These devices are different to orthotics.
Insoles are not intended to be vastly biomechnically moveable to your foot and usually they are used to help your feet in other ways.
Explained more here: orthotics and insoles 101.
Insoles can be used in all shapes and forms. Here are just a few examples:
1- As cushioning.
Many people ask for orthotics because their feet are sore and painful. usually this is not down to a mechnical problem but due to a lack of natural cushioning. Predominantly seen within women, the fatty padding on the bottom of your foot reduces over time showing more of the bones of your feet. Unfortunately bones have no shock absorption so pain exists and usually hard skin builds up in response to this pressure. Simple insoles relieve this issue by "replacing" the fatty pad with a cushioning insole.
You can get many cushioning insoles from gel based ones all the way to fabric. The gel style ones are much better because they have some type of memory, in other words, jump back to their original position when pressure is lifted off. Fabric ones don't do that and when fabric ones crumple up they become hard, sometimes increasing the problem.
2- As a short term measure.
Some clinicians, myself included, will give a patient an insole with various other materials attached to alleviate a condition which we believe might just need to be relaxed. This is most often the case with a lot of conditions especially plantar fasciitis. Sometimes the body is screaming out in pain and just needs to have the problem alleviated for a short while to get back to normal. In this instance an orthotic might help in the long term if the patient gets repeated issues and problems.
3- To correct a problem.
Sometimes patients will refuse to part with their offending shoe, even though it will cure them of their foot issue. In this case it can be dangerous for the patient to keep on using the shoes. An insole can be used to wrap around offending areas and limit any rubbing that may be causing a problem. However the shoes need to be assessed if this is possible.
4- To prevent problems.
There are some patients who have cold feet. Layers of thin socks help and in some instances medication. But sometimes an insole can also help, which can be used in out door and indoor shoes. A heat limiting material can be added to shoes which keep the feet warm. This is not a material that you warm up in the microwave, those are dangerous. This keeps your own body temperature in which then keeps your feet warm. Any warming devices that you heat up in a microwave or oven really need to be kept away from your feet.
Insoles can be a great asset to your feet if used well. Over the counter devices are good and in some cases better than an orthotic because sometimes your body just needs that little bit of support and that's it. However adding devices without an idea of what you are needing them for is quite dangerous, so beware before you try anything. If you are concerned then see a health care professional with a specialty in feet, i.e. Podiatrist/ Chiropodist.
Hi. I'm Dominic. I treat patients every day at a local clinic. I am a trained Chiropodist and I care about prevention. I designed the website to help readers understand treat and even prevent issues from happening to their feet.