Introduction: DIY Custom Sized Insoles (poor Man's Dr Scholls)

Hi and welcome to my first instructable.

I thought I would start with something that I use on a daily basis and which has pretty much become a necessity for me.

To start, it should be known that I have pretty large feet (size 16 in the US). Due to this size, I also tend to experience discomfort in my feet when they are not properly supported. Having larger feet, it can be difficult to find shoe inserts in my size. Oftentimes, they only go up to a size 13 and in my shoes, they slide around and leave a sharp edge towards the toes. My solution was to create my own inserts from cheap, readily available materials that I could size however I wanted. This is my second time creating them, so I have had several years to try them out and have found that they work quite well for me.

Step 1: Materials

For this project, I want to keep the materials simple. All you need is your base material and a way to cut the shape. I prefer the puzzle style cushion mats, which I was able to pick up at Harbor Freight for under $10 for a four-pack. Even with my size 16 shoe, I get quite a lot out of even a single mat, so make as many as you want or have time for.

This time, I experimented with cutting with a rotary tool. It was much easier than a knife and left a cleaner edge, but I find the knife to be easier to follow the shape. I did not try a hot knife/wire, but I bet it would work very well for this. Just be sure to avoid any volatiles given off from it. Be sure to do it in a well-ventilated area.

Step 2: Getting Started

In my case, I had a template from the last time I did this, which I saved. I would recommend that you save a template too if you plan on doing this more than once (and have stopped growing). Just set one aside without wearing it for the next time. Using the templates caused them to change shape quite a bit for me, so make sure it is a virgin cutout.

Making a template from scratch was a bit of a trial and error. I used my foot for the template, but if you're replacing a stock insole, then that would also make a good starting point for figuring out size and shape. Try a template out and then test fit it in the shoe. I pretty much eyeballed any changes I wanted from there, and by the second cutout, I had something that was a good fit. I opt for a tighter fit in the shoe to prevent slipping.

Once you have your template, mark your lines on the mat in whatever pattern you feel will get you the most usage of material. Then it's just a matter of cutting out with your tool of choice. The knife is more accurate to my template, but the rotary tool made for much smoother edges. It's really up to whatever you're comfortable with. Either way, always remember to cut away from your body parts for safety. Feel free to rotate the mat as necessary for optimal positioning.

One thing to remember, which I actually forgot this time, is to flip your template for half of your cutouts. Even though the cushions can be flipped for the right or left, it's smart to make sure you have matching surfaces on both feet, so you need to make opposites. My mat had one side smooth, and the other had a rough texture. If you forget like me, then you will have to do a second mat with the opposite orientation or live with mismatched inserts in each foot (no thanks).

Step 3: A Few Extra Things.

Please be aware that these may not hold up as well as a store-bought support and will not provide the proper support that can be obtained from the store. These are a cheap alternative and not a complete replacement for those who have a real need for arch support, etc. In my case, the shoes I wear have excellent arch support, so the mat material conforms to this, and arch support is no problem for me. They will wear over time, as seen in my picture. When you feel they are not performing as well as you would like, that's when it's time to switch them out for the next pair.

They can be worn in either direction, depending on what is most comfortable for you. I usually like the flat side up for ease of sliding my foot in, but sometimes the rough side feels almost therapeutic, maybe stimulating blood flow or something. Whatever you prefer.

Also, use caution when first using them. As they are so thick, they may take some getting used to. I know I always feel a bit off with even the slightest increase in height. Tying my shoes extra tight seems to help me feel more secure.

Step 4: Final Thoughts

As I said before, these are cheap, custom-fit alternatives that meet my needs. They may not be for everyone, but I wanted to share for anyone who has the same problem as I do. I find them useful because my shoes often outlast the insoles sold with them. Please let me know what you think, and if you have any suggestions for improvements or easier methods, then I'm all ears. Just remember, not everyone has access to a CNC router or laser cutter :) Enjoy!

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