Custom fitted insoles in cycling shoes was always something I couldn’t get my head around – I mean, your cycling shoes have nice, stiff soles and that’s all you need to transfer the power from your legs through the pedals, right? So out of curiosity as much as anything, I decided to get some insoles made…
Getting an appointment at ProFeet in Fulham was easy enough, and on entering the store I was asked to fill out a form to help understand any specific needs, what my sport focus was (they cater for runners and triathletes too) and whether I was carrying any injuries. Without hesitation we were straight into the fitting session and understanding how and where I apply pressure through my foot, as well as taking a look at my current cycling shoes to assess them and the insole currently used in them.
Standing on a pressure pad showed up a very central patch of pressure under the balls of my feet – something not unexpected as I always wear through the dead centre of the soles of my normal shoes. It was also clear from the little contact showing up that I have quite high arches. Some other things were noted and the plan for the way the insole would be built was explained. Shaping the insole was then followed by a bit of a wait whilst the insole was being made.
Once complete the insoles were put in my shoes and checked for comfort. A few instructions, suggestions and some general advice was shared – one specific piece being that I should take my normal insoles with me on my first ride (a 220km epic the very next day) in case they custom insoles resulted in some aching whilst I was getting used to them.
This is a much simplified description of the fitting appointment, but the fact is it’s actually quite a quick process so I don’t want to dwell on it too long. Ultimately you’re probably more intrigued about the results…
The first thing I noticed on that first ride and still notice every time I get on the bike now is how when pedalling there was no movement at all from pressure through my foot as the arch support and gaps around the rest of my foot were filled by the insole. Having all of those gaps around your foot filled is a difficult feeling to describe, other than by telling you it gives a completely solid platform to drive power to the pedals – every last push against the sole of that shoe feels like it is transferring to the pedals with no effort lost in maintaining your foot position. The second thing I noticed was how relaxed my feet were all ride long.
I mention the relaxed feet as there’s been a number of times in the past where I’ve felt myself kind of squeezing or forcing my toes against the soles of my shoes – it’s an odd phenomenon not unlike scrunching your toes up, and I’m not even sure what I was trying to achieve by it. When I realised I was doing it and stopped it didn’t seem to make a difference in my pedalling. It must have just been a subconscious reaction to something, but I was never quite sure what. I now think what I was probably doing was to attempt to offset foot movement by trying to maintain a rigid platform, which may have felt more rigid when I clenched my toes against the shoe. With the insoles there’s been absolutely no attempt or inclination to do that, and my feet are more comfortable as a consequence.
In addition I’d always felt that my shoes fitted well and had quite good supportive insoles, be that my olds Sidis or Mavics, or my current 2011 S-Works. Riding with the custom insoles in however, is a completely different experience – you quickly realise how under-supported your foot normally is if you just accept standard insoles.
Do I feel any more fresh or less tired after a ride now? Is there any improvement in my power output? Am I faster for having the insoles? Probably not, in all cases. I do much prefer the way they feel though, and my riding is now generally a much more comfortable experience.
Most importantly, would I revert to riding without insoles now? No.
Like I said at the start I was a sceptic – I really didn’t see how a custom insole could work or make any difference on a bike. I never felt like there was anything wrong previously but curiosity got the better of me. I’m not sure you can really describe the feeling or benefit particularly easily, but it was definitely worth doing.
ProFeet’s contact details can be found here: http://www.profeet.co.uk/general/contact/
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