Magnetic reflex insoles work by stimulating nerves in your feet and legs with electromagnetic energy, which helps to regulate blood flow.
If you are looking for a way to reduce or eliminate foot and leg pain, magnetic insoles might be where your search ends. They stimulate circulation and draw more iron-rich blood to the affected area, leading to less pain over time.
In the best-case scenario, they have been reported to eliminate pain altogether.
Today, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about magnetic shoe insoles. Bear in mind that I am not a medical doctor, and what you read is based on my research and intended for informational purposes only.
What are Magnetic Reflex Insoles?
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Magnetic insoles are modern footwear inserts that contain either magnetic nodes or a thin layer of magnetic foil.
There are two main types of magnets used for insoles:
Static – A static magnet sends magnetic waves continuously, and these are much more common of the two types,. The design is simple – a layer of foil pad and magnets strategically placed on the acupressure points.
Pulsed magnet – This type of magnet sends on-and-off pulses. They’re far less common and typically more expensive than the static option.
The former (static) is what we’re interested in today.
Do They Really Work?
The evidence on this is conflicting, and, if you’re looking for hard data, the jury is still out on whether magnetic insoles for shoes work.
Based on what I’ve seen while researching this article and talking to people who wear them, they do offer relief.
All studies are not created equal, and poorly planned or executed studies can bring dubious data. That’s why I’m not comfortable saying that all magnetic insoles work as promised. I’m not pointing any fingers, but I do feel we’ll need more research to answer some of the burning questions.
Whatever the case may be, there are people out there who swear by these.
A Brief History of Magnetic Insoles
The first written traces on the use of magnets in wellness and health date back to the 15th century’s physician Paracelsus. His use was not foot-specific, and he worked under the assumption that magnets “draw disease away from the body.”
Fast forward to the 1800s, and you see medical magnets breaking through to the mainstream. People like Dr. C.J. Thatcher, who ran a mail-order operation based on the therapeutic benefits of magnets, changed the industry’s landscape.
Magnets fell out of grace in the early 20th century, only to make a big comeback in the 1990s. The industry continues to grow to this day with popular brands such as Nikken and Dr. Scholl’s.
Magnetic Insoles Benefits
The main benefits of magnetic insoles:
- Improved blood flow
- Increased oxygenation of the feet
- Altered impulses of agitated nerves
- Changes in the acidity of bodily fluids
Improved Blood Flow
All of the listed benefits can be traced back to improved blood flow to the affected area. Those who firmly believe in the healing power of magnets say that it happens because the magnetic field acts on the iron in our blood (hemoglobin) and excites the capillaries. The result is a heightened self-healing ability of our cells.
More hemoglobin means more oxygen is reaching the affected area. It also means more repairing agents, like white blood cells, will flow to the injured spot.
Calming of Agitated Nerves
This is a big one for people with DPN (diabetic polyneuropathy). Magnets seem to have a calming effect on the distressed peripheral nerves.
The action is supposedly two-fold:
- Direct – A bipolar magnet spreads a triangular, circular, or checkerboard field over the injured area, which soothes the overactive or injured nerves. We are yet to find a scientifically precise description of what exactly happens.
- Indirect – More healing agents reaching the area. This is crucial if the cause of the pain is inflammation or breakage of the myelin sheaths of nerves.
An Unexpected Benefit of Magnetic Insoles – Improved Bladder Control in Women
Dr. Jack Robertson (1917-2015), a friend of the famous Dr. Andrew Kegel (inventor of the pelvic exercise system), took over the Kegel practice after the founder’s death in 1981.
Robertson used magnetic insoles to aid in his own recovery from leg surgery. The dramatic results he saw piqued his interest. He decided to look more closely into why the magnets worked so well.
He found that, in his case, they helped because they target and relax the voluntary stride muscles in the legs.
It turns out that, in women, the voluntary stride muscles are also the pelvic floor muscles.
Long story short, Robertson started recommending wearing magnetic insoles when performing the Kegel. He enlisted 26 women with bladder control problems to help him research the potential effects.
The result, in Robertson’s own words, was that “they all had total control, without exception.”
Magnetic Insoles for Neuropathy
Magnetic shoe insoles offer pain relief in people suffering from peripheral neuropathy, typically a complication of diabetes.
This is how Jane Anderson (Doctor of Podiatric Medicine and a former president of the AAWP) puts it: “There seems to be (a) benefit for some conditions with magnetic insoles, namely with neuropathic pain.”
Anderson then stresses that for the magnetic insoles to be effective and safe in people with neuropathy, they must fit well.
So, do Magnetic Insoles Work for Neuropathy?
There is significant evidence in studies that they do work.
A study named ‘Magnetic bio-stimulation in painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy: A novel intervention’ (source) concluded that magnetic insoles offered a much higher success rate in pain stemming from diabetic neuropathy compared to the general population.
This is a direct quote from the study’s conclusions: “The constant wearing of magnetic devices was able to dramatically suppress the neuropathic symptoms of burning pain, numbness, and tingling in the diabetic cohort (90%) as compared to the non-diabetic cohort (33%).”
Another study of the effects of magnetic insoles on neuropathy was more granular and looked for results in specific types of pain. This place-controlled, double-blind study enrolled 375 subjects in 48 eight centers. All the subjects suffered from phase 2 or 3 of DPN.
They saw what they call “statistically significant reductions…in burning, numbness, and tingling.”
The conclusion of the study was that “static magnetic fields can penetrate up to 20mm and appear to target the ectopic firing nociceptors in the epidermis and dermis. Analgesic benefits were achieved over time.”
In Layman’s Terms
Magnetic shoe insoles show great promise for neuropathic pain. That’s also what I found when analyzing the products that are already on the market.
How do Magnetic Shoe Insoles Work for Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is still poorly understood. So is the action of the magnetic insoles.
Based on what I found in my research, it’s safe to say that they likely help by calming down the firing of the peripheral nerves, which is the cause of pain in people with DPN.
The supposed mechanism of improving blood flow in people with DPN is not complicated. Diabetic neuropathy is almost always closely related to blood circulation issues. That’s likely why the results show a much higher success rate in the diabetic cohorts of the studies.
To put it simply, they aim to stimulate the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
Insoles with Magnets for Back Pain
Magnetic insoles show the potential to help people whose back pain stems from some type of foot imbalance.
In other words, the benefits of magnetic insoles for back pain are indirect. They come from improving the balance of the feet in people affected by conditions like excessive pronation or supination, plantar fasciitis, tarsal tunnel, neuromas, and bunions.
By correcting any imbalance caused by these problems, you’ll also correct your posture and reduce back pain.
Limited use for Disc-Related Pain
There is currently no definitive evidence that shoe insoles can reduce lower back pain caused by a herniated disc or any other kind of disc degeneration.
Proof in Studies
Studies offer further proof that the connection between magnetic insoles and back pain relief likely comes from correcting poor posture. In fact, that’s true for all insoles. The better they are at correcting foot problems, the more effective they might be in helping with back pain.
A 2011 study named ‘Shoe orthotics for the treatment of chronic low back pain: a randomized controlled pilot study’ examined the effects of shoe insoles on chronic lower back pain in 50 patients.
The study found the orthotics improved back pain in the first six months of use. The benefits were maintained in the 6-12 month period, but no significant improvements were noticed after the 6-month mark.
As with most studies we looked at, the authors of this pilot study also concluded that large-scale research is needed to confirm (or dispute) their results.
In 2017, GAFPA (Global Alliance for Patient Access) reported that one-third of people who suffer from chronic pain said they could not tolerate it any longer, and a fifth of those afflicted lose their jobs as a result.
Even though medical professionals are largely skeptical, which is warranted, this article aims to provide opinions on magnets that are unbiased, factually balanced, and, above all, helpful to people looking to learn more.
As with any new therapy, we recommend discussing the topic of magnetic insoles with specialists who can present both sides of this argument and offer a comprehensive overview of the subject.