As if life wasn’t complicated enough, you’ve recently been burdened with a new task. That of finding a pair of running shoes that can fit your custom orthotics or aftermarket insole.
At any given point of time, there are nearly 500 different running shoe models for sale. So which models have enough interior space to accommodate a thick insert without severely affecting the fit and ride dynamics?
Making things harder are variables such as the kind of insole you have. The shoe compatibility may depend on whether you have an all-foam orthotic or a structured insole with a rigid frame.
So what happens if you stick a thick cushioned or structured insole into any running shoe?
If the existing (stock) insole happens to be thinner than the orthotic, then the first casualty will be the interior room.
A thicker insert will push your feet upwards to result in a tighter and uncomfortable fit – which is undesirable. Your foot will also sit higher inside the shoe and may result in heel slippage.
Off-the-shelf and custom insoles can loosely be classified into three groups. The first kind is the cushioned orthotics made of foam or foam+Gel.
These insoles are designed to provide additional cushioning with the optional arch-support. A Spenco RX Comfort insole, the Spenco Arch Cushion, or the SofSole Memory Plus and Work insole are examples of this construction.
The second kind is a cushioned-support insole. Here, soft foam is used together with a supportive frame that is usually located under the midfoot and heel. This category forms the majority of aftermarket orthoses, including the Superfeet Flex series, Spenco Total Support, and the Sof Sole Airr Orthotic.
Finally, corrective insoles are the third kind. If you’re familiar with the uber-popular Superfeet Green, then you know what we’re talking about.
A rigid frame made from Nylon or TPE supports the foam layer from below. Technically speaking, even the first two insole categories can be ‘corrective’ from a functional standpoint. That being said, rigid molded frames are less pliable than their counterparts made of foam or Gel-Foam hybrids.
An orthotic can be either thick or thin in any of the said categories. For instance, the Superfeet Carbon is a ‘corrective’ insert by our definition but its thinness allows it to be placed in most running shoes.
There are a couple of points to keep in mind when pairing a shoe with orthoses. With the rare exception, most stock insoles provided with running shoes do not have a heel drop. In plain English, the insole thickness is the same throughout its length.
The same thing can’t be said of custom or aftermarket insoles. Many inserts have a higher heel, thus adding thickness to the overall rearfoot stack and altering the heel-to-toe drop.
An insert has a greater effect on the collar fit, so you should utilize the last row – also called heel-lock lacing or runner’s loop – for an optimal fit.
The stock insoles of most $100+ shoes are thick enough to be replaced by foam-based cushioned orthotics or slim corrective insoles.
But here’s a simple hack to free up room inside most Saucony running shoes. If you love wearing Saucony or are open to trying, then this trick will allow you to fit most Orthotics. This way, you can steer clear of the bulky running shoes that feature on this guide.
Recent Saucony shoes come with a Pwrrun+ (previously named Everun) ‘Topsole’ and a removable Formfit insole. The Everun layer is affixed to the lasting but can be easily removed when pulled. Once you do that, you’ll have enough room to accommodate inserts of most sizes.
But if you don’t prefer Saucony running shoes or pulling out Topsoles, here you go. Our list of orthotic-friendly running shoes is listed alphabetically.
1) Brooks Beast ’20
When compared to the previous models, this is an entirely different Beast. That’s mainly because of the switch to a medial post-free midsole.
Instead of the firmer density foam wedge, the Beast 20 uses raised midsole rims called Guiderails. First seen on the 2014 Transcend, these high sidewalls cup the foot on both sides.
The inner Guiderail on the arch side is firmer than the outer side, and that’s why it’s a separate component glued to the midsole. On the outer side, the softer Guiderail is a part of the midsole molding.
Regardless of the changes, the Brooks Beast is still a very supportive and cushioned shoe. Even without the medial post, the wide midsole and outsole create a stable foundation. The Guiderails help too. The upper also does a good job of securing the foot while providing interior comfort and space.
The midsole is medium-soft at best. But for whatever it’s worth, the Beast 20 is the softest of all the Beast models we’ve reviewed since 2014.
The Beast 20 continues to be an orthotic-friendly shoe. The thick sockliner and spacious upper makes it easy to slip in an aftermarket insole.
2) Brooks Dyad 11
Except for the minor upper redesign, the Brooks Dyad 11 is very similar to the 10. The ride is identical due to the same midsole and outsole being carried forward.
In sensory terms, we’d describe the Dyad 11’s ride as very supportive and cushioned – in a medium-soft way. The wide midsole produces a planted feel, and the full-rubber outsole delivers smooth transitions with the traction to match. There’re multiple flex grooves so the shoe isn’t as stiff as it looks.
One of the factors that make a running shoe orthotic-friendly is a spacious upper. The Dyad 11 passes that test. There’s enough room inside to accommodate slight changes in the insole thickness. It helps that the Dyad’s stock insole is chunky to begin with.
By the way – if you can score yourself a cheaper Brooks Dyad 10, do that. The 10 and 11 are nearly identical.
3) Brooks Addiction 14
If you found the last year’s Addiction 13 a tad snug due to the synthetic leather overlays, the 14 will come as a respite.
The engineered mesh forefoot is devoid of space-robbing overlays so there’s more room inside. Though the standard insole is a thick PU kind that can be swapped for an aftermarket footbed, the increased space makes the said swap less of an effort.
There’s no change in the midsole or outsole, so the Addiction 14 has the same cushioned and super-stable ride character as before. It’s worth bearing in mind that the Addiction is one of the two stability shoes (along with the NB 940) on this guide with a medial post.
4) New Balance 940 V4
The 940V4 is a conventional stability powerhouse – it has a large medial post on the inner midsole, a plastic midfoot shank, and a ride quality that blends cushioning and support. Though the V4 is “lighter” than the V3, it is still 13-ounces heavy.
You can remove the thick stock insole and have enough space to stick in a footbed of your choice.
The upper fit is an improvement over the V3. New Balance has replaced the clunky overlays with fused layers that make the interiors smoother and accommodating.
5) Saucony Echelon 8
The Echelon is a stability shoe, but not in the sense you’d expect. There’s a visible lack of a ‘stability’ feature like a medial post or raised midsole edges.
Nonetheless, the Echelon 8 is very supportive. An ultra-wide outsole footprint leads to more contact area, and that matters even more when the midsole is created using the firm Pwrrun foam. A comparable shoe would be the Brooks Dyad; neutral yet very supportive at the same time.
There’s no dearth of cushioning in the 12.5-ounce (354 gram) shoe. Saucony uses the thick ‘Foundation Fit’ sockliner for this model to add a cushy top layer of softness. This footbed also happens to be thick enough to be replaced with an aftermarket or custom orthotic.