SOLE Ultra SOFTEC Insoles

Oven-baked, supportive orthotics

Custom fit insoles created by professional podiatrists and orthotics constructors can make running faster and safer, walking more comfortable, reduce back problems, and improve agility and precision of movement. Unfortunately, this sort of work can costs hundreds of dollars per shoe. The SOLE Ultra SOFTEC ($30+) bring the benefits of a custom fit insole at a mass production price. You simply trim a pair of insoles to fit, briefly heat them, then fit the insoles into your shoes and stand in them in a neutral, well-balanced position for two minutes. At the end of that time you have a pair of custom fit insoles with excellent Poron cushioning and exactly the fit you need; my friends and I found that SOLEs provided optimum arch support for high, normal, and low arched feet. At $45 they’re excellent insurance against running injuries (especially the low arch that eventually afflicts most runners) and a great way of getting extra safety, comfort, and performance for snowboarding, hiking, soccer, or skiing.

I have a high arch, which means I have a greatly increased stress on footfall, with energy being lost from the gait cycle into impact force. The SOLEs corrected this not so much through cushioning, but through restoring correct contact of the load bearing areas of my foot — more energy is now transferred from one step to another instead of into impact. A friend had the opposite and more common problem of a low arch, meaning that he constantly risked knee and soft tissue injuries, and the soles corrected that problem, too. This is the secret to how both the high-end custom orthotics that athletes use and the SOLEs work: your feet are designed to transfer energy from one step to another. When this goes wrong, old style insoles try to fix the problem by adding cushioning, but any amount of cushioning that could make a real difference would rob too much energy from the system (imagine walking on marshmallows). Instead the SOLEs fix the real problem and put the energy that was doing damage back where it belongs, bouncing you into your next step. Other benefits: Custom arch support stops the arch of the foot dropping, leading to a permanently low arched and injury prone foot. This is a real risk for people who run, spend a lot of time on their feet, or carry heavy loads.

I first noticed these insoles recommended on a famous mountain climber’s site. At the time, I was about to spend $400 on either Kiper custom silicone orthotics or even more on gait analysis and custom insoles at an athletics center. They’ve made an amazing difference to me in the six months I’ve been wearing them. If you’re not impressed with the difference they make, they come with a strong money back guarantee; they’re endorsed by both the American and Canadian Podiatric Medical Associations; and I hear they’re favourites of American and British infantrymen.

-- Jonathan Coupe 09/12/18

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