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THE BEST CYCLING SPECIFIC INSOLE? PART II

THE BEST CYCLING SPECIFIC INSOLE? PART IICycling Insoles

 

As soon as all of the insoles arrived, I placed each pair on a digital scale. I tried to orient them so that both the top and bottom is shown. This was the start of the Insole comparison chart that you saw in Part I.
I have also included an updated chart below.

 

Manufacturers are listed along the left column along with their cycling insole product(s). Several manufacturers also sent along their running insole equivalents which will not be evaluated or tested for this article.

 

The other columns fleshed out (a) whether or not they are heat moldable, (b) do they include a metatarsal pad and if so, how tall/large, (c) forefoot padding thickness, (d) weight of the insoles, (e) MSRP, (f) and the all-important rating. I have also included the manufacturers website for your convenience.

 

Please note: Reviews and Product Scoring are based on how each of these insoles fit my feet. I have high arches with a fairly non-flexible foot. Your results may differ. Also, the shoes used in this test were Shimano SH-R321 (size 45 Wide).

 

Every insole was of the highest quality. No corners were cut, nor did anyone skimp on the materials used. Each of the insoles were actually made as cycling specific, and not, as mentioned in Part I, made by taking a runners’ insole and slapping a different label on the box. As compared to an insole for running, cycling specific insoles have (a) arches that are moved slightly back, (b) metatarsal bumps that are (usually) added, (c) deeper heel cups which all go towards providing better support for the cyclists’ feet – resulting in more comfort and a more efficient power transfer from the heels to the forefoot and to the pedals.

Cycling Insoles

{Click on above Graph for full size Picture}

 

HOW I TESTED

 

I ended up with 20 pairs of insoles from 8 manufacturers. Many manufacturers offer 3 models, Low arch, Medium arch and High arch. Of these, I chose the high arch to test (specific to my feet). This narrowed the test field down to 11Cycling Insoles pairs. See table to the right.

 

Next, I layed them out on the workbench in alphabetical order. Weighed them then trimmed them. Then, on to testing. One issue I had was trying to compare all of these insoles. I thought that I could ride each pair for 100 miles, then swap out to the next pair. After 11 pair, it was hard to remember what the first pair felt like so I added a round 2, 3 and 4.

 

  • Round #1 – I started with the first one and rode with them in my shoes for 100 miles. I then swapped them out for the second pair. Another 100 miles, then the third, etc.
    • 1,100 total miles ridden for Round #1
  • Round #2 – I started over with the first pair for another 100 miles, then the second, etc.
    • 1,100 total miles ridden for Round #2
  • Round #3 – Same as above but only 60 miles per pair
    • 660 total miles ridden for Round #3
  • Round #4 – 45 miles each again.
    • 495 total miles ridden for Round #4
  • TOTAL TESTING MILEAGE = 3,355
Cycling Insoles

 

HOW TO QUICKLY FIND OUT WHICH INSOLE HEIGHT YOU NEED

 

NOTE: This is best done on concrete, either outside or in the garage.

 

TEST #1
  • Remove shoes and socks
  • Place a wet dish towel on the ground. Note: The towel should be large enough so that both feet easily fit completely on the towel and just wet enough so that it is not dripping.
  • Place either a dry piece of newspaper on the ground or you can use the smooth dry cement.
  • Wet your feet then step onto the newspaper or cement so that you leave a print.
  • Step back off and then compare the footprint left behind with the picture(s) below.

 

Cycling Insoles

 

Since a given rating for arch height is not the same between manufacturers, I like to add a double-check test.

 

TEST #2 – double-check
  • Place insoles on the ground
  • Step onto insoles
  • Have someone try and place their fingers between the insole and the arch of each foot. If there is too much of a gap, you will want to move to a higher arch insole. Ultimately, you want the insole to lightly contact the arch of your foot so as to provide support.

 

WHAT I NOTICED

 

In looking at the insoles closer, several things jumped out;Cycling Insoles

 

a) The variability of insole thicknesses ranged from 2mm for the Icebug’s to 4.5mm for Specialized’s BG-Fit insoles. The BG-Fit is 2.25 times thicker than the Icebug’s! The sample mean is 3.2mm.

 

Note: The heat moldable insoles use a denser foam, the non-heat moldable use more of a gel-type foam. So given the same thickness of foam padding, the gel will be more comfortable than the heat moldables’ dense foam.

 

b) The variability in weight which ranged from 2.875 oz. for a pair of Specialized BG-FIT to 8.25 oz. for the A|Line GURU’s, meaning that the A|Lines’ are 2.87 times heavier than the Specialized! The sample mean is 4.46 oz. Removing the Specialized and A|Line from this calculation yields a sample mean of just over 4.0 oz.

 

c) Arch Pad – Insoles tested fit into one of 3 categories
  • One size fits all
  • Heat molded
  • 3 separate arch models in Low, Medium, High

 

d) Metatarsal Pad – In my research as well as personal experience, this is an absolute necessity. On the bottom of the foot, the bones that protrude the most are the Metatarsal Heads (and 1st Metatarsal head sesamoid bones). In cycling, due to the excessive Plantar Flexion under load (i.e., depressing the forefoot/elevating the heel), these Metatarsal Heads encounter repetitive over pressure.

 

The picture to the right shows the bottom of a right foot looking upward. The area in Green shows Cycling Insoleswhere a good arch support contacts the foot. The area in Yellow shows where a good metatarsal pad supports the center of the Metatarsals. Together, these act to support the foot and alleviate over pressure of the Metatarsals and sesamoid bones. The areas in red show where over pressure occurs when cycling. This over pressure can be even greater/more concentrated along the 1st Metatarsal head/sesamoid bones if the cyclist’s feet pronate (arches pointing towards the ground), or more concentrated along the 5th Metatarsal head if the cyclists foot supinates (outside of foot is lower than the arches). Adding the correct amount of arch support along with the use of a Metatarsal pad will greatly decrease the concentrated over pressure by more evenly distributing the pressure forces along a wider surface area. In addition, the addition of cleat wedges during a professional bike fit can add more pronation or supination to the foot which will also allow more even pressure along the metatarsal heads. Make sure you see a qualified bike fitter who is certified and specializes in cleat adjustments.

 

To summarize my experience, at 90 rpm, I am rotating the cranks 5,400 strokes per hour. When I cycle with an insole without a Metatarsal Pad, my 1st Metatarsal Heads and sesamoid bones start hurting after only 20 miles. On the other hand, I have no pain when using a quality insole with a high arch support and Metatarsal pad. So, looking for an insole with (a) the correct arch height for your feet and (b) a metatarsal pad of the correct height might be the best thing you can do for your cycling feet.

 

e) Sizing – each manufacturer has a different recommended insole size. For the standard Shimano insole, I use a 45. Other insole manufacturers recommended 44, while others 46. Make sure to double-check the manufacturer recommended insole size before ordering.

 

A NOTE ON INSOLE THICKNESS

 

IMPORTANT! – from the chart above, you will notice that the insoles ranged from 2mm thick to 4.5mm thick…and that is just in the forefoot. Measuring the middle of the insole provides an even greater difference. Therefore, when you change to a new pair of insoles, you MUST follow that with a seatpost height adjustment – either up or down – to compensate for this new variable. In fact, when replacing a worn out insole with a new insole, whether it be the same product, or a completely different product, I highly recommend following that up with a professional bike fit. As those who have had a recent professional bike fit, even moving the seatpost 1mm higher, the difference can be felt!

 

A NOTE ON INSOLE WEIGHT

 

I have ridden hundreds of miles with each of these insoles. Insole weight under 5 ounces can’t Cycling Insolesreally be felt. Once their weight goes over 5 oz., and especially over 6, I can definitely feel the added weight. Therefore, I recommend choosing a pair of insoles at or below 5 ounces. Remember, pedaling at 90 rpm, you are pedaling at 5,400 revolutions per hour and 13,500 revolutions for a typical 2.5-hour ride. As can be seen by the chart to the right, that’s a lot of additional weight during the backstroke pulling and lifting of your feet. A quick comparison of the lightest vs heaviest insoles tested shows that on a 3-hour ride, using the BG-FIT insoles, you are lifting about the same weight as you would be on a 1-hour ride using the A|LINE Gurus.

RELATED READINGS

  1. Influence of Carbon Fiber Foot Orthoses on Plantar Pressure Distribution in Cycling
  2. The Effects of Cycling Shoe Outsole Material on Plantar Stress
  3. In-Shoe Pressure Distributions for Cycling
  4. Many on-line studies and articles on these manufacturers websites.
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A|LineCycling Insoles
GURU Insole

 

SUMMARY: A|Line has invented a most comfortable insole with great support. They have designed this insole with several layers of different densities of foam and plastic allowing for a ‘cycling-specific tuned’ level of comfort, support and functionality. As can be seen in the photo, the arch support extends forward and to the outside creating a unique combination of both arch support and metatarsal pad. This hard plastic base support layer is coupled to the main footbed which is comprised of medium soft rubber with a thin ventilated top layer. Also included is a softer gel-infused foam forefoot as well as a true ultra-soft gel heel cup. These are integrated to make this insole one of the most comfortable of those tested. Sizing runs true and I needed to trim only about 1/8″ from the very front. These insoles easily snapped into the shoes and there was plenty of room for my feet.

 

HITS:
1. Low volume insole that allows maximum room for the foot
2. Arch support that flows into a small/medium height metatarsal bump
3. Deep gel heel cup keeps heel secure in the shoe
4. Rubbery top layer ensures no sliding of feet
5. Small perforations in top layer material guarantees that feet will be cool and comfortable
6. Detachable heel wedges included allowing canting of heel
7. Very durable – showing no signs of wear
8. For those with small arch heights, this is a very comfortable insole

 

MISSES:
1. Weight – was the heaviest insole … almost double the weight of the next heaviest insole
2. Price – at $90/pair was the second most expensive insole behind Solestar
3. Small arch support…a one-size fits all design which didn’t support my feet like other insoles. Personally, I need a taller arch support and larger metatarsal bump.

 

RATING:
Again, for those with small arch heights, this insole is one of the most comfortable and, although this insole has a well thought out multi-layer cushion design, points were subtracted for its hefty weight, high price and a ‘one-size-fits-all’ design.

 

This insole ended up with a 4.5/5.0 overall rating.

 

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currexSoleCycling Insoles
BIKEPRO Insole

 

SUMMARY: CurrexSole has developed 2 product lines CurrexSole and FOOTDISC. Most of their products are geared towards running and other active sports, and the majority of their products fall under CurrexSole. All insoles are out-of-the-box / non-heat moldable. Also, every insole product line is offered in 3 different profile heights; LOW, MED, HIGH.

 

Their product lines are
• RUNPRO – best suited for running, triathlon, jogging, trail walking and running, Nordic running.
• RUNFREE – best suited for natural running
• ACTIVEPRO – best for active sports such as soccer, basketball, tennis, volleyball, baseball, football, cross-fit, etc.
• EDGEPRO – best suited for skiing, snowboard, hiking, golf, polo.
• WORKPRO – perfect for work shoes and boots. Offers EN ISO 20345 protection with certain shoes
BIKEPROSpecifically made for Road Cycling, MTB, Triathlon, BMX, Cyclo-Cross, and Track Cycling

 

cycling insoles

 

My shoes are right in the middle of 2 sizes, Large and XLarge. I chose the XLarge and had to trim at least ¼” off the front of the insole. I also had to shape the sides of the forefoot area so they would fit into my shoes. Once trimmed, these insoles fit easily into the shoes. Trying them on for the first time, I noticed that there was plenty of room for my feet.

 

I chose the HIGH arch model and there was adequate support for my arches, and, when it comes to arch height, these insoles are right in the middle of all of the others. Some have HIGH arches that are considerably higher than the others, some are so low I would almost need the next taller arch height if made.

 

There is no metatarsal bump, but there is a rebounding pad that is integrated under the metatarsals. The picture above tries to illustrate that not only does this pad provide cushioning, but, provides rebounding at the same time. Why is this important? Because if the insole incorporates only a foam-type cushioning pad, some of your pedaling power will get absorbed by the foam pad. Kind of like why a cyclist shouldn’t wear running shoes when riding a bicycle. After the power phase of the pedal stroke, the PROPO+ material is deformed slightly, and when pressure is slightly backed-off, will help to rebound the cyclists’ foot. Theoretically, this assists with the dead-spot and initial pedaling back-stroke.

 

The two things that I didn’t like was that there was no metatarsal bump so the insoles were not as cycling insolescomfortable as they could have been and secondly, my feet were sliding around quite a bit in the shoes. I think this was from a combination of a fairly slippery top layer material coupled with a shallow heel cup.

 

CurrexSole is unique since they are the only ones that considers 3 different aspects to determine the correct insole.
• First, determine your activity which equates to one of the product lines listed above.
• Next, find your foot print. Do you have a high arch, normal, low or flat arch? Circle the letter. Using my feet as an example, I am between A & B.
• Then, determine your leg axis. Stand up straight and place ankles together. Can you place 2 fingers between knees? If so, 1. Choose 2 if your legs are straight, or choose 3 if you can’t touch your ankles together. In my case, I am a 2.
• Lastly, in my case, combine the letter in the footprint with the number of leg axis to come up with A2 or B2, both of which fall under HIGH PROFILE which is correct for me.

 

HITS:
1. Low volume insole that allows maximum room for the foot.
2. Tall (hard plastic) arch support that is light weight and supports the arch perfectly.
3. Gel cushioning under the heel.
4. Rubbery top layer ensures no sliding of feet.
5. Breathes very well. Insole does not feel hot.
6. PROPO+ metatarsal cushioning pad (see orange colored material along metatarsals in top photo) is a dual-purpose metatarsal cushioning pad as well as a rebounding material – kind of like an anti-energy absorbing layer.

 

MISSES:
1. Shallow heel cup combined with a semi-slippery top cover allows my feet to move around quite a bit in the shoe.
2. No metatarsal bump. At the end of a 3-hour ride, my feet didn’t hurt, but I could tell they were getting close to hurting.

 

RATING:
There were positives as well as a few detractors so I didn’t reduce the score as much as if there would have been a lesser number of positives. This insole ended up with a 4.6/5.0 overall rating.

 

cycling insoles

 

FOOT BALANCECycling Insoles
PERFORMACE & RACE Insole

 

SUMMARY: Foot Balance has several footwear product lines consisting of highly contoured sandals (i.e., flip-flops), as well as two insole product lines. For the insole lines, one is fully custom, the other is called Quick Fit. The Customs’ come in either a sports model or lifestyle model and need to be heat molded prior to use. The Quick Fit’s are pre-molded that can be used ‘as is’ or placed in your home oven at 175° for a more custom fit. Note: all of Foot Balance insoles are heat moldable.

 

For the purpose of this review, I have chosen two fully custom heat moldable insoles that are specific to cycling shoes. These insoles come as a FLAT shape from the factory. Other sports models are available for runners, triathletes, and other outdoor activities which all differ mainly in the thickness of the dense foam padding.

 

The person to be fitted stands on a molding pillow while the insoles are being heated in a special oven. After heating, the insoles are placed on a molding pillow where the person being fit stands on them. The fitter then ensures that the insoles conform perfectly to the feet.

 

After I was fit by one of Foot Balances representatives, I noticed that every aspect of my foot’s shape was taken into account with the insole. Even with my slightly valgus (tilted inwards) feet, there were large indentations where the balls of my feet rest. The other thing I noticed was that even though these insoles took several rides to get used to, they now feel and continue to feel very comfortable.

 

The Foot Balance insoles do include a small metatarsal pad as well as a fairly deep heel cup which provides a very secure feeling especially when pulling up in the pedal stroke.

 

Two thicknesses are recommended since they both fit perfectly well in even the lowest volume cycling shoe. The Performance is slightly thicker at 3.2mm while the Race is 3.1mm thick. This might not seem like a lot, but it is just enough to make the Performance the more comfortable of these two.

 

HITS:

 

1. True custom fit
2. Low volume that fits very well
3. Very low weight
4. Cloth covering ensures that the feet stay in place
5. Large heel cup makes the feet feel very secure in the shoe
6. Custom fit arch support
7. Heat moldability that conforms perfectly to the feet
8. Very durable product

 

MISSES:

 

1. Price
2. Metatarsal pad is very small
3. Requires a special oven to mold – additional cost for the fitter
4. Requires a special molding pillow – additional cost for the fitter

 

RATING:

 

Foot Balance molded 2 insoles for me, PERFORMANCE and RACE. After molding, both insoles fit perfectly, but, the PERFORMANCE felt just that much more comfortable than the RACE. With only 0.1mm of foam, it was just enough to make a difference. Both insoles fit easily into my cycling shoes and there was plenty of room for my feet.

 

There are four areas where I deducted some points. (a) a very small metatarsal pad, (b) price of the insole and (c) cost of entry (add about $600 for minimum required equipment – special oven and heat molding pillow), (d) very small metatarsal bump, would have liked to see a larger one.

 

PERFORMANCE 4.7
RACE 4.6

 

cycling insoles

 

ICEBUG SLIMCycling Insoles
(Low, Medium, High) Insole

 

SUMMARY: Icebug is a Swedish footwear manufacturer specializing in shoes and boots for the outdoors. They make trail shoes for walking as well as running, boots for snow and ice, as well as insoles. Their current insole line consists of two high-quality and well thought out products; FAT and SLIM. Each of these two styles are available in three different arch shapes; low, medium, high. The FAT offers maximum cushioning and shock absorption ideal for hiking, running, walking, work boots, any other high-volume shoes and they work especially well for those who are on their feet all day. The SLIM is recommended for low-volume shoes such as cycling, cleated sport shoes, minimalist running shoes and all other low volume shoes.

 

As shown in the picture, the main support for this insole comes from the pre-molded thin hard plastic base which supports the heel cup, arch support, outer foot support, forefoot support as well as a fairly large embedded metatarsal bump. The arch support is ribbed for additional strength and, with respect to the SLIM/FAT HIGH, Icebug claims to have the tallest arch support of the out of the box insoles. So, unless you have very high arches like I do, the LOW, or MEDIUM should work perfectly for you. But if you do have tall arches, then this is your insole.

 

For the insole, Icebug uses a low friction nylon top cover which is coupled to a shock absorbing EVA foam base layer. This EVA foam layer is very similar to that used in the forefoot and under the toes of the A|LINE GURU and one of several main reasons why this insole is so comfortable. The other main reason is their use and placement of a fairly large metatarsal bump. On the initial ride, the metatarsal bump felt like it was too big and too tall, but, after 30 seconds, it felt natural. Yes, this turned out to be an extremely comfortable insole.

 

Also built into the insole is a deep heel cup which keeps the rear of the foot firmly planted. The bottom of the heel cup is designed with two thicker pieces of plastic on the outer sides that not only help stabilize the insole from moving around in the shoe, but also help to reduce pressure on the plantar fascia – the fascia that runs the entire length of the bottom of the foot.

 

These insoles are absolutely the most comfortable without sacrificing performance and, at only 3.625oz for the pair, are the second lightest insole, Specialized BG-FIT being the lightest.

 

HITS:

 

1. Low volume that fits extremely well
2. Well thought out design
3. Nylon top layer is durable as well as prevents feet from slipping around
4. EVA foam later is comfortable without sacrificing performance
5. Deep heel cup ensures foot stays planted
6. Comes in 3 arch heights (low, med, tall)
7. Hard plastic foundation support supports heel, arch, outer foot and forefoot
8. Large metatarsal bump relieves overuse pressure from cycling
9. Second lightest insole

 

MISSES:

 

1. Cost is at the upper end of what 100+ people surveyed said they would pay for and feel what an insole is worth
2. Initially, some might find the Metatarsal bump too intrusive, but, give it a few seconds, it feels natural.

 

RATING:

 

Three factors drove these insoles to a 4.9/5.0 – Support, Comfort and Performance. Even though these insoles are at the upper end of what polled cyclists feel that an insole should cost, these are well worth the MSRP. They did everything well!

 

cycling insoles

 

POWERSTEPS ARCHMOLDCycling Insoles
LEAN & MULTISPORT Insole

 

SUMMARY: Powersteps offers a full line of products that include insoles, orthotics, supports, bracing, specialty shoes, compression socks and compression sleeves. For the purpose of this review, we will test their Archmolds out-of-the-box heat moldable insoles.

 

Archmolds are Foot Balance’s Custom Heat Moldable Insole that come in five models, all except two are too thick and/or too wide to be used in a cycling shoe. The LEAN and MULTISPORT are the two products Powersteps recommends for cycling and are 2.5mm and 3.5mm in thickness respectively. They also have a thinner side-to-side profile.

 

Being heat moldable, these share a similar composition to the Foot Balance except that these only come pre-shaped. The thought is that they will be ‘close enough’ for most cyclists and, over time, will actually mold themselves to the shape of the cyclist’s feet. But, for those that want a more customizable fit, they can be placed in an oven, warmed to about 175° then placed in the shoes and ridden around the block a few times. After they cool, their will have the exact shape of the cyclist’s feet.

 

I first tried the LEAN and it felt like there was no padding at all. After 20 miles, the balls of my feet Cycling Insolesstarted hurting. It was as if I was pushing down directly on the hard Carbon Fiber of the bottom of the shoe. I tried the MULTISPORT next. With 1mm of extra padding, this insole should feel similar to Foot Balance’s PERFORMANCE. In reality, this insole was still too hard for my liking. I pulled the insoles out of the shoes and started comparing them to the Foot Balance. Only one major difference I could find is that there is no metatarsal bump in these where there is in the Foot Balance insoles. And that is what appears to make all of the difference for me. The solution is that I could make my own metatarsal bump by (a) heating the insoles then (b) taping a small piece of plastic to the bottom of the insole then (c) place back in the shoes and stand up on each shoe one at a time. Theoretically, this should produce a bump in just the right place and should solve the problem of 1st metatarsal soreness.

 

I am guessing that for most cyclists, this will not be an issue. These have the same cloth top layer as Foot Balance and look to be a very durable insole. They look to be made of the same heat moldable materials as Foot Balance. They come pre-shaped and can be worn right out of the box. They have a low weight and are very reasonably priced. I’m not knocking this fine product; they just didn’t fit ME very well.

 

HITS:

 

1. Low volume that fits cycling shoes very well
2. Second lowest priced insole tested
3. High quality materials throughout
4. Very durable
5. Large heel cup makes the feet feel very secure in the shoe
6. Can be heat molded in your home oven or worn as is

 

MISSES:

 

1. One size fits all, only one arch height size
2. No metatarsal bump, requires major work if you want to add one yourself

 

RATING:

 

Don’t get me wrong, this is a high quality product that can be worn right out of the box that will eventually form itself to your feet. They can also be heat molded for an even more custom fit. The price is right and they are fairly lightweight. They are low volume and have the correct profile to easily fit into any low volume shoe. My issue with them is that they do not come with a metatarsal bump and what I have come to find out – that, for my feet, is a hard requirement.

 

So all-in-all, I gave these insoles an average rating of 4.3/5.0

 

cycling insoles

 

SIDAS CUSTOM BIKE+Cycling Insoles

SIDAS CUSTOM BIKE C Insoles

 

SUMMARY: SIDAS has been in the ‘foot’ business for 40 years, where, like most, started within the ski industry. SIDAS currently makes high quality insoles, socks, sandals and a full range of special ‘protection’ pads and bandages designed to prevent the development of blisters.

 

The BIKE+ insoles can be used right out of the box, or, if a more custom fitting is required, can be custom molded by the Flashfit process – place them in a special oven, heat, set them into a special molding pillow, then stand in them. Takes about 10 minutes.

 

I have a pair that have been molded to my feet and an out-of-the-box pair both of which I tested. What I noticed is that the molded pair fit my feet better. How much better? Hard to actually quantify, but I will say better than 25% better. I can actually tell the differences between these two pair.

 

Specific differences are (a) the molded pair has a slightly deeper heel cup, (b) better arch support, (c) better metatarsal support. Just like the Foot Balance, after molding, I see small indentations where hot-spots would normally occur.

 

I have ridden several hundred miles with these insoles and I have experienced no pain. Even though they are the heaviest of the ‘4-ouncers’, they still feel light.

 

HITS:

 

1. Low volume that fits extremely well
2. Very comfortable
3. Fairly deep heel cup with a gel bottom
4. Well thought out design
5. Carbon fiber arch support
6. Top layer is durable nylon/rubber material that prevents ALL slipping
7. Deep heel cup ensures foot stays planted
8. Small metatarsal bump relieves some overuse pressure from cycling

 

MISSES:

 

1. Heat mold for best fit
2. One arch height fits all
3. Fitter must invest an additional $2,000 minimum for oven, fitting pads and stand
4. Price is well over what most cyclists are willing to spend

 

RATING:

 

Even though this insole fit and performed very well, the detractors are (a) priced well over what most cyclists will pay for an insole, (b) the fitter needs to add a surcharge to pay for the additional $2,000 worth of equipment making an already expensive insole even more expensive. Due to several other detractors listed above, I gave these a score of 4.7/5.0

 

cycling insoles

 

SIDAS CUSTOM BIKE C InsoleCycling Insoles

 

The BIKE C is a 100% customizable insole that requires heat molding in order to be worn while the BIKE+ can be used right out of the box. Just like the Foot Balance SPORTS, these insoles come as flat stock, heated in a custom oven, placed on special molding pillow modules (which are different than the BIKE+ molding pillows) then stood on by the cyclist.

 

These insoles were not molded so not rated but, included to show SIDAS’ top purely custom insole. Additional specialized equipment is needed to custom form these insoles, at a higher cost than with the SIDAS BIKE+ and FOOT BALANCE SPORTS models. In fact, $6,500 worth of additional equipment is recommended to custom mold these insoles. I am sure that the resulting insole would be the perfect insole, but, adding a surcharge to an already expensive insole would allow very few to consider paying around $150 for a pair.

 

cycling insoles

SIDAS 3FEET InsoleCycling Insoles

 

SUMMARY: The SIDAS 3FEET is a non-heat moldable out-of-the-box insole. This insole is only a little better than manufacturers standard insoles that come in most cycling shoes. There really wasn’t much arch support no metatarsal support nor even much forefoot cushioning. What arch support there was felt flimsy and collapsed easily. My feet started hurting within the first 5 miles. It appears to me that SIDAS tried to go light weight over functionality. On the other hand, the SIDAS BIKE+ rated just under the top score.

 

HITS:

 

1. Low volume that fits very well
2. Light weight
3. Great footbed material offered firm grip of the feet

 

MISSES:

 

1. Flimsy arch support
2. Small heel cup allowed feet to feel unsecured
3. No metatarsal support
4. No forefoot cushioning
5. High price for a ‘standard’ insole

 

RATING:

 

These did not fit my feet too well. I felt no real support and my feet started hurting after 5 miles. Couple this with a fairly high price for what you get, I am rating these a 4.3 out of 5.0.

 

With that being said, my recommendations would be for SIDAS to (a) redesign a slightly deeper heel cup, (b) stiffen the soft foam arch support with a denser/robust foam or go with a lightweight plastic, (c) since this is a cycling specific insole, integrate a metatarsal bump into the forefoot of the arch support and (d) provide some kind of integrated forefoot cushioning, (e) keep at the $49.99 price.

 

Incorporating these redesigns would make this insole every bit as good as the Specialized and achieve a rating of 4.8/5.0.

 

cycling insoles

 

SOLESTAR KONTROLCycling Insoles
BLK & ROAD Insole

 

SUMMARY: Solestar is a German company that specializes in manufacturing insoles primarily for the cycling market. According to the website, their athletes include Fabian Cancellara, Andre Greipel, Greg Henderson, Johann Vansummeren, Christian Knees, Gerald Ciolek, Ben King, Haydon Roulston, Jesse Sergent, Rick Zabel, Theo Bos, Maxime Monfort, as well as professional triathletes and professional MTB. Quite a good group for great testimonials.

 

Solestar has 5 products;
a) ROAD – standard carbon fiber core that extends from the heel to the forefoot, provides great transmission of forces, maximum stability and lightweight.
b) MTB – similar to ROAD but with additional padding.
c) BLK – high quality super-stiff carbon fiber core provides lightest weight and stiffest insole. Out of the box product for competitive road cycling, XC and triathlons.
d) CUSTOM – same core as the BLK, but custom manufactured individually for each rider.
e) ALPINE – for skiers and use in ski boots.

 

In researching their website, I decided to test either the BLK or the ROAD. On each insoles’ detailed product page, I noticed their corresponding Sizing Chart. This is great for the customer since it tells you which size insole to purchase based on your shoe brand. For example, if you wear Specialized shoes, choose the insole that is identical to your shoe size. If you wear Fizik shoes, choose an insole one size larger than your shoe size. If you have Shimano SH-R320 or SH-R321, then … they don’t fit? What!?!How can that be? So I emailed them directly and the next morning a reply came stating that “over the past couple of years, Shimano has been changing the shape of the front of their high-end shoes by putting in more of a curve as well as giving them a wider toe box.” Solestar continued “based on the shoe size and insole size chosen, there might be a slight gap between the insole and shoe. Some shoe/insole combinations won’t have it, others will, some might notice it, others won’t”, so, they elected for now just to say don’t use these insoles for the SH-R320 or SH-R321 shoes. I also asked about trimming a slightly larger insole and their reply was “we use very tough materials in our insoles, [i.e., a lot of carbon fiber] so you can’t easily trim but you can grind them”. I opted to see if I could make them fit.

 

A week later, the KONTROL BLK’s arrived and, after inspecting them, I noticed that they were about 1/8” too long to fit into the shoes. I took a sharp pair of scissors and trimmed off the required 1/8”. Any further trimming and I would be into the carbon fiber. But, they were right, the 3 materials chosen for this insole were very tough indeed. Even with a very sharp pair of scissors, I had to trim 1/16” at a time.

 

The bottom/base layer appears to be a heat moldable material and is pre-shaped to include a generous arch, metatarsal bump and small heel cup (this insole has the shallowest heel cup in the solestarSolegroup and was so small that several times, my heel felt like it might pop out the back. I definitely would like to see a much larger heel cup). The bottom of the heel cup does have 2 ‘wings’ which give a lot of support to the rear of the insole keeping it from moving around in the shoe. The next layer is a large carbon fiber anatomical formed piece that runs from the heel all the way to the toe area giving unparalleled rigidity – in fact, none of the other insoles were even close to being as rigid. The next higher layer is the upper that the foot rests on and appears to be an EVA-type foam that is very comfortable, but, for cycling in SoCal, is also very hot. There are some cooling vents underneath the tips of the toes, but that’s it. These insoles felt VERY HOT.

 

These insoles were also a little thicker and, in fact, it is recommended by Solestar to raise the saddle 2mm-5mm to accommodate the additional height of the insole.

 

I placed the trimmed insoles into my Shimano SH-R321 shoes and they fit perfectly. Even though they measure 3.7mm in the forefoot, I could tell that they took up a lot of the real estate in the shoes, so much that I had to loosen the Velcro straps so my feet would fit comfortably. They felt very stiff yet, there was the perfect amount of padding on the foot. A small metatarsal pad was just high enough to remove any pressure on my forefoot. Doing several high-wattage pulls at the front, I again noticed that the shallow heel cup made the back of my foot feel like it might slip out. The Solestar has the shallowest heel cup of all those tested.

 

The other drawback was the EVA foam coupled with a bare minimum amount of ventilation made these insoles feel HOT. These would be perfect for winter training but they are way too hot during summer. All-in-all, these are a very high quality insole but the pricing will steer most potential customers to choose an insole that is 1/3 of the price.

 

HITS:

 

1. Very comfortable
2. Carbon Fiber makes insoles stiffest of the bunch
3. Good Metatarsal bump
4. Great arch support

 

MISSES:

 

1. Weight is at the upper end of the range
2. Shallow heel cup makes the feet feel like they might come out the back
3. During summer riding, these insoles feel HOT
4. Price is way over what most ‘roadies’ will pay
5. Might not fit every shoe

 

RATING:

 

I gave these a 4.5/5.0 due to several important detractors.
a. Price – at $149.00, these are way over what road cyclists will spend
b. Shallow heel cup
c. They run HOT

 

cycling insoles

SPECIALIZED BG-FIT SLCycling Insoles
(Low, Medium, High) Insole

 

SUMMARY: Specialized calls these insoles ‘BODY GEOMETRY SL FOOTBEDS’. Specialized was one of the first shoe manufacturers to come out with a high quality insole while others were still using a thin piece of flimsy, floppy no-support foam. Calling Specialized, I asked for a sample to test, to use as the baseline. I have always heard good things about this insole so I wanted to try one for myself. Several days later, a large box showed up in the mail and Specialized was very generous sending me one pair in each arch height.

 

I told them which shoes I was using for the insole test along with the shoe size. They sent me size 44 insoles and they turned out to be exactly the same size as the original insoles for the shoes. No trimming required. I popped them into the shoes and went for a ride.

 

They have great support along the arch and metatarsal pad. But they didn’t feel right. After spending 3 hours with them, I got back and took them out of my shoes, placed them on the ground and stood on them. Even though these were the Green+++, I could easily run a couple fingers between the arch of the insole and the arch of my foot. Again, I need an insole with more of an arch than these have to offer. But, I believe the 3 heights offered by Specialized are perfect for 90% of the cyclists out there.

 

The other thing I had noticed was the material chosen for the arch and metatarsal support. Instead of being a piece of rigid formed plastic, it is a dense foam. It will give under pressure where a piece of plastic will not. For crit racing, I believe these will be too spongy, but, for long days in the saddle of grand tour racing, touring long hours over many days or for those who are looking for pure comfort, these are the ones for you … no and’s, if’s or but’s.

 

HITS:

 

1. The lightest insole, by far!
2. The least expensive insole as well!
3. Low volume that fits shoes very well
4. Although not the deepest heel cup, it’s perfectly adequate and held my heel securely
5. Different arch and metatarsal contours with Red+, Blue++ and Green+++
6. Perfect for L O N G days in the saddle

 

MISSES:

 

1. For me, the arch height was too low
2. Arch material is too ‘spongy’ for crit racers

 

RATING:

 

I only had 2 small gripes and both were personal preferences. The high arch height isn’t as tall as the others, but that’s just for my feet. As a crit racer, the arch material is a little too ‘spongy’ for my taste, but, what the survey showed was that 70% of the respondents favored comfort over hard performance. Therefore, I rated these insoles 4.8/5.0

 


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supported by:
Bike Fit and USCF Coach
supported by:
The Parts Shoppe Bearings and Grease

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