Sunday, May 3, 2009

Gear Review: Sole Ultra Insoles is currently premiering a series of gear reviews that are tested and written by the loyal readers. As part of this series, I received a pair of SOLE Ultra Softec Heat Moldable Custom Footbeds (insoles).

The insoles 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.

Testing supplies - Brooks Cascadia 3s and SOLE Ultra Softecs

While these insoles could be slid into your shoes straight out of the packaging, for optimal results you should first heat-mold them. To do this, you pre-heat the oven to 200 F and pop them in for 2 minutes. On the bottom of the insole is a box that changes color when they are soft enough for molding. When I removed mine from the oven the box hadn't changed color so I put them back in for another 2. Still nothing. Either the indicator was malfunctioning or my oven was. It is entirely possible it was my oven, but I really don't know. I decided 4 minutes had to be plenty of time and they had to be ready so I removed them from the oven and inserted them into my Cascadias. I laced the shoes up and stood in them perfectly still with a neutral stance shoulder-width apart for two minutes, just as the instructions say. Molding process complete.

Before I get into the performance of the insoles, I should give some background on my particular biomechanics and typical footwear choices since both of these factors influence my assessment. I have a fairly neutral gait and wide (ok ok... fat) feet. Because of my wide feet I prefer the wide toebox of Brooks Cascadia trail running shoes. I normally run with blue Superfeet insoles per the recommendation of my physical therapist to give my arches some added support during foot-strike and hopefully prevent injury. Below is a visual comparison of the Brooks Cascadia factory insoles, my used blue Superfeet, and the SOLE Ultra Softecs that were tested.

Various Insoles top view (L-R) - Cascadia 3s, Superfeet and Ultra Softecs

Various insoles bottom view (L-R) - Cascadias, Superfeet and Ultra Softecs

Various insoles side view (L-R) - Cascadias, Superfeet and Ultra Softecs

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.


luc said...

Hi "ultra jumper "seems we have exactly the same passion ( Skydiving and Ultra ) check out . as a comment on the soles NOENE under a Superfeet works fine to me , when you're feet is swelling during the race you hav eth eoption to remove one .

Anonymous said...

I've owned 2 sets of the ultra soels, and I think that maybe you used them for the wrong application, these are meant for typically for work boots or hiking boots hence the thickness, they work great in work boots, not to dis-credit you or anything, just FYI.

Anonymous said...

I agree with, w/ the above. If you go the Sole website, they have thinner versions for low volume footwear.

Jacob said...

Thanks for share, ... It’s too informative.
keep it up