I am asked from time to time about how to make boots feel more comfortable on the foot. Since I wear boots every day as my only choice of footwear, having boots that feel comfortable is important.
All boots come with some sort of insole — from cardboard to a thin cushion to an actual built-in gel insole. Most boots, though, have only paper-thin insoles of cardboard.
Interestingly, some higher-priced boots come with paper-thin insoles and they feel hard as a rock to wear. This includes Lucchese boots. Other lower-priced commercially made boots come with cushion insoles, like Dan Post boots, and feel comfortable right away.
What do I recommend about insoles for boots?
First, determine how the boots feel to you. Do the bottom of your feet inside the boots feel uncomfortable? Do the boots feel “hard” to you?
Look inside the boot and use a flashlight if you have to — what does the inside of the bottom of the boot (the foot) look like? You will probably see a dark cardboard heel cover which adds nothing for comfort. If, however, you see something that looks thicker than a piece of paper (or cardboard), then you may have an insole designed for comfort.
If you see something that is thicker than paper, reach inside with your hand and use the sensitive part of your fingers to try to feel what is at the foot. Does it feel hard or soft?
If it feels soft, but the boots are still uncomfortable, then it is likely that the manufacturer provided a cheap insole that has insufficient cushioning. Try to pull it out — it may come out easily. Examine it, and if it is a thin piece, replace it with a good insole (see below.)
If it feels hard, then consider doing what I do — I buy Dr. Scholl’s gel insoles for my boots.
These insoles come with markings to indicate what material should be cut off to accommodate different foot sizes. Note an important thing — commercial insoles are made for shoes, not boots. (Everyone knows that shoes are uncomfortable as they are unsightly….) You should cut off the extra material on the insole along the guide provided, but don’t be surprised if you may have to cut off more to make it fit inside the boot.
When you insert an insole into a boot, take time to make sure it lays completely flat along the bottom of the foot. Sometimes the insole is not cut to fit a boot’s foot area, and may fold or form a bump, particularly in the toe. Take the insole out, shave off a few mm, then re-insert and try again. Keep doing this until the insole fits flat on the bottom of the boot’s foot.
Another thing to note — do not attempt to remove the insole that comes with the boots and included by the manufacturer if the insole appears to be glued in place (or stuck). That insole is usually built into the structure of the boot and you could damage the boot or the welting by trying to pull it out. If you damage the boot yourself, you will void any warranty that may have been provided by the manufacturer.
The more you wear the same boots, the more quickly insoles will wear flat and the boots may feel more uncomfortable. Also, whether you add insoles or use the insoles provided by the manufacturer, they will wear out with use and time. You may anticipate replacing insoles with about every 250 hours of wear, more or less. Just use the “feel factor” to judge when it is time to replace them.
Insoles can get dirty and sometimes harbor fungus. Remove the insoles if the insides of your boots got wet, or your feet were unusually sweaty (such as wearing them in very hot weather or carrying heavy objects), or about once a month — whichever comes first — and clean them with soap and water. Dishwashing detergent will work fine. Let them dry before reinserting them into your boots.
Insoles provide a world of comfort for relatively little cost. They will provide much more use of your boots than you may have worn them otherwise. I know — I have avoided wearing some boots because they were uncomfortable after wearing them for a few hours. Insoles made some boots wearable all day long.
Life is short: insole your boots and wear them every day!