A Barefoot Guide to Insoles For Minimalist Shoes

Manitoba, NorthSole, Naboso, Vivobarefoot

When I got rid of my orthotics I assumed I was done with insoles too. I was going all in on the barefoot movement, and I didn’t see how insoles could factor in. But after bumbling through my first year in minimalist shoes (in more pain than I cared to admit) I had the opportunity to try out NorthSole insoles. It was immediately obvious to me that I had been wrong and needed to revise my perspective on insoles. Today I use them on a regular basis for a variety of different purposes.

Insoles have 4 main uses for the barefoot-er:
1. Comfort
2. Warmth
3. Performance
4. Shoe Fit

1. Comfort

It’s easy to underestimate the stress of walking barefoot when our joints have been cushioned for most of their existence. In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense that I had trouble walking long distances and on hard ground in my barefoot shoes. Insoles help bridge that period of transition when you no longer need arch support but still aren’t accustomed to your feet on hard ground 24/7.

Some people, no matter how long they’ve been wearing barefoot shoes, will always want cushion because of their particular anatomy or the environment they walk/stand in. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. You feet will still reap the benefits of your flexible, spacious shoes and they will continue to strengthen. You can even get ground feel in cushioned shoes.

After I experienced NorthSole insoles I bought some for my husband too and they are the reason he’s been able to stop wearing his orthotics with his barefoot shoes. NorthSole insoles are my favorite for comfort purposes, but any insole that adds extra cushion will be effective.

Now that been a solid 2+ years of barefoot shoes and strengthening exercises I find I’m a lot more comfortable completely barefoot and in thin soles. But that’s been a long time coming and I still sometimes want extra cushion for comfort.

**Northsole is switching manufacturers and is currently set to restock early May**

2. Warmth

Besides being in pain that first year, I was also freaking cold. Barefoot shoes are thin. You can talk about your fancy insulating thermal insoles all you want but if you’re feet are sitting on frozen ground, they gonna get cold. Any insole that adds height will also keep your feet warmer, but my favorite for warmth are sheepskin insoles.

You can get wool or sheepskin insoles lots of different places, but my favorite is Softstar. I got some for my son’s Vivobarefoot boots and they worked like a charm (he refuses to wear them without the insoles because they’re too cold otherwise). They come with a little sticky piece, but we didn’t use it so we could move the insoles to different shoes.

Sheepskin Insoles are really thick, so that presents a challenge with fit sometimes. They work best in shoes that have an insole you can replace, otherwise you want to factor in the extra space you’ll need. I usually size up in my winter boots for this purpose.

3. Performance

Performance insoles use nerve stimulation to improve your gait and posture. Movement originates in the nervous system, so getting the nerves firing through your feet and legs makes it easier to move optimally.

Naboso is currently the only performance insole brand I am aware of. You can get their insoles from Naboso or Xero Shoes. Xero even makes a sandal with a Naboso insole.

I have the 1.5mm Naboso insoles and when I wear them my legs feel more stable and alive. If you need a little insole to fill in extra space, and also want improved performance, Naboso is the insole you need.

4. Shoe Fit

*For more tricks on getting your shoes to fit better, check out this video.

Nowadays, this is what I use insoles most often for. I have low volume feet, so I frequently need to slip in a thin insole to keep my foot from sliding around inside the shoe.

Sometimes this pushes my foot too far up inside the shoe, in which case I ditch the insole and put a felt sticky or moleskin in the shoe upper. Sometimes I even need both an insole and a felt sticky. Having a few insoles at my disposable has made many a shoe fit perfectly.

The convenient thing about insoles is that their purpose can double up. You can make shoes fit better, and get more comfort, or extra warmth. This works out great for me, because so many of my shoes need an insole to fit well anyways.

Vivobarefoot shoes almost always come with a removable insole (exception being their dressy flats), which I really appreciate since I use my Vivobarefoot insoles in a lot of other shoes. Several barefoot brands make their own insoles that you can add on for an extra cost.

Do I own a pair of insoles for every shoe?

No! I have accumulated more over time, mainly from my Vivobarefoot shoes. But for the most part I move the insoles around depending on what I’m wearing. Sometimes that’s annoying if I forget where I last used them, but it saves a lot of money.

List of barefoot insole options

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