What Is the Footbed of a Shoe?

The Shoe Insole that Cradles and Supports the Foot

The footbed is the inside part of the shoe that runs under the bottom of the foot, and is more commonly referred to as the insole. It may have layers of construction and structural elements added for better fit and comfort, and may have a removable sock liner. Other synonyms are inner sole and innersole.

Why Do Some Manufacturers Call the Insole a Footbed?

A shoe manufacturer may want to highlight that their footbed has additional features that distinguish it from the usual insole.

Aftermarket insole manufacturers may call their insoles footbeds as part of their marketing. The term footbed brings to mind the foot being cradled and supported rather than simply being in contact with the bottom of the shoe. It conveys that this is a higher-quality product with additional features.

Footbed History and Development

In the history of footwear, shoes were often built with just a sole and an upper, so the footbed was simply the top of the sole that was in contact with the foot and had no special design. But the insole was then further developed to have a covering that was more comfortable, as with a removable sock liner insole.

Shoes have been further developed to have contoured footbeds that may provide cushioning and support for different areas of the foot. They may have structural arch supports built in, cushioning for the heel, and be shaped to cradle the foot.

Sandals have a non-removable footbed and so the structural and cushioning elements must be built into the footbed itself.

Some footbeds can be heat molded for a semi-custom fit for the wearer. Others may tout a memory foam that molds to the individual's foot as they wear the shoe. However, it must be noted that footbeds are not the same as custom orthotics produced by a podiatrist to correct an individual's foot problems.

Footbed Materials and Features

Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam is a shock-absorbing element that was initially seen in athletic shoes but is now also common for footbeds of all types of footwear. It can be compression molded to specific shapes as desired. It can be made with recycled materials or blended with other materials such as cork.

Natural materials used for footbeds include cellulose, latex rubber, jute, bamboo, cork, and leather. While some people look for natural materials, others avoid them as they want vegan shoes. With either natural or synthetic materials, there are concerns about the environmental impact of growing, harvesting, and processing of the products.

Some shoe manufacturers add anti-microbial elements to their footbeds. These help keep the shoes fresh and prevent foot odor by inhibiting the growth of bacteria that produce the unwanted smell.

Insulated footbeds can be desirable for cold-weather shoes and boots, keeping the heat generated by the foot in the shoe and not allowing the cold from the ground to penetrate into the interior of the shoe.