Many of you address any number of running issues by replacing a shoe’s standard sockliner with a premium footbed, a/k/a insole. Today, we provide you with iRunFar reader reviews of three heat-moldable footbeds: the SOLE Slim Sport, the Montrail Enduro Sole, and the SOLE Softec Ultra. If you regularly use insoles, we’d love for you to leave a comment explaining why you use insoles, which insoles you use, and how they’ve worked (or not) for you. Now, on to the reviews…
In my never-ending search for a cure from what appeared to be eternal shin splints, I had tried everything: strengthening exercises, massages, ice, rest, bike, drinking tea made out of cat’s hair, selling my soul to the devil… nothing worked. Now, I know enough about science (and common sense) to know that you need more than one observation and you must control all other factors to make the affirmation that a hypothesis is a “fact” or a theory that holds in general. So while I can’t tell you that these insoles are going to cure everyone’s shin splints, I can tell you that they seem to be helping with mine, because I haven’t had pain in my shins since I started wearing them. However, one other factor, a change in my stride, could be also contributing to my shin pain relief. Around the same time I started wearing the SOLE Slim Sport insoles ($39.95), a fellow blogger told me to shorten my stride and avoid excessive heel striking. For this reason, I cannot say it was only the insoles that helped my shin splints go away.
But, back to the insoles: Around Christmas of 2007 someone gave me a pair of Superfeet, which I used for a few months but quickly realized they didn’t feel good. They were too stiff, and they pressed on my heel on places that didn’t feel right. The SOLE Slim Sport have a “heat-moldable base”. You actually warm up the insoles in the oven for a couple of minutes, you put them inside your shoes, you put your shoes on, and stand still for a couple of minutes. This helps the insole to mold better with the shape of your feet, while giving you support where you need it without pushing in the wrong places. It’s important to mention that when you heat the insoles they don’t become completely flexible like clay or putty, they hold the main shape that benefits you and adds support, but it molds slightly to the shape of your feet. They feel great! The size I got fit perfectly in my shoes.
In short, I would pick the Sole Slim Sport insole over Superfeet in a snap, and they seem to be a cheap alternative to expensive customized orthotics.
Legal Disclaimer: the author of this review has not ran more than 13.1 miles wearing the reviewed insoles, nor is she a doctor or specialist in anything even remotely related to human health, sports medicine, or physiology.
Montrail Enduro Sole Review by Robert G.
Nothing could be simpler with the Montrail Enduro-Sole ($36). Montrail’s Enduro-Soles have a PRFRM thermomoldable footbed for a custom fit. First off, heating them up was a neat feature. You bake them at 225 degrees F for two minutes, any longer and you can melt the plastics. After baking, you put them in a pair of shoes and stand with even pressure for an additional two minutes. After molding them, you can enjoy a nice comfortable foot bed to run in or recover with.
So on my test runs with the insoles, mostly in my shoes for snowshoe running, I noticed a very comfortable fit in the shoe and not much additional weight at 1.5 oz (according to Montrail). I thoroughly enjoyed the feel after these runs. After a few snowshoe runs I ventured out on the roads with them. I again enjoyed the feel of the inserts. They are comfortable, flexible, soft, and slightly supportive. I do wonder how they will be after I rack up some miles on them. After molding the footbed, you really compress the areas your foot sits. So I do wonder how long they will last.
I currently use another brand of inserts that I enjoy just as well. These other inserts have helped me tremendously through some aches and pains over the last couple of years. They are firmer than the Montrail Enduro Soles. However, I will definitely use the Montrail Enduro Soles as a recovery insert in my shoes and possibly after more testing rotate them in for more extensive use. The softness is what is called for after a nice long run. Some may like the softness for all of their runs.
SOLE Softec Ultra Review by Bobby Gill
The SOLE Softec Ultrafootbeds ($44.95) are constructed with a moldable EVA base, open-cell polyurethane cushioning, and a perforated polyester weave topsheet for moisture wicking. Of the seven available SOLE insoles, the Ultra Softec’s are the thickest with 3.2mm of cushioning.
I tested the Ultra Softecs for two weeks on multiple trail runs ranging from 4 miles to 16 miles. On my first run with them my intial impression was that they were relatively comfortable, but after putting a few miles in my metatarsals started to get noticeably cramped. Thinking this may be due to the switch from Superfeet to SOLEs, I kept wearing them but the cramping never ceased. This produced serious discomfort on my runs that I definitely would not be able to tolerate in an ultra.
I believe the cramping of my metatarsals was due to the increased thickness of the Ultra Softecs compared to my Superfeet. They are approximately three times thicker and I apparently need all the space I can get to keep my dogs from barking. Because of this metatarsal cramping I was unable to get a good feel for how the molded footbed performs supporting the foot. SOLEs are popular insoles, so I imagine I might have better luck with one of the thinner insoles in the SOLE product line such as the Softec Regulars or the Slim Sports.
Overall, I would not recommend the SOLE Softec Ultras to someone who has wide/fat feet and needs space in their shoe, but I wouldn’t not recommend them to someone with normal sized feet since it is possible the molded footbed could provide valuable arch support.
For a more extensive review of the SOLE Softec Ultra, including photos comparing the Ultras with other footbeds and sockliners, check out Bobby Gill’s blog.
Additional iRunFar Footbed Reviews