by | Dec 12, 2022 | Blog, Product Design


Footwear design and development relies heavily on understanding end-user preferences and industry trends to create footwear that meets your customers’ needs. 

But focusing on just the footwear itself ignores a significant part of the end-user experience – the insole. Your shoe might check the boxes for your customer’s needs, such as on-trend design, durable outsole, or roomy toe box. However, if the insole isn’t comfortable or able to support your customer while they use the footwear for its intended purpose, it creates a negative experience that can impact your brand. 

Conduct Wear Testing on Footwear Design and Insole Design

If you’re already conducting footwear testing to inform and validate your footwear design and development process, adding insole research to the mix just makes sense. 

The footwear industry is highly competitive, well-established, and fast-moving. Wear testing is almost mandatory to stay ahead and deliver footwear experiences your customers will enjoy. 

One significant competitive advantage can be gained by going beyond footwear testing to include insole testing. The insole is a critical part of overall footwear design that is often overlooked – but not by your customers, who expect the insole to support them as they engage in the activities your footwear is designed for. 

For example, athletic footwear should have ergonomic insoles that support different movements, higher impact, and a long duration of activity. Non-athletic footwear, like work shoes or casual shoes, should have ergonomic insoles that can comfortably support long periods of standing and walking. 

Most footwear tend to have standard flat insoles inside – understandable, given the many different types of people shoe designers and developers have to accommodate with a single shoe. 

But there is a solution, which is to incorporate a data-driven, ergonomic insole into your footwear design and development process that is proven to provide comfort, performance, and support to a majority of wearers right out of the box. 

The Research and Testing Process for Insoles

Here’s a breakdown of the way we approach custom insole designs for footwear brands. 

INSITE custom ergonomic insoles are designed using a 3D scan of the midsole or last, which generates a 3D insole rendering that combines the contours of your midsole with ergonomic shaping. 

Using the best selection of materials, including sustainable, plant-based foams, we create a customized sample that is then rigorously tested to meet industry-standard performance, safety, and bio-content levels. 

At this point, it’s critical for you to understand the experience your insole and shoe together will provide to your customers. To effectively test your footwear and its insole, you’ll want to examine:

  • fit
  • overall comfort
  • underfoot comfort
  • quality
  • performance
  • support
  • hand-feel of materials
  • design
  • durability
  • energy and fatigue levels during and after activity

We have an excellent partnership with MESH01, a product testing platform that enables voice-of-the-customer feedback from testers that fit a brand’s specific target audience. We leverage the MESH01 platform to test a brand’s footwear and our insoles to ensure it creates an ideal experience for customers. 

Trust Testing Over Intuition When It Comes to Insoles

It can be easy to make assumptions about your target audience and what they’re looking for in their footwear. 

Conducting market research into the latest footwear trends and examining your brand’s most successful products is a critical piece of the process, but leaves a gap that an insole test can fill quite nicely. 

We would argue that market research tells only half the story. Wear testing is how brands can really come to understand how their footwear will be experienced by their actual customers. 

At INSITE, we’ve wear-tested our insoles in a number of different types of footwear for our brand customers, allowing us to uncover validating insights about everything from the quality of the footbed, to underfoot comfort during activity, to top motivators behind a footwear purchase decision. 

Our insoles are already designed using human factor data collected from more than 120,000 foot scans, and informed by biomechanical research into gait, stability, and biomechanical efficiency. 

Our research is largely conducted in partnership with Dr. Christine Pollard, director of the Functional Orthopedic Research Center of Excellence (FORCE) Laboratory at Oregon State University-Cascades (OSU-C), and we’ve successfully designed a variety of ergonomic and sustainable insoles that deliver data-backed comfort, performance, and support. 

However, it’s still important for footwear brands to understand how their footwear design and the insole inside work together and perform for end users. Wear testing an insole as part of the footwear design and development process is a critical step toward creating a shoe your customers will love, inside and out. 


Insole Insights