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!

There are 7 comments

  1. sc

    Six months on these insoles strikes me as an unusually long time for someone with your apparent mileage. I'm pretty torn between the literature out there about the lifespan of shoes (and whether or not to use them at all). Did these insoles outlast several pairs of shoes — or how frequently do you change shoes? On a completely cosmetic note, am I the only who finds highly decorated insoles, which never see the light of day, amusing? Maybe decorating the heel is reasonable. Maybe.

  2. Alan Jaques

    sc,although I've had them for about six months I'm generally always mixing up my shoe/insole combination. I generally have tried to use these insoles just on trails and at races to lessen the impact and use my powersteps paired with road shoes on the road,treadmill etc. One thing worth mentioning is that the literature with the insoles suggests you can remold the inserts up to 3 or more times if you feel it's needed. So far I haven't noticed the need to but may in the future just for kicks. As far as wearing out shoes I really have yet to wear out any of my trail shoes as the terrain here in Kentucky is pretty soft and I frequently mix up shoes.Cosmetically I completely agree that the photos are a bit narcissistic. Maybe the idea is that the spirt of Dean will infuse your feet and make you fly like the wind.Eventually maybe we will see running shoes and insoles go the way of basketball and skate shoes and athletes will have their own shoes.Who's ready for the limited edition Hal Koerner commemorative Western States trail runner?

  3. Meghan

    Though I think that they have their appropriate time and place, I have become a SOLE insole believer. As part of my continued recovery from plantar fasciitis, I have been wearing SOLE insoles inside a pair Montrail Hardrocks any time I'm walking around on my feet. The purpose of this, as recommended by an orthopaedist, is to come close to "splinting" the plantar fascia while still being able to walk for work (no running), to help it reduce inflammation and otherwise heal.The insoles are seriously bulletproof, though, and I can imagine that they really change the way your feet articulate against the insole/ground as you walk/run. This seems a blessing or a curse, depending on what you seek.Thanks for the review!Meghan

  4. TrailClown

    I wear the SOLE DK's for plantar fasciitis as well, and they do effectively mitigate the forces that overstretch the fascia. The problem is, as with all corrective devices, that they help the symptoms but not the underlying cause. When the fascia is inflamed it is because of weakness in the leg muscles, not the feet. Since the "insertion points" for the fascia are within the leg, a tight calf, for instance, can make your fascia hurt. It is literally "pulling" on the foot ligament because the calf is tight. So insoles help to get the fascia propped up so it doesn't have to do as much work, but you still need to strengthen the leg for long-term healing. More important than insoles are form-fitting shoes that don't "bend" in the middle of the shoe. If the shoe is snug, supportive and rigid through the middle, then you won't pull on the achilles or calf (which will overtax the fascia) going uphill, and you won't collapse the arch (will obviously will be better for the fascia) when you pound on pavement. So to conclude: the soles assist in a good way, but can lead to greater weakness if underlying problems are not addressed.

  5. Lars

    What is the comparison between the Sole's and Superfeet? I am contemplating getting a pair of footbeds… but not sure which one would be best.

  6. Bruce

    I have paired with Salomon s-lab XT wings 4 after the standard insoles disintegrated around my heels and left me badly blistered.

    The combination is superb! Around 80 tough off road miles in them and they have been nothing but comfortable and supportive. When removed from the shoe they still look brand new. I suspect they will last for at least 2 pairs of shoes.

    A word of caution though be very careful when putting in the oven. I melted my first pair! The Manufacturer, Sole were good enough to replace them though and I couldn't be happier with them.

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