My Journey To Custom Insoles From The FootLab

Leslie HawkesI recently purchased custom insoles from The FootLab in White Bear Lake, MN. It was long overdue. So how did I get here and what did I think about the process?

How I Got Here

Long story short, I’ve always had flat feet, but it didn’t stop me from leading an active life. But, as I progressed through my thirties, my hips, knees and lower back all started to complain more. I just ached. All the time. My legs would be tired when I woke up in the morning. My knees felt weak going up and down stairs. It hurt my back and hips to bend over sometimes. I hobbled when I got up from sitting too long.

I’m not overweight. I haven’t had any significant injuries. I keep active. There’s no reason I should feel like this. In my heart, I knew the problem was my feet. I could feel the misalignment going up through my body and putting pressure where it shouldn’t be.

I had heard of custom insoles and thought I should try them, but like most people, I put it off. THEN…I turned 39. That’s pretty close to the big 4-0. And I started to notice how many women who are older than me limp or hobble or just look plain uncomfortable when they walk. And I didn’t want that to be me.

I knew it was time to do something about my feet.

My kids kept asking me “What’s The FootLab?” They loved seeing the sign as we’d drive by. I didn’t really know what the FootLab was; I assumed it was custom foot support for athletes, really high-performance stuff. But I looked in to it because I was unhappy with store-bought insoles and was serious about doing something about my flat feet.

Turns out The FootLab makes custom insoles all sorts of people. Walkers, runners, skiers, office workers, etc. If you wear shoes, they can help you.

I found out that they offer free foot evaluations. Even better, they offered online appointment setting – I loved that. So I made an appointment. I pretty much knew what they were going to say. It was obvious that my feet overpronated – the technical term for flat feet or feet with little to no arch.

I met with Brad Nelson, the owner of The FootLab. Well, technically, first I met Brody – a golden retriever who greets everyone who walks in the store. Brad was very friendly (as was Brody) and soon I had my shoes off, pant legs rolled up and was on my feet. Immediately Brad could see the problem. Turns out I was a little more overpronated that I realized. Brad said I was at the extreme end of the scale, which didn’t really surprise me. He said he could help, but that this wouldn’t “fix” my feet. Custom insoles would just make my feet function better by helping to get my feet, ankles, knees and hips back into their ideal alignment. He likened it to wearing glasses. Glasses don’t “fix” our eyes, but they help them work better.

The Process

Unlike most orthotics providers, Brad makes the custom insoles in-house. This cuts the cost just about in half of what most other providers charge. There’s no shipping and no middleman to pay and the process is much simplified. I was sold. I was tired of being tired and tired of aching.

So I made a follow-up appointment to get fitted for my insoles. I like to think The FootLab insoles are “extra custom”. Not only are they custom-made to support your foot, they are custom made to fit the shoe you plan to wear them in. That means I had to bring the shoes I planned to wear most often with me to the fitting.

Brad explained that athletic shoes or hiking shoes would be a good choice. I chose my hiking shoes and carried them in with me while wearing athletic shoes. The hiking shoes were perfect. They were nice and flat inside, leaving plenty of space for my new insoles.

Getting Fitted For Custom Orthotics

We started out with Brad selecting an insole that would be good for everyday wear and that was roughly the size of my foot. He warmed this up in what looked an awful lot like a toaster oven. Once they were warm, he placed them onto two blocks of memory foam and had me stand on them. For those of you with sensitive feet, don’t worry, your socks stay on the whole time.

As I stood there, Brad manipulated my feet until my ankles were straight, instead of their usual fallen inward. Once I was in the ideal position, I had to stay like that for 45 seconds. Then I needed to lift myself off of the insoles without putting any extra weight on them. This meant pushing myself straight up with my arms, while gripping railings. Easy. I was done.

Building The Insoles

Not only does Brad make the custom inserts on-site. He does them right away. He said it would take about 25 minutes and then he’d be back and we could fit them into my shoes. So I opened up my Kindle and settled in with a cup of coffee to wait.

Sure enough, before I knew it, Brad was back with the insoles already in my hiking shoes. I tried them on and stood up so Brad could see how my ankles were looking. The left one was more overpronated than the right and the insole wasn’t quite right. So, back to the lab he went to make some adjustments. He came back with an adjusted insole and this time when I tried it on, it just felt right. No undue pressure anywhere. I felt solid and stable. Grounded. I hadn’t really realized how unstable I felt lately.

Brad explained that the insoles should feel pretty natural. I shouldn’t feel any pain or pushing anywhere. He said I might need a few days to adjust to the feel and to call him or come back in for an adjustment if they didn’t feel right.

All total, I was there for just an hour.

My First Week

I walked out with my new insoles in and decided I’d just keep wearing them all day and see what happened. I was on my feet a lot that day but I adjusted to the insoles immediately. Pretty soon they just felt like a natural part of my shoe.

I immediately noticed that my knees felt stronger. I didn’t feel like I had to hold on to the railing going up and down the stairs. While crouching down to get laundry out of the dryer, I got up just fine. It didn’t hurt my hips and low back to bend at the waist to pick up the kids’ toys anymore.

By the end of the day my feet, legs, hips and back felt great! I didn’t have any of the usual aches and pains I had come to expect. I wondered what I’d feel the next morning. Would my legs be tired like they have been lately?

No! I didn’t have any pains when I woke up. It wasn’t until I had worn my slippers for an hour, without the insoles in, that my low back started to ache. I immediately put my shoes with the insoles on and my back felt better.

I was lucky enough to find out that my insoles fit in both my hiking boots and my athletic shoe. So now I wear one pair of shoes outside and save one to wear indoors. I’ve been wearing the insoles all day, every day for almost a week and my knees and hips have never felt better.

If you’re at all questioning if custom insoles can help you, visit The FootLab. Take advantage of the free foot evaluation and hear what they have to say about your feet. The process is quick and simple, will help you understand how your feet are affecting the rest of your body and give you some options to think about.