushioning the impact of a heel strike during walking or running. By reducing the shock and pressures exerted on the feet, insoles help to minimize the risk of injuries and promote a more comfortable gait. The various types of insoles, materials used, and anatomical features provide individuals with options to customize their cushioning needs and address specific foot conditions.

Choosing the right insoles for individual needs

When purchasing insoles, it is important to consider factors such as foot type, activity level, and shoe type to ensure effective cushioning. By understanding one’s own requirements and preferences, individuals can select the most suitable insoles that provide the necessary support, comfort, and stability during a heel strike. With the right insoles, one can experience improved walking or running performance and reduce the likelihood of foot-related issues.

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Ben Turner
Hello! My name is Ben Turner and I am passionate about helping people find the perfect running shoes to support their supination needs. As a dedicated runner myself, I understand the importance of proper footwear and the impact it can have on your performance and overall comfort. With years of experience in the fitness industry, I have gained valuable knowledge on insoles and their benefits for runners with supination issues. I have worked with numerous athletes and enthusiasts, guiding them towards the right insoles that provide the necessary cushioning and support to alleviate discomfort and prevent injuries. Through my website,, I aim to share valuable tips and insights on selecting the best insoles tailored to individual needs. Drawing from my own experiences and research, I provide unbiased recommendations, detailed reviews, and helpful guides to assist you in making informed decisions. I strongly believe that finding the right running shoes and insoles is a personal journey, and I am here to support you every step of the way. My mission is to empower runners to overcome supination challenges and optimize their running experience. When I'm not pounding the pavement or researching the latest insole technologies, I enjoy sharing my love for running with the running community on social media. Follow me on [insert social media handles] to stay updated on the latest running trends and insights. Thank you for visiting I hope my expertise and passion for running shoes and insoles can help you reach your full potential on every run. Lace up your shoes and let's hit the road together! Stay inspired, Ben Turner