Most people never consider removing their shoe liner or insole, assuming that it’s a necessary inclusion in footwear, but we’ve found this to be an excellent way to enhance the fit and feel of almost any shoe. Removing the liner provides additional space to allow your toes to spread out naturally and—with the reduced stack height that comes with removing the liner—allows your foot to function more like a bare foot inside your shoe (i.e., it makes the shoe more minimalist).
A more minimalist-type shoe is foot-healthy because it allows you to better sense and feel the ground or the surface that you’re walking upon. This ensures that your footfalls are more conscientious, which is helpful both in terms of avoiding errant footfalls and associated injuries as well as encouraging a smoother, lower-impact gait (good for the joints and overall musculoskeletal system). A reduced shoe stack height and more minimalist-type sole also help strengthen your foot with every step. A strong foot is a more resilient foot, capable of standing up to the physical challenges of life and resisting injury. More immediately, this technique of removing your shoe liner can also improve shoe fit if you find yourself in-between sizes of footwear.
While there are many good reasons to consider removing your shoe liners, one important question remains: Will your feet hurt without the extra padding the liner provides?
There’s a common misconception that we need extra padding under our feet to walk and move about comfortably. While extra cushioning can indeed feel comfortable (as in, our body perceives it to be pillowy and impact moderating), it only serves to make our feet weak, unfavorably alter our gait, and make us more prone to sloppy, injurious footfalls. It also, in many cases, leads to even more impactful footfalls because the immediate painful repercussions of slapping the feet down during gait are blunted. Our feet were designed to bear the weight of our bodies without the help of shoes, and healthy feet can operate pain-free on a wide variety of surfaces.
If you’ve worn conventional shoes most of your life, your feet are most likely used to significant padding underneath them, and it’s possible that the removal of the liner and its layer of cushioning, however thick or thin, may feel unusual at first—mostly in the form of your feet feeling as though they’ve been through a good workout if you’ve been standing or active for a long period of time. There’s a transition period involved in the shift from conventional footwear to minimalist footwear in general, and though not as drastic, simply switching to shoes without liners can also take some time to get used to.
When you allow your foot to function more like a bare foot inside your shoe, the benefits are significant and extend throughout your entire musculoskeletal system. Removing your shoe insoles is a minor change, true, but we still do recommend using caution and listening to your body as you’re progressing through the transition phase. If removing your shoe liners causes discomfort, put your liners back in for a little while and then, at a later date, try removing them again while gradually building up wear-time in your now more-minimalist shoes.
One small change to your footwear, such as the one described above, can have a big impact on the strength and stamina of your feet! Other helpful ways to build healthy and resilient feet include using Correct Toes toe spacers and other natural footgear and performing key stretching and strengthening exercises on a daily basis.