The Bike List

SOLE Thin Sport Moldable Footbeds

Tested by Christophe Demoulin, tester for The Bike List

Insoles are a common oversight by most people, cyclists and non cyclists alike. Which is a strange phenomenon considering how many hours we spend on our feet walking, running, cycling or all of the above. Everybody's feet are formed differently, whether a bit wider and flatter, or longer with a more pronounced arch, yet we are mostly satisfied by the bog standard sole that comes with the footwear we purchase.

The advent of heat moulding shoes has gone some way to addressing the variety of foot shapes amongst us cyclists, though often it comes at a price. With brands such as Giro, you can also get soles that can be adapted according to your preference by using different inserts, raising or lowering the arch support.

SOLE have sought to bring a new standard to the footwear industry with heat mouldable insoles. There is a generous sizing range from UK 2-15, although each sole will need to be cut and tailored to the shoes you are fitting them to. While these are reusable and long lasting, if you decide to change shoe brands the size and shape of the inner sole may change, making the SOLE footbeds in need of replacement.

The instructions to moulding these footbeds is quite simple, not dissimilar to Bont or Northwave shoes but with the added advantage that a small white sticker on the sole will turn black when hot enough. Insert them into your shoes and let the natural shape of your foot do the rest. When you handle these footbeds, you'll notice they're particularly stiff. The material is of solid construction giving your foot impressive support especially under the arch (the inside of your foot where many feet have a raised area).

A couple of months ago, I purchased a pair of heat mouldable, top end carbon soled racing shoes that shall not be named. I remoulded them about once a week for nearly two months before finally deciding that they simply wouldn't fit me properly. That is until SOLE sent us a pair of their Thin Sport Footbeds, one of their range of 10 footbeds which address both casual and sports use for all your orthopaedic needs. I cut the footbeds down to size by using the previous soles as a template - flimsy little things that weighed about 3g. I then heated the shoes and soles at the same time to get a simultaneous moulding, and the result was absolutely fantastic. The arch support from the soles was vastly superior to that offered by the shoe on it's own.

I tested the soles on a multitude of rides: TT's, road races and long all day epic adventures to find that they had completely transformed the shoes that I had been ready to write off. Previously, I had experienced soreness and numbness in both feet which weren't resolved by altering the tightness or the cleat position, or remoulding the shoes. Having reset the cleat position according to a Retul bike fit and started using the SOLE Thin Sport Footbeds, I can happily say that the shoes are now comfortable, at last.

This comfort does come at a price though…at £38 for a pair of SOLE footbeds, you've got to budget them into a pair of new cycling shoes which these days can fetch upwards of £300 at the top end. If you are a brand loyal customer, then you'll probably get better value out of these insoles as you'll be able to use them in all your shoes. But if you have multiple brands, then it is likely that once you've cut the footbed down to one particular shoe, it won't fit any other brands quite as well. I swapped the footbeds to another brand of shoe for a short week of touring that required SPD MTB shoes rather than road racing shoes. All week I had to deal with a niggling little gap at the front where the sole didn't quite meet the front of the shoe, although in fairness, I didn't get numb feet in 800km which is definitely a measure of success in my case!

And sadly, while the comfort is vastly improved, these footbeds will add weight to any cycling shoes. 58.1g claimed weight for a Men's size 10 UK, that's an extra 120g on top of the weight of your shoes that you might have bought specifically to save weight. But then it's down to your preference…if you're going to ride a Grand Tour and want to absolutely save weight at all cost, don't complain to your riding buddies when you can't feel either of your feet and still have 120km to go before the stage end. For me, the weight penalty is worth it to improve the comfort of the shoes that shall remain unnamed.

At a glance

Verdict SOLE’s thin sport footbeds are an impressive and innovative product that will improve the comfort of any shoe, but at a cost both to your wallet and your shoe weight.
Value
Performance

SOLE says:

Our most minimal footbed consists of our classic mouldable orthopedic base layer combined with a simple moisture-wicking top sheet. Commonly used in soccer cleats and cycling shoes, they provide performance enhancing support in minimal, tight-fitting footwear.

  • Custom orthopedic support
  • Equalized pressure distribution
  • Reduced plantar fascia strain
  • Increased balance and feel
  • Improved natural heel cushioning

Specification:

WEIGHT(half pair)
Men's 10 - 58.1g (approx.)
Women's 7 - 46.7g (approx.)

Dimensions:

Width - Forefoot (approx.)
Men's 10 - 98mm
Women's 7 - 87mm
Length - Heel to toe (approx.)
Men's 10 - 290mm
Women's 7 - 245mm