Footbeds - a tale of two halves!. This article is about the heel end
of the foot, the forefoot is another story.
Many walkers suffer from discomfort or blisters under the heel as we did in the early days, and try stuffing in heel cushions or some kind of padding to solve the problem. This is not the answer!. Your heel has a pad of its own and the crucial piece of information is simply this: your natural heel pad is far and away the best heel cushion in existence - the trick is to ensure that it remains in the correct cupped shape - and that means effective footbeds.
The boot manufacturer supplied footbeds that we have seen are useless. They have a cupped heel shape but they are soft and squishy so what's the point?. As soon as you stand on them they squash flat, and so does your natural heel pad which then loses its effectiveness. There are two solutions:-
Good outdoor stores now stock the Superfeet footbeds which are very much better. These are full length off-the-peg footbeds with a firm heel cup, and come in 2 varieties to suit the arch of your foot, basically high and low arch. They are covered with a soft material that is very comfortable. Some stores have staff who are specifically trained to guide customers in the fitting.
Another benefit of the heel cup is that your heel is now held better in the central position by inward forces, which gives increased stability on rough terrain.
They will not match your heel shape perfectly and you will need to decide which arch style best approximates your feet, but they will keep your heel in the all important cupped shape and are a huge improvement on the useless things supplied with the boots. This may well be all you need.
|Superfeet Footbeds website →|
Years ago I tore a ligament in my ankle and attended physiotherapy sessions, and in the course of it I had chance to chat to the resident podiatrist. We discussed walking at some length, including heel and other problems, and he remarked that I was probably overpronating. He looked at my Superfeet footbeds and agreed that they were much better than a standard footbed, but when I told him how much walking I did, he made a suggestion: a pair of custom made orthotics (picture at right).
These would match my feet perfectly in both heel and arch and correct my pronation at the same time, which he said was more important than I realised for the future health of my joints given that amount of walking, especially with a backpack. The only drawback was the cost - £227 for the consultation, prescription and manufacture, which I thought was ferociously expensive at first, but actually it compares well with the cost of a new pair of spectacles which is a very similar process. After a lot of agonizing thought I agreed, and I'm glad I did - they are worth every penny.
The orthotics are made of rigid fibreglass (I believe) and overlaid with a thin layer of soft material that feels like vinyl. Being rigid, they are half length only. You might think that the front edge could be felt underfoot as a ridge but it can't, I am totally unaware of their presence. The wedge under the heel cup is precisely angled to correct my pronation.
I can now walk any distance over any terrain with any weight without the slightest hint of a problem or discomfort in the rear half of the foot, and I gain from the increased stability and corrected pronation.
Now, if only there was a clear solution for the forefoot cushioning...
The Canadian company SOLE footbeds now has a UK distributor. These are self-fitting heat-moldable footbeds that they claim are 'the best compromise between a custom made orthotic and a standard non-moldable footbed'.
We have not seen or tried these, but the ability to mold the shape to your feet yourself sounds interesting. For more details on SOLE footbeds, visit their website below. The Store Locator tab gives a telephone number and email address for the UK.
|SOLE Footbeds website →|