Gear Review: Aftermarket Insoles

For the last few years, whenever something related to age comes up in conversation, Mr. GeoK has calmly stated that we’re middle aged. I’ve steadfastly disagreed, arguing that middle age is based on how you feel, not a number. But I think I’m finally ready to concede that he’s right. The tipping point for me? The decision to swap out the flimsy OEM insoles in my walking shoes and hiking boots for aftermarket insoles that treat my middle aged feet with the respect they deserve!

Why Aftermarket Insoles?

According to the interwebz, nagging aches and pains are one of the top signs of middle age. Regrettably, we’ve got them. For Mr. GeoK, its lower back pain due to degenerative disc disease. For me, it’s a tingly, achy foot due to chronic, atypical plantar faciitis. Yes, regular stretching helps both of us. Mr. GeoK includes core strengthening as part of his daily fitness regimen. And I avoid high heels like the middle-aged person I apparently am!

We choose to be active. Over the past year, Mr. GeoK has walked 9.3 million steps, which equates to more than 6,700 km (4,000 miles). My tally is a more modest 5.5 million steps , or roughly 4,000 km (2,500 miles). We share a mutual desire to age well, which is fairly dependent on remaining active.

With all of that in mind, Mr. GeoK started researching mass market insoles, which eventually led us to try four different brands/models, sourced from Costco, a Canada-wide outdoor retailer and the online store for a US entrepreneur who came up with his own insole design.

aftermarket-insoles

 

Basis of Review

We have no medical education or experience. None of the insoles were prescribed by a medical practitioner Our reviews are based entirely on firsthand experience using the insoles on a daily basis over the past three months.

Dr. Scholl’s® Custom Fit™ Orthotics

dr-scholls-custom-fit

We purchased Dr. Scholl’s® Custom Fit™ orthotics at Costco, guided by feedback from the Dr. Scholl’s® Foot Mapping™ machine. Interestingly, when Mr. GeoK tried a different Dr. Scholl’s® Foot Mapping™ at another store, he was advised to select a different custom fit. That may be partly why he thinks they just delivered extra cushioning and not much else. He’s got them in his dress shoes, which he wears just a few times each month.

dr-scholls-custom-fit-orthoticsI have one pair of Dr. Scholl’s® Custom Fit™ orthotics in my indoor running shoes, which I wear for indoor workouts (weights, HIIT and ARC trainer); another pair is in my regular indoor shoes. They definitely provide extra heel cushioning, as well as some additional arch support. Overall, my impression is that they are very comfortable. One big downside to Dr. Scholl’s® Custom Fit™ orthotics is that they are not a full-length insole replacement, so my heel is relatively higher. I really felt the difference in my post-ACL surgery knee for the first couple of days and I find the slightly elevated heel position means I need to be sure to do the stretches I’ve been prescribed for my atypical plantar faciitis each day.

We paid $64.99 plus tax at Costco in Calgary, for a set containing 2 pairs of Dr. Scholl’s® Custom Fit™ orthotics.

SUPERfeet® Comfort Max

Mr. GeoK purchased a pair of SUPERfeet® Comfort Max insoles from a Canada-wide sporting goods store for $59.99 plus tax. SUPERfeet® offers a wide range of aftermarket insoles, but the Comfort Max is the only one he could find that is recommended for use in GORE-TEX®-lined (waterproof) shoes and boots. This matters because some aftermarket insoles can actually shred the GORE-TEX® fibers, rendering costly shoes/boots no longer waterproof.

Mr. GeoK replaced the OEM insoles in a pair running shoes with the SUPERfeet® Comfort Max insoles and wore them around the house for a couple of hours. They performed okay, but offered less cushioning and arch support than the Cadence® Insole (see below), so he returned them to the store for a full refund.

Cadence® Insole

Mr. GeoK learned about US-based Cadence® insoles from a Hiking Lady blog post. There are no retail locations for Cadence® insoles in Canada at present, so he contacted John Hinds, founder and owner of Cadence® insoles and they got to talking.

Long story short, John offered to send us a pair of Cadence® insoles to try, and we offered to forward his contact information to someone we know in the purchasing group for a nationwide sporting goods chain here in Canada. So yes, it’s disclaimer time: we received a free pair of Cadence® insoles to try.

cadance-insoleMr. GeoK replaced the insoles in his waterproof, outdoor light hiking shoes with the Cadence® insoles just over three months ago and has walked on them every day since. He’s found them to be very comfortable, providing good cushioning, arch support and heel stability. In fact, he likes them so much that he purchased 4 more sets of Cadence® insoles – 2 for him and 2 for me!

cadance-insoleI was pretty happy with my Dr. Scholl’s® Custom Fit™ orthotics, so it took me a while to get around to trying Cadence® insoles. A few weeks back I finally got around to replacing the insoles in my everyday outdoor walking shoes and one walk to the grocery store and back was all it took to make me an unofficial brand ambassador.

A few weeks back, when we were getting organized for our first long hike of the year, I decided to replace my hiking boot insoles with Cadence® insoles. Yes, it was a bit of a risk going with new insoles for an 18 km (11 mile) hike without first trying them around the neighbourhood. But based on my experience with my everyday outdoor walking shoes, I was sure it would work out okay – and it did! My foot with plantar faciitis usually “talks” to me all day on hiking days. But a couple of hours into our hike, I realized I hadn’t thought about my foot even once!

Bow-Lake-from-above-Bow-Hut

At this point, between the two of us, four sets of Cadence® insoles are deployed: one each in everyday outdoor walking shoes and one each in hiking boots. By purchasing four sets at a time for US$44.95 each, we enjoyed free shipping to Canada (but had to pay a small brokerage fee and remit GST on delivery). That makes the all-in cost roughly the same as the SUPERfeet® Comfort Max insoles.

One final note re: the standard orange Cadence® insoles: in addition to walking and hiking, I find cycling is more comfortable with these insoles. I don’t use clip pedals, so wear my everyday outdoor shoes while cycling and I’ve found the Cadence® insoles more evenly distributes the pressure where outer sole and pedal meet.

Cadence® EX

John also sent us a pair of Cadence® EX orthotics, which can only be purchased from participating retailers and medical offices (none in Canada, at present). Mr. GeoK and I took turns trying these out in our everyday walking shoes.

I found them a little too rigid. In fact, my foot with plantar faciitis was extra “talkative” for the next couple of days.

Mr. GeoK didn’t notice much difference between the EX and original orange insoles when walking. When it comes to cycling, these are Mr. GeoKs’ favourites – the extra rigidity makes for a more efficient energy transfer from foot to the pedal (for those who don’t wear cycling shoes/use clip-style pedals).

Unexpected Consequences

Testing out all these insoles prompted us to examine our outer soles. Mr. GeoKs’ wear patterns show pronation, while mine show supination. And we also realized we both needed to replace our everyday outdoor walking shoes!

supination

I’ll be transferring the Cadence® insoles currently making the best of my favourite pair of KEENs into my new walking shoes as soon as they arrive. And I’ll be making a note to check the outer soles of my new shoes in about three months, because I’ve learned hat quality hiking boots and trail shoes can usually be expected to last 800 – 1600 km (500 – 1000 miles), which means Mr. GeoK and I most likely should replace our footwear three or four times per year. Worn out footwear can apparently exacerbate foot, knee, hip and back issues.

For those wanting to do more research, REI offers up some great advice on choosing insoles.

Summary

From now on, our preferred choice for aftermarket insoles will be Cadence® insoles, which we’ll have to purchase online directly from Cadence® unless/until a Canadian retailer makes a deal to carry them.

Got questions? Or another insole to recommend? Leave a comment to let us know. Thanks!

 

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3 thoughts on “Gear Review: Aftermarket Insoles

    • So not great always having your feet talk to your conscious mind…much better to get to later in the day and realize you haven’t even thought of the usual discomfort for several hours…because there hasn’t been any! Totally sympathize with you and your tender tootsies.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Oh my! You hit on a hot topic for me! I get incredibly painful cramping in my two middle toes when I hike and also when I downhill ski. I have tried a few different after market insoles, including SUPERfeet. They did not do any good. I then went to custom orthotics. No improvement. And I went to a ski boot fitting specialist. Adjustment to my ski boots did nothing. It is so frustrating as it is very painful and as both I and time march on, the pain sets in earlier and earlier. The one thing I have realized DOES help is soaking my feet in an icy stream or tarn. It gives me a few hours of relief. I just might give the Cadence a try. I also was given some advice on ways to more effectively lace hiking boots to give maximum support, but my middle aged brain forgot the details before I could apply the advice.

    Happy trails and happy feet!

    Like

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