First things first, three bits of good news:
- I’ve chosen the race I’d like to run for my first 50-miler! Right now I’m trying to finagle a free entry, but as soon as I’m signed up I’ll let you know which one it is. It’s only a few months away, but I know it’s the right decision because of how excited I am about it.
- My sister Christine, who writes the Sweet-Tooth Friday posts here, is moving in with us tonight! She’ll be here at least until she goes to law school in the fall. Gee, do you think we’ll cook much?
- I’ve lined up some awesome guest posters so that I can take a couple days off when the baby comes. Can’t tell you who, but if they all come through, we’ll have a vegetarian triathlete blogger, a fabulous raw foodie, a vegetarian ultrarunner blogger (who isn’t me), and a cool beer guy (who isn’t me). I’m excited to read the posts myself.
An insole dilemma
When a nice guy from RX Sorbo Insoles emailed me to ask if I’d be willing to try and review their product, I was a little bit torn.
I try as hard as I can to keep an open mind and not buy in to anything completely unless I have very strong reasons to do so. But I’ve found the studies about the benefits of barefoot and near-barefoot running so convincing that I consider myself a believer. My feeling is that excess cushioning and support in our shoes only encourage us to run with bad form and injure ourselves.
Because insoles generally add either support or cushioning, they’re taking the opposite approach to injury prevention than barefoot running. I explained to the company that I’m a barefoot apologist, and when they said they’d still like me to do the review, I gladly accepted and chose two pairs of insoles to put to the test.
Ultra Work-Sport Insoles
The first pair I tried were the Ultra Work-Sport. These are pretty standards insoles designed to absorb foot-strike shock, and RX Sorbo claims they absorb 94.7% percent of it, more than any other insole on the market. And the top layer is antimicrobial and moisture-wicking, something that would prove important for me (as we’ll see).
I first tried the Ultra Work-Sport insoles on a tough trail run of six or seven miles. I was concerned that the added cushioning would result in less stability while running on rocks and roots, but that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, I enjoyed the softer ride than that offered by the standard insoles in my Salomon trail shoes. What’s more, these shoes have always given me blisters, and on this run I got none to speak of. I’m endlessly grateful for that, since I was worried that the Salomon’s had been a $120 waste.
I also had to run through an ankle-deep stream, and though the insoles got a little squishy after the submersion, I was surprised that they had completely dried out by the next day, even after I left them in the shoes.
Then I tried them this morning in my road shoes and found them much less enjoyable to run in. I felt that I couldn’t feel the ground the way I normally do; if there was any additional cushioning, the added comfort was offset by the lack of feedback from the ground. 94.7% of this too, it seems, is absorbed by the insoles, and to me, that’s not worth it.
Conclusion: The Ultra Work Insoles have a permanent home in my trail shoes. By eliminating blister issues and making the Salomon’s wearable, they might have saved me a hundred bucks. In the road shoes, I could take or leave them.
Ultra Orthotic Arch Insoles
The other pair I selected was the Ultra Orthotic Arch Insoles, which have a tough, graphite arch in them. The word “orthotic” hooked me here; when I used to have shin problems it seemed everyone recommend orthotics because I overpronated.
“Strangely,” my shin problems were cured when I switched out of the stability shoes I was wearing and into neutral shoes. (Once I read more about the arguments for barefoot running, I came to realize that this wasn’t so strange, after all.)
I never liked stability shoes, thinking they felt too clunky, like I was running on blocks. My hope was that these orthotic insoles might not feel like that, since the arch support is a thin piece of flexible graphite.
No such luck. When I tried these out, I felt exactly the same way as I used to when I ran in stability shoes. No feedback from the ground—it kind of felt like I was running on 2×4’s. I also found that the insole slid forward in my shoe so that the ball of my foot landed on the graphite, which was somewhat painful. Maybe a fitting issue.
Finally, when I took these out of my shoes, I was disappointed to find that the graphite was tearing away from the foam insole after only the short run I had worn them on.
Conclusion: These are not for me, for the same reason that stability shoes are not for me. If you believe orthotics are what you need but custom ones are too expensive, this might be a cheaper alternative for you to try out. (Although, if you believe you need orthotics, I’d encourage you to read some of the studies on barefoot running first.)