Footbeds Are Important
Talk to any podiatrist or shoe specialist and they will most likely tell you that the best way to ensure proper fit and great performance is to put a good footbed in your shoes. All types of running, hiking, ski boots, or athletic shoes come with a thin, flat insert that goes in the bottom of the shoe. This insert adds a little cushion which helps make the shoes comfortable when you put them on in the store, however, it does nothing to support your feet and your body. Many back, knee, hip, and ankle problems can be prevented by installing a custom footbed that is designed for your feet.
Although it may seem inconvenient that shoe and boot manufacturers don't put a good footbed in the shoe for you, it actually is better in the end because you can choose the one that's right for you. Feet come in so many different shapes and sizes (wide, narrow, high or low arches, bunions, narrow heels, etc.), so picking a footbed that's best for your feet and your activity is to your advantage.
Generally speaking, there are two main types of feet: ones with high arches and ones with low arches. Of course there are varying degrees of this but most people fall into one of these two categories. Again, this is a generalization, but people with low arches tend to overpronate, meaning their foot falls to the inside too far on each walking or running stride. The foot is followed by the knee and then the hip. This problem can be reduced by putting in a footbed with good arch support. The arch in the footbed stops the foot from overpronating and the rest of the body stays better aligned as well. For people with high arches, they typically underpronate, and have a stiffer stride. If the foot is properly supported with a good footbed under the arch it allows the foot and then the knee and hip to follow through on the stride and be more relaxed.
Footbeds come in many varieties. There are standard footbeds, such as Superfeet, that have different styles for arch support and type of activity. There are also custom heat-moldable footbeds such as DFP's or Heat Factory. These are a step up from the standard sole liner that comes with most shoes but the best footbeds are orthotics that are designed specifically for your feet by a certified podiatrist. Orthotics technology has become so advanced that they can take sensory image of the bottom of your foot that comes out looking like a topographic map and custom-mold a footbed to that image.
In the long run, footbeds will save you from some aches and pains, they will make your activity more fun, and they will turn a normal shoe into an extremely comfortable, well-functioning shoe.