Following a year spent predominantly inside, consumers have had the opportunity to re-evaluate what they want and need from their products. Studies have shown an increasing interest in new services, such as contactless checkout and curbside pickup, but shoppers are also demanding an increased level of comfort from their outdoor footwear and apparel than they might have expected in the past.
This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon; AnnMarie Thomas, member of the Advisory Board at custom insole manufacturer FitMyFoot, has observed a growing trend for comfort products over the past few years. As fashion has incorporated more of these components into its trends, it has become easier for shoppers to achieve the best of both worlds. But after a year of slippers and other indoor shoes, it may be a challenge to recreate that same level of comfort when outside.
“We don’t envision a world where people wear their slippers and indoor shoes about town,’ said Thomas. “The biggest hurdle is in the support. Footwear for lounging is designed for lounging – warm, soft and usually highly cushioned. Outdoor shoes must offer support and flexibility that isn’t needed for slippers.”
When imagining a comfortable shoe, many consumers might immediately think of soft fabric linings or low heels. But the main foundation for a comfortable fit is the support that the shoe provides the foot, which comes from multiple components. In addition to the midsole and outsole, the heel counter and toe box will all impact the final feel of the product.
When done right, this results in multiple forms of support and a great fitting shoe. But variations in foot shape, size and support needs can complicate this. Even a well-designed shoe might struggle to offer perfect comfort for a range of people, due to natural differences in anatomy. Rather than searching for the elusive perfect product, experts recommend making the shoe fit you – commonly achieved through insoles.
“No two feet are alike, so finding a shoe with a footbed that fits your specific foot is nearly impossible,” said Thomas. “That’s why we make custom insoles that contour each unique foot, providing the support and flexibility critical for optimum comfort. They can easily be transferred from shoe to shoe, replacing worn out insoles and making your shoes much more comfortable – perhaps even more so than the insoles that came with your shoes.”
Custom insoles can be more affordable than an entirely custom pair of shoes, making it a more appealing option for many price-conscious shoppers. Additionally, insoles can be removed and used across multiple pairs of shoes, bringing that same level of comfort to each pair without requiring multiple purchases.
FitMyFoot produces these insoles by taking scanned measurements of the wearer’s feet, so that each insole can be tailored accordingly. Similar options on the market combine these data points into a 3D image of the foot, to ensure that the insole provides the correct degree of support for individual areas of the foot. When choosing an insole provider, Thomas recommends that shoppers pay attention to a few key details.
“A list of such features and benefits would be the first thing to evaluate – and be wary if none are offered,” said Thomas. “Consider materials, foams, top fabric, functional intent, performance zones, the science behind the stated theories and, of course, the customer reviews to back it all up!”