I have been humbled dear reader. I’ve stated before that I am rather big for a runner. Even though I am big, I have never been injured. I’m not sure if that is because I am so biomechanically perfect in my stride (not at all), or if I have just been living on borrowed time. Probably the latter, as I learned over the summer.
I started a 50 mile road race in July. Notice I said started and not finished. Due to the craziness of life with two young sons vying for my attention, I was not able to train as much as I wanted to. The result was that I was cramming too much training into the weeks prior to the race. As such, I gave myself a wicked case of plantar fasciitis. I got to mile 12 and had to start hobbling to the next aid station at mile 14. From there, I hobbled another 6 miles to see if I could walk it off. Nothing doing. My plantar was shot and I have been paying a painful price ever since.
Since that fateful night, I have been reading quite a lot about PF and how it can be cured/held at bay. The most definitive answers out there are to make sure your feet have enough support, particularly with a good arch support and a deep heel cup.
In my search to find a good support that I could wear in my shoes to run in and for work, I came across SOLE custom footbeds. After comparing them to the Spenco inserts and even the Birkenstock footbed inserts, I decided on the SOLE Thin Sport Custom Footbed.
To my untrained eye, the Sole Thin Sport offers the best arch support and the deepest heel cup of any off the shelf footbed inserts. I have been wearing them for a while now and switching them between my shoes. I can gladly say that while wearing these footbeds in my shoes, I have had no PF pain at all. Not even a hint of what felt like stepping on an ice pick.
The SOLE Thin Sport offers a lightweight, thin insole with a very stiff arch and heel support. Initially, I thought the stiff arch and heel would be harsh and uncomfortable. The truth is quite the opposite. Because the insole provides the needed support, I don’t have to rely on a pillowy soft cushion to relieve my PF pain. My feet are held in the correct position in my shoes ensuring that I can allow my foot to heal. I was also concerned that the SOLE Thin Sport would make my shoes feel smaller and fit too tightly. The Thin Sport was designed for use in minimal shoes and I can attest that with a little bit of adjustment to the laces of my shoes, I have not experienced any crowding of my feet while using these insoles.
What makes a footbed that you buy off the shelf custom? I’m glad you asked. SOLE footbeds will conform to your feet in one of two ways. The first method (my method of choice) is simply to wear them. Through continued use, they will form to your unique foot shape while still maintaining the much-needed supportive arch and heel cup. The second method is to follow the provided instructions and heat them up in your oven and then immediately stand on them with light pressure and have them form to your feet that way. I chose the method of letting them form over time because that will give a more accurate representation of how my feet move through the day and during a run. If I heated them up and made them conform to my feet before the first wearing I would not have much of an opportunity to let the footbeds conform to my feet.
So what does this mean going forward? Am I at a point in my running career that I will need to wear these footbeds whenever I run? Right now I do, but as I am also an avid barefoot/minimalist runner, I am working to strengthen my feet to be able to run without footbeds in the future. For the time being, these are a valuable training tool to help me improve my running form.
Before this injury, I quite arrogantly, thought insoles were for runners who didn’t know good running form and who couldn’t help but hurt themselves. I have been eating a lot of crow lately for that thinking, and frankly I’m glad to have this opportunity to use an insole because I discovered an excellent training tool that will allow me to be a better runner for my whole life and not just while I am healing.
I would recommend you investigate using a custom footbed like this one even if you are not battling back from an injury, because you will experience a benefit from the aid to your running form.
On the Runner’s High Scale of 1-5, I give the SOLE Thin Sport Custom Footbed a 4. I deducted a point because I believe their MSRP of $45 is a bit steep, even for an insole of this quality. Other than that point, I can think of nothing else I would change about these insoles.
Do you currently, or have you run with an insole before? What do you think of them, are they a gimmick, or a training aid to help you run more efficiently? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.
Respect the Run!
Jonathan Keeth is a proud father of two and the husband to a beautiful and longsuffering wife who tolerates his obsession with running shoes and gear. Jonathan is the author of odyssey100.com where he blogs about his two great goals, training for his first 100 mile race and losing 100 lbs so he never has to register for a race in the hippo class again. Follow him on Twitter: @odysy100