Gear Review: Sole Ultra Insoles

iRunFar.com 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.

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