You can use it to stop the flow of wine, you can stick pins in it to hold up your favorite pictures, and you can place cork insoles in your shoes. This doughy wooden substance has a multitude of uses, and it’s as versatile as ever when used in cork insoles.
If you’re looking for something non-typical to support your feet, we’ve got you covered and can tell you everything you need to know.
Here are the top five cork insoles for shoes on the market in 2021:
Cork Insoles: What Are The Benefits?
Cork is unorthodox as an insole material. Most of the time you’ll find foam, gel or even plastic as the insole’s primary material. So if you’re going to use something so strange in the insole world, it had better have some excellent benefits.
Thankfully, cork has several.
It Can Be Environmentally Friendly
If done correctly, it’s possible to harvest cork without killing the tree it came from. That makes it sustainable. Once you’re done with it, you can recycle the material. This adds further eco-friendly aspects making it an incredible choice for the eco-conscious.
When dealing with insoles, you want something that shapes itself to your foot. Cork is elastic, so as you apply heat and weight, it gently changes shape. This doesn’t happen all at once, so the insoles last longer. Although, this does mean that the insoles will have a long break-in period.
It Absorbs Shock
Cork is incredibly firm, so it supports your feet regardless of what hits it. However, it’s also supple enough to take the shock and stop it from harming your feet. Without the shock impacting your feet, you can reduce the risk of developing several foot conditions from plantar fasciitis to heel spurs.
It Wicks Moisture
Sweat and bacteria go hand in hand, which can be harmful to your feet. Even when harmless, sweaty feet are horrifically uncomfortable. Having an insole that wicks moisture makes your feet more comfortable, healthier and it keeps them smelling clean and fresh.
What You Should Be Looking for When Choosing Cork Insoles
Alongside what cork can do for you already, you should be looking for some insole-specific features that can help with your foot’s comfort and protection.
Heel support is a vital part of keeping you stable. That’s why any insole you buy should have a decent, if not deep, heel cup. The deeper, the better, but you can get away with a shallower one if you have healthier, painless feet.
You may find insoles that have some foam for extra stability and protection around the heel area. The foam may also be in the ball of the foot, which takes a lot of weight and also needs support.
Cork wicks moisture naturally, but if possible, look for materials that can help with that further. Cork can only do so much on its own.
Pay attention to whether your insole has added activated charcoal, perhaps antimicrobial treatments, even a synthetic layer to help with moisture wicking. This will hopefully keep your feet dryer for longer and will help make the cork last longer before it starts to wear out, too.
Earlier, we mentioned that cork insoles may take a long time to break in as it takes them a while to mold to the shape of your feet. Consider purchasing insoles where you can change their shape as soon as they arrive with artificial heating.
Not all insoles are compatible with artificial heating to contour them, so be cautious and don’t try this unless the manufacturer states that it’s safe.
Naturally, you can’t often trim cork insoles as cork as thick and flaky. To save yourself the trouble of trying to edit your insoles, go for ones that fit straight away.
You’ll most likely find insoles claiming to fit a size or two, and you’ll rarely find half sizes. Get the insole that most closely mirrors your size and if it doesn’t fit perfectly in your shoe, order a different size and experiment until you find one that does.
It’s often best to experiment with sizes, even with insoles you can trim, as there’s no guarantee you’ll get a perfect trim every time. Your best bet is to remove a shoe’s natural insole and cut around it to get your fit.
If none of the insoles fit, it’s probably a good idea to change brands and find another that suits your needs.
Heel support was first on our list of requirements as it’s one of the most important. We placed this one last, as it’s equally vital.
A supported arch is an arch that’s free of pressure and shouldn’t cause any of those dreaded foot ailments discussed earlier. So, it’s important to know your arch type so you can get the proper support you need from an insole.
Get your feet saturated, then step onto some light concrete or a sheet of paper. The resulting footprint will determine your arch type.
- High arches: A large portion of your foot is missing from the print.
- Neutral arches: Only a small, curving gap is present on the inside of the print.
- Low arches: Almost no gap, or gap absent from your footprint—looks like the whole bottom of your foot and toes.
Please note that even if your insole doesn’t have arch support, some are designed to sit in shoes that already have arch support. Others are made to mold to another shoe’s arch support and hold that shape as you move them from shoe to shoe. Check out our article on the best insoles for high arches if this is something you need.
Reviews of the Top 5 Cork Insoles
Birkenstock sandals have a reputation for being marvelously comfortable, so why not utilize this comfort in the rest of your shoes? They’re best for:
- Two-inch heels.
- Dress shoes.
Of course, you can place them in sandals too.
Something else to note is that these aren’t full-size insoles; they only come up to the ball of your foot. This lets them fit into shoes with any toe shape, making them a versatile pick. You can move them from wide-toed athletic shoes to pointy-toed classy dress shoes with no problem.
For the three-fourths of the insole that’s there, you get fantastic performance. The insoles are a picture of cork and EVA foam.
The EVA foam offers cushioning where the cork provides contoured comfort and all those other cork benefits, including moisture-wicking. It has some help in the latter department from the silk top lining of the insoles.
They don’t just keep your feet dry but stable, too, as there’s a decent heel cup and rigid arch support to keep your feet pressure-free. While keeping your feet aligned, the insoles also have room to flex, especially at the edges as they mold themselves to your shoes and your feet.
That flexibility doesn’t extend to the insole overall, though. Customers report that they can be too hard and rigid for some peoples’ liking. They also state that the insoles can damage your shoes’ pre-existing insoles, so it’s best to remove the original footbed, and if you can’t, use different insoles for those shoes.
- Tons of moisture-wicking ability.
- Versatile and can fit in any type of toe box.
- Highly supportive.
- Too rigid for some.
- Can damage pre-existing insoles
If you’re in the market for insoles that mold to your feet, here’s a pair you may enjoy. The manufacturer provides instructions for heating this pair to ensure you get a custom fit from day one. Luckily for you, this means there’s no break-in period.
Another customization option is that, unlike many cork insoles, this pair can be trimmed to the size you require. They won’t flake or break as they’re encased in protective materials that also help the insoles function.
The top sheet wicks moisture and is laced with Polygiene technology to help remove odors and keep the insoles feeling and smelling fresh.
Freshness extends over your whole foot, unlike the Birkenstock insoles, as these insoles reach right up into your toe box. This, unfortunately, means that they’re not insoles to wear with dress shoes, but they’re wonderful in casual and sports footwear.
Part of their excellence comes from a cushioned midsection, which aids the cork. The cork itself adds most of the stability rather than comfort, though, and it brings a dash of eco-friendly to the party. All cork used in SOLE insoles is recycled from wine corks.
On top of that, the insoles are vegan, and they contain no latex, so if you have allergies, then they’re fine for you.
Their main downside is their firmness. Some users dislike how firm the insoles are and expected something far softer based on the included foam in the construction. If you dislike that feeling, then these aren’t for you.
Some users also report that insoles need replacing more regularly than others.
- Cushioned as well as supportive.
- Vegan, latex-free and recycled.
- Custom-fit from the get-go.
- Need replacing frequently.
- Too firm for some people.
For thinner insoles, Kaps is the way to go. The insoles are a mixture of cork and leather, so they’re not exactly as vegan or sustainable as the insoles above, but they’re fantastic if you want something soft, supple and dressy.
The leather components on the upper layer lack chemicals and were tanned using vegetable oil, making them high-quality and soft. As well as that, the upper layer is breathable and malleable, so it can keep your feet dry while contouring to fit their shape, just like the cork underneath.
Cork provides all the cushioning here, so the insoles might be a little firm for some people, but they’re by no means uncomfortable for most. The cork layer isn’t too thick, so it won’t put a tremendous amount of upwards pressure on your feet as it molds and supports.
Being so thin also means the insoles are lightweight, making them a great addition to sports shoes that you don’t want weighing you down. Their light, thin nature also gives them versatility, so you can slot them into shoes with pre-existing insoles without them taking up too much space.
In fact, they’re best used alongside your shoe’s natural insoles, as shoes often have built-in arch support. That’s something these insoles lack, according to customers. Customers also say the insoles run small, so size up or buy a few sizes so you can experiment and find the fit that’s right for you.
- Lightweight so won’t weigh down in sports shoes.
- Can be used alongside other insoles.
- Breathable upper lawyer.
- Both leather and cork with moisture.
- No arch support.
- They run small.
This is another pair of insoles that, unfortunately, lack a ton of arch support—but they more than make up for it in their heel support. They have the deepest heel cup of any of the insoles discussed here today.
Downunders Ultra insoles are also thin, so you can place them on top of pre-existing insoles for arch support. These insoles are made to shape themselves to your feet and shoes, so they should have their own arch support built in soon enough. The insoles have a feature that helps them keep the shape of whatever arch support they gain.
Pairing the incoming arch support with the shape of your foot should get you an adequately supportive and comfortable insole, heel to toe.
If you find you have too much toe room and the insoles don’t fit in your shoes, that’s fine. They’re easy to trim and excellently flexible, so they should fit most shoes if you don’t get the perfect size.
Once in your shoes and fitting well, you get the benefits of the top moisture-wicking layer. Under that, you gain support from cushioning and cork, which makes you feel like you’re walking on something squishy but supportive.
Customers also report that the insoles are flexible and great for running with, as your foot bends every which way during the activity. Some users report that the insoles can be a little too much in the heel when running, though.
Unfortunately, the heel area can’t be trimmed if that’s the part giving you trouble. If that’s the case for you, we recommend looking elsewhere for your insoles.
- Can gain custom arch support from other shoes.
- Holds its arch support well.
- Deep heel cup.
- Thin insoles can move from shoe to shoe.
- May require trimming.
- The heel cup can be too much for some people.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Cork Insoles Good?
Cork insoles are good, if you buy the right ones. Look for shock absorption, moisture-wicking, cushioning and contouring. That’s a sure sign of cork insoles that will help your feet for weeks or months, supporting them with a custom fit and providing pain and pressure relief over your whole foot.
Are Cork Insoles Good for Sweaty Feet?
Yes, cork insoles are good for sweaty feet. In fact, they’re great. Being naturally breathable and moisture-wicking means your feet shouldn’t overheat and won’t have that awful, sweaty feel at the end of the day. You’ll feel fresh and dry, and hopefully, your feet will still smell as fresh as they can.
Are Cork Soles Good for Plantar Fasciitis?
As they can offer custom molded support, cork insoles are good for plantar fasciitis. They won’t be as suitable as custom orthotics, but if your pain is on the self-manageable side, then cork insoles are an excellent pick.
Do Cork Shoes Smell?
Cork wicks moisture, so it shouldn’t smell too bad. It tends to smell more potent as time goes on, which is why you should regularly replace your insoles with fresh ones. Replacing your cork insoles not only reduces odor but ensures you can start fresh with full support and not wait for your current insoles to stop providing what you need.
Can Cork Shoes Get Wet?
Cork shoes can get wet, but they shouldn’t. Cork repels a small amount of moisture if splashed on it in large quantities, but remember, they’re naturally moisture-wicking. If you submerge, cork then it can absorb the water, which will make your cork insoles dry, flaky and cracked.
The Cork Insoles You Crave
The best cork insoles are the Birkenstock Blue Footbed Casual. They fit in any shoes, making them an incredibly versatile pick, and they’re built well.
With the Birkenstock insoles, the cork isn’t left fending for itself. There’s some EVA foam there to lend support, and some silk to help keep your feet dry. This can only help the cork perform better in the long run, so these insoles should last you a while.
If you value long-lasting versatility, these are definitely the best insoles of the bunch—but you can’t go wrong with any of the ones listed above.