THE BEST CYCLING SPECIFIC INSOLE? PART I
A while ago, I did several tests and authored several articles on insoles, including Shimano’s new insole for their SH-R320 and follow on SH-R321, as well as an indepth test and writeup on G8 Performance’s 2600 PRO and IGNITE insoles. All three of these insoles have held up pretty well but are now starting to show major signs of wearing out.
As a professional bike fitter and USAC Level 2 cycling coach, I see clients almost every day. Two things that most have in common are (a) worn out cleats and (b) worn out insoles. I have decided that it is in my clients best interest that I carry both of these items so we don’t have to stop the bike fit while they run all over town to find some cleats and insoles.
BACKGROUND: A BAD EXPERIENCE
After I received a call telling me that my insoles were ready, I drove to the Podiatrist’s office and he placed the insoles into my Shimano SH-R320-W shoes. Or, at least he tried. Right off the bat, they were the wrong shape, way too wide. He trimmed and trimmed and trimmed and, an hour later, he finally got them to fit into the shoes. Then we ran into problem #2 – these custom insoles had so much padding on them that I could not get my foot into the shoe.
The insoles came back out again and instead of trimming, he started ripping off layers of padding. At this point, the insoles were basically destroyed but, he still tried to get them to fit. Finally, both the insoles and my feet fit into my shoes but, by this time, they were literally destroyed.
As I slid my feet into the shoes, we ran into problem #3. The insoles were made with a polished smooth leather covering much like an insole you would use on an expensive pair of dress shoes. My feet were slipping and sliding around all over the place.
He finally gave up, threw the insoles into the trashcan and said he didn’t know how to make a pair of insoles for cycling shoes. In fact, he didn’t even have any suggestions as to where I could look.
IN SEARCH FOR THE PERFECT INSOLE
In order to offer the best insole for my clients, I needed to spend some time doing what I thought would be an easy Internet search for cycling insoles. It seems that every insole company claims to make a cycling-specific insole, but, looking into this further revealed that most companies only make a general purpose insole that they think can be used for any type of activity, including cycling.
The fact is that cycling shoes are low volume while running/jogging/walking shoes are just the opposite. A 1-size-fits-all just won’t work for low-volume shoes.
As a parallel effort, I invited the salesman from Foot Balance to stop by and give me a demonstration of their insoles and the heat molding process. These are by far the most custom. A special oven is ‘needed as well as a molding pillow.
The insoles are fed into an oven just like DVD’s into a car stereo while the athlete stands on a soft molding pillow. When heated to around 180°F, the heated insoles are ejected and placed onto the pillow by the fitter.
The athlete is instructed on where to stand and the molding process commences. After 2 minutes, the insoles have cooled enough and take an exact set to the athletes feet.
The next day, I divided the insoles into two categories, (a) heat moldable, and (b) non-heat moldable.
The following companies were very generous in supplying me with these “CYCLING SPECIFIC” insoles.
|COMPANY (Alphabetical Order)
|FOOTBED THICKNESS (forefoot)
|8.25 (233.88 g)
|4.25 (125.48 g)
|3.625 (102.77 g)
3.625 (102.77 g)
3.625 (102.77 g)
|3.75 (106.31 g)
4.00 (113.40 g)
|4.50 (127.57 g)
|SL FOOTBEDS LOW
SL FOOTBEDS MEDIUM
SL FOOTBEDS HIGH
|2.875 (81.51 g)
2.875 (81.51 g)
2.875 (81.51 g)
|Not Tested (new design just came out called 2620)
|Not Tested (no changes from last year)
Note: All insoles were obtained as a sample from their respective company
I have always enjoyed bicycling and, through a series of coincidences, became a Bicycle Industry Consultant and Product Tester. I test prototype products for companies and have published only off the shelf production products on biketestreviews.com.