SOLE Ed Viesturs Signature Edition Footbeds
By Raymond Estrella
September 27, 2008
Orange County, California, USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Manufacturer: SOLE Custom Footbeds
Manufacturer's Website: www.yoursole.com
Product: Ed Viesturs Signature Edition footbeds
Year of Manufacture: 2008
MSRP: USD $49.95
Weight listed: N/A
Actual weight (pair): 4.8 oz (136 g)
Size: US men's size 11
Thickness of SOFTEC cushioning: 3.2 mm (0.13 in)
Color: blue with a mountaineering graphic of Ed climbing
The SOLE Ed Viesturs Signature Edition footbeds (hereafter called the SOLEs or footbeds) are a custom fit after-market insole made for use in high-volume footwear, like my hiking and mountaineering boots.
The footbeds are composed of three layers. At the bottom is what makes them custom. The base layer is made from a heat-moldable material in an orthopedic shape that contours to the wearer's feet to ensure better fit, support and foot alignment.
The middle layer is made of a material called Softec. This is the cushioning agent of the footbeds, which the company claims "give unparalleled shock absorption and comfort".
On the top, sitting against the foot is an antimicrobial odor protection top-sheet that also wicks moisture away from the foot.
The footbed is extremely "shaped" as can be seen above. It has a deep heel cup that is meant to align the foot during heel strike and stride.
It also has a highly curved arch support that takes on the shape of each user. The pair shown above have already been molded to fit my feet.
On the bottom of the footbed near the highest point of the arch is a small white sticker called the Opti-therm Molding Indicator. This sticker, seen to the right, is meant to allow users to heat the footbed to the proper temperature without getting it too hot. When it turns from silver to black (as mine is here) it means that it is ready to be fitted. More on this process later.
The web site listed above has complete written fitting instructions as well as a video explaining it.
Here are some of the trips I used the SOLE Ed Viesturs Signature Edition footbeds on in 2008.
In my Lowa boots I used them for the following trips, all but the last in snow with and without snowshoes.
An overnight trip with Jenn to American Fork Canyon, Utah in the Wasatch Mountain Range the day after a snow storm. Starting elevation of 6800 ft (2073 m) up to about 8400 ft (2560 m) with temperatures 37 F (3 C) in the day and just below 32 F (0 C) at night.
Another over-night trip with her at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah with the camp elevation at 8000 ft (2438 m). The daytime temperatures were from 36 F (2 C) and a nighttime temperature of 5 F (-15 C). There was snow on the ground from a trace amount to almost 3 ft (1 m) drifts.
A 6 mile (10 km) day-hike with Jenn in San Jacinto State Park Wilderness with 600 ft (183 m) of gain and loss.
Over two consecutive weekends Jenn and I went for over-nighters in the same Park. We stayed at Round Valley at 9100' (2774 m) elevation, on snow again and with temps down to 25 F (-4 C). The second trip saw the temps climb to near 50 F (10 C).
And finally was a 79 mile (127 km) 3-1/2 day monster hike from Sonora Pass down through the Emigrant Wilderness to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. This hike saw 15200 ft (4633 m) of elevation gain and almost the same loss, with temperatures that ranged from 83 to 43 F (28 to 6 C). My starting pack weight with food and 3 qt/L water was exactly 37 lb (16.8 kg).
These trips were in Kayland Convert boots.
Two day-hikes in Minnesota, both at 900 ft (300 m) elevation and on dirt farm roads. Temps were from 39 to 67 F (4 to 19 C) and I carried no pack. I walked 8 and 10 miles (13 & 16 km) consecutively.
Next Jenn and I went to Limber Pine Bench in the San Gorgonio Wilderness for an overnighter. The trails were fine, dirt and rock, until just above 8500 ft (2590 m) where we started hitting lingering snow. Temps were from 67 F to 40 F (20 to 4 C) with enough wind to keep the mosquitoes away. We had 3680' (1122 m) of elevation gain in 6 miles (9.6 km) and a total of 12 miles for the trip (19.2 km). I started with a 41 lb (18.6 kg) pack weight.
Two days at a primitive campground on the edge of the Mt San Jacinto State Park Wilderness at an elevation of 6500 ft (1980 m). Temperatures ranged from 76 to 55 F (24 to 13 C). We just did day-hikes from camp, only on one did I carry a pack.
I took my twins Emma and Ray to Itasca State Park , the birthplace of the Mississippi River where we got a permit for one of three sites at Myrtle Lake.(Backpacking sites are issued, a new one for me.) This four mile (6 km) round trip hike was on easy terrain as it is almost all grass, at the worst dirt. I carried a big pack as I brought lots of creature comforts as well as cold pizza in a soft cooler for my picky eater son. Temps were from 64 to 80 F (18 to 27 C) at an elevation of 1500 ft (460 m). My pack weight was around 42 lb (19 kg).
I wore them as Dave and I took the three nine-year olds to Round Valley in San Jacinto State Park for an over-night trip with lots of boulder climbing. We only hiked six miles (10 km) with 300 ft (100 m) of elevation gain and loss, but I carried a lot of gear, including my biggest three person tent and a soft-sided cooler. My pack weight was over 50 lb (22.7 kg) walking on packed dirt and rock. The temperatures ranged from a low of 55 F to a high of 80 F (13 to 27 C).
I wore them on a hiking/climbing trip with Jenn to Malibu Creek State Park. The approach hike put 3 miles (5 km) on the boots in temps that reached near 90 F (32 C).
I wore them on a two-day trip taking the South Fork Trail to a camp site at Lodgepole in the San Bernardino National Forest. This 11 mile (18 km) round trip hike had 3400 ft (1036 m) of gain and loss. It got up to 83 F and only down to 59 F (28 to 15 C). I carried a 35 lb (16 kg) pack starting out up very rocky trails.
And last I wore them with Emma and Ray again on a three-day backpacking trip to Maplewood State Park in Minnesota. We stayed at the Beers Lake Backpacker site the first day and at the Grass Backpacker site the second. The weather was great for two days then rained the last. The temperatures were from 79 down to 61 F (44 to 34 C). We backpacked for 6 miles (10 km) with another few miles (5 km) of exploring. The elevation was 1340 ft (408 m) above sea level. My pack was near 50 lb (22.7 kg) starting out.
I have used after-market insoles of a non-moldable nature for many years in boots where the supplied pair doesn't cut it, or just to give extra support to my high arches. I have kind of weird feet with narrow heels, high arches and wide, but low forefoot and toes. Think of a tall ugly duck with high arches. Give it a backpack and you have Ray…
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
With my Koflache plastic-double boots I did not care for the stock felt inner-boots and bought a pair of custom heat molded inner-boots to replace them that cost almost as much as the Koflaches themselves. So I was aware of the properties and benefits of heat-moldable construction. But until meeting Jenn (who has used SOLES for many years), I had never thought of them for regular boots.
I was given these footbeds in early 2008 which I put into my Lowa full hiking boots. I use these boots for long backpacking trips with heavy weight and/or extreme trail conditions where I need lots of support, and also for snowshoeing and winter hiking that does not call for my plastic-doubles or full leather mountaineering boots.
I liked them so much that I bought another pair, the Ultra Softec model, to put in my full leather La Sportiva Makalu mountaineering boots.
The Ed Viesturs Signature Editions were heated and fitted for me by professionals. But the other pair I heated in my home oven utilizing the Opti-therm Molding Indicator. I will relay the experience here as the process is the same.
The package directions say to preheat my oven to 200 F (90 C), which I did.
This is directly quoted from SOLE.
"Place your SOLE Custom Footbeds in the oven for exactly 2 minutes. NOTE: Your SOLE Custom Footbeds come with the Opti-therm Molding Indicator. This is the sticker on the bottom of the footbed. When your footbeds have been heated to the correct temperature, the indicator will change color from silver to black. This tells you your footbed is done heating and is ready to mold. If the indicator hasn't changed color after 2 minutes, continue to heat the footbed, checking every 20 seconds for the indicator to change color. Once the indicator has turned black remove the footbeds from the oven. If it has not turned black after 4 minutes remove the insoles from the oven, they will be ready to mold."
Following these directions I put the SOLE footbeds inside the oven with the Opti-therm Molding Indicator dot showing. I then waited the allotted time for the dot to change colors telling me it was time to take them out.
I frantically re-read the instructions about the time it should take for the dot to change color. As I could see inside the oven I did not have to check every 20 seconds, instead I looked in the window every 10 seconds it seemed. I finally decided in a near panic at the four-minute mark that I better just get them out before I ruined them or something. (Of course me being an independent man I waited to do this until my wife who has heated many pairs of SOLE footbeds was out of town.) As I opened the stove the dot turned black. See, I had it all under control…
I put the footbeds into my boots. Wearing my normal winter socks I then quickly put the boots on and stood in the kitchen with my feet shoulder width apart and my toes pointed directly forward for two minutes, per the directions. I made sure I was thinking heavy thoughts to make sure that they formed properly. Note: SOLE does not say anything about this method of ensuring proper foot depression. But heck, it can't hurt, right?
Once done the SOLE foodbeds felt great. The difference from the normal after-market brands I have used for the past 20 years was very noticeable.
While the Lowa boots I put the SOLE footbeds in have never given me any problems as far as the stock insoles, I did notice that they were more comfortable. My feet were not AS sore after a crazy high-distance day backpacking in my favorite mountains. And when using them for snowshoeing I found that they were warmer than the stock insoles by a large factor. I am sure it is from the material as the after-market inner boot in my plastic doubles are similar and made a huge difference in warmth also.
The Kayland Convert boots absolutely killed my feet on a very hard two-day 30 mile (58 km) hike that saw a brutal 20 mile (42 km) first day with 6000 ft (290 m) of hard downhill pounding. My feet felt like I had been walking on wooden slabs at the end of that grueling day. On SOLE's web site it says that the insoles may be used in multiple boots of the same size and volume. As the Kayland boots are full hikers like my Lowas I decided to put try this out.
As soon as I got back home I took the SOLEs out of the Lowas and put them into the Converts. While the Converts had other issues, at least putting the SOLE footbeds into them allowed me to continue the test with no further foot soreness. They helped my feet fit the boots better also which had been a major problem, but not well enough to totally overcome the problems with the boots. If not for the SOLEs I probably would have abandoned the test, or curtailed it to a point that I may as well not have been using them. Instead I put another 12 days in the Converts. (Please thank SOLE, my Kayland friends.)
On a solo hike in Yosemite I was forced to do a 31 mile (50 km) day in a pair of light weight mid boots that were not made for that kind of travel. I ended up with a bad blister on the bottom of one foot, and very sore feet. But what was worse was I had only five days until a long-planned 79 mile (127 km) hike with Dave. I let my feet heal by wearing sandals for the next few days and switched to the big Lowas with the SOLE footbeds to make sure I did not have any reoccurrences of the blister. After some pretty intense long days I had no problem with my feet other than small blisters on the top/sides of my little toes from sliding forward on the steep descents for hours at a time. That could not be helped by footbeds.
I have seen no deterioration of the material. They look the same today as when I got them.
I am pretty impressed with the SOLE footbeds. I will continue to use them in all of the boots which they will fit in. I have a pair of Vasque boots I am using right now that the SOLEs just take too much volume with. (The Vasques are almost too narrow for me as it is.) And I can't use them in my trail runners and low hiking shoes for the same reason. But Jenn says I should try the lower volume models for these uses, so I may be getting some other SOLEs in the future. If I do, stay tuned to this Bat-channel. I will surely report my findings here.
Read more reviews of SOLE gear
Read more gear reviews by Ray Estrella