SOLE Dean Karnazes Footbed Review

Sole footbeds[In the this post, iRunFar reader Alan Jaques reviews the SOLE Dean Karnazes edition custom footbed as a follow up to last month’s review of three footbeds. – Bryon Powell]

Having been a user of Powerstep footbeds for several years and most recently the Powerstep Pinnacle line, I was excited to get an opportunity to test drive SOLE’s Dean Karnazes signature edition footbeds ($49.95) this past winter/spring especially. Overall, I have been quite pleased with the footbeds. Like some of the other iRF footbed reviewers, I have long suffered from bouts of shin splints due to low arches. As a result, I had resorted to using inserts and only looking covetously at all the cool neutral shoe offerings that my feet couldn’t tolerate.

SOLE Dean Karnazes custom footbedThese are heat moldable inserts, so I initially followed the recommendations and put them in the oven for the appropriate amount of time. One thing I did appreciate out of the box was that in addition to the directions for heating there is also a small heat sensitive sticker on the insert that lets you know when they are “ready”. I was glad for this, because I had long suspected my oven does not heat to temp, so I wound up having to leave my soles in twice as long as recommended for the sticker to turn the appropriate color. Afterward, I followed the directions, put the inserts in my trail shoes and stood straight up for a couple of minutes.

I then paired my new footbeds with some recently purchased Lafuma Sky Race shoes. After a brief initial run with the shoes and insoles I completed a five hour training run on my local trails. My initial impression was how little I thought about the inserts, which I viewed as a good sign they were working. The footbeds did seem to have just the right amount of cushioning versus support to be very comfortable.

Since that initial run I’ve probably logged several hundred miles and ran a 50k, 60k and a 50 miler on them. Having had them almost six months now two features really stand out as making these footbeds excel over others I’ve used.

First is the pronounced heel cup. While not as noticeable (to me) on the road, I certainly have a sense that paired with a trail shoe the deep heel cup helps keep my foot in place on nasty sloppy terrain (i.e. McNaughton this year), as well as potentially keeping blisters at bay.

The second is that the SOLE’s have noticeably less volume than other insoles I’ve used while maintaining the same level of comfort. As a runner with a higher volume foot I feel this is a plus, especially in ultras where your feet tend to swell later in the race. When soaking wet, the insoles also don’t seem to absorb water like other inserts and don’t have that squishy feel even after multiple stream crossings.

Overall, I would certainly recommend these footbeds to runners in need of support and especially trail runners. After using these products, I would certainly consider trying out some of the other products in SOLE’s line. While the cost still seems a bit high to me at fifty bucks, my inserts appear to be holding up very well after six months and have no signs of deteriorating.

-Alan Jaques

P.S. I accidentally ran a 5k in my “custom” orthotics and got a blister a week after running 50 miles at the Nashville Ultra blister free with the SOLE footbeds. Go figure!