SOLE SOFTEC ULTRA CUSTOM FOOTBEDS
TEST SERIES BY BRETT HAYDIN
INITIAL REPORT - March 13, 2010
FIELD REPORT - May 19, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - July 20, 2010
bhaydin AT hotmail DOT com
Salida, Colorado, USA
5' 11" (1.80 m)
195 lb (88.50 kg)
19.5 in (50 cm)
36 in (91 cm)
I started backpacking in Wisconsin as a youth, being involved in the Boy Scouts programs. As a young adult, I worked at a summer camp leading backpacking, canoeing and mountain biking trips. I now generally take short weekend or day trips in rough, mountainous terrain, although I have extensive experience in the upper Midwest as well. I take one or two longer trips each year, where I typically carry about 40 lb (18 kg). I prefer to be prepared and comfortable, but I have taken lightweight trips as well.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
|Image courtesy of SOLE
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: www.yoursole.com
MSRP: US $44.95
Listed Weight: 5.29 oz (150 g) for a size 10
Measured Weight: 5.3 oz (150 g)
Listed Width: 4.33 in (110mm) size 10
Listed Length: 10.86 in (276mm) size 10
Measured Width: 4 in (102 mm)
Measured Length: 11.25 in (286 mm)
Size Tested: 11 men's
Other details Provided by Manufacturer:
- Moldable Base Layer
- Softec Cushioning
- Moisture-Wicking Top Sheet
- Adjustable Arch Support
- Deep Heel Cup
- Heat Moldable
- Hiking Boots
- Steel Toe Boots
- High Volume Running Shoes
- High Impact Activities
- Working on Concrete Floors
The SOLE Softec Ultra Custom Footbeds, hereafter referred to as "Softec" or "Footbeds," are cushioned footbeds that I can use to replace in my hiking boots. The Softecs come on a cardboard, hanging display board that includes some unique features. There are plastic placeholders at the heel and at the toes keeping them in place. The placeholder at the heel has a quick release button that allows the plastic tab to be removed and thus the footbed. The packaging claims that this is a "minimal, sustainable, earth-friendly" method of packaging. The instructions for discarding the packaging (yes there are instructions for this!) state to recycle the cardboard, however the plastic is to be thrown away. There are also two hangtags attached to the display board; one lists the features of the Softecs and the other are the instructions. These are printed in English, French and Spanish.
I am always nervous when I pick out footbeds designed for hiking boots because they usually have more cushioning than the ones included by the manufacturer and thus take up more room in the boot. These are no exception. Upon inspection, I can make out three distinct layers of the footbeds. There is a dark moisture-wicking top layer with the SOLE logo printed on it. The middle layer is made of a red foam-type material. According to the manufacture, it is an open-cell polyurethane blend. The base layer is an EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) blend optimized to mold. This is the heat moldable layer. EVA is also used as hot glue sticks, so this is pretty neat!
The footbeds are noticeably heftier than the ones they are replacing, but they also appear to have more cushioning. Once I took them out of the packaging and really began to look closely at them, I was impressed at the shape and design of the Softecs. The heel cup is nice and deep and the arch support is nice and stiff. The area for my toes and balls of my feet are flexible and yet feel as though they will have good cushioning.
The bottoms of the footbeds are stamped with the size, M 11 and W 13. The logo and website address are also molded into this layer which I found amusing. On one footbed, there are two stickers. The first appears to be an inspector's sticker. The other is a heat sensitive sticker that changes color if used as a heat moldable footbed. Man, these are cool!
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
Following the instructions was a breeze. I used my current footbeds to trace out the shape I would need for my shoes. Since I wear 10.5 boots, the size 11 footbeds were clearly too long. Interestingly enough the width was pretty close! A standard pair of office scissors was adequate to cut through these footbeds once I was ready.
The instructions do state that if you wish to mold these to your shoes you can either wear-mold them or heat-mold them. Wear molding means that you wear them and over time they will mold to your boots and feet. Heat molding seems to speed the process up and the manufacturer claims this to result in a higher level of customization. I decided to go the heat mold route.
So after preheating the oven to 200 F (90 C), I put the footbeds upside down onto a cookie sheet. After 3 minutes I removed them since the heat sensitive sticker did not yet turn fully black. I placed them in my boots, laced up and stood for several minutes. That was all there was to it!
TRYING IT OUT
I have now worn the footbeds for several days to break them in as the manufacturer suggested. I am about to head out on an overnight trip, and so far I am impressed. I immediately noticed the amount of cushioning these footbeds provide. They seem to offer great support, albeit without a heavy pack on, yet. They do take up more space in the boots than my last pair of footbeds, so I have a slight concern about how they will fit with heavy winter socks and the liner socks I normally wear in winter. Trying this set up around the house it felt a little snug, but I did not feel any hot spots develop or anything like that.
So far I am happy with these new footbeds. I have had my last pair for over a year and I hope that these will make my feet happy to be on the trail again. These clearly take up more space than factory provided insoles, so I am glad that my boots have the room to accommodate these footbeds. I'll be hiking and backpacking with these as we wrap up winter in the Rocky Mountains and move toward the spring and summer seasons.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank SOLE as well as the folks at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this test series. Please check back in approximately two months from the time of this report to see how the Softecs have performed after a lot of hiking!
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Over the past two months, I have worn the SOLE Softec Ultra Custom Footbeds on two overnight trips during and five day hikes for a total trail distance of 43 mi (69 km).
My first trip was in the San Juan National Forest in Colorado to Ptarmigan Lake, at an elevation of 12,147 ft (3,702 m). The trail to the lake was fairly moderate and snow packed. Like any mountain terrain, some sections were steeper than others! Temperatures were between 10 and 35 F (-12 and 2 C) and while the weather was fair during the day, it turned into snow from dinner until I arrived back at my car. The total round trip was around 7 mi (11 km).
The second trip I took was an unsuccessful winter ascent of Mount Shavano in the San Isabel National Forest of Colorado. The trail was almost completely snow packed ; well for much of the hike it was really just a snow-covered jeep road. I camped at just over 11,000 ft (3350 m) with mild temperatures dipping to 20 F (-7 C). For most of the trip I was in snowshoes due to soft snow conditions. The overall distance hike was only 8 mi (13 km)
During the first part of the testing period, I encountered quite a bit of snow and took two snowshoe hikes on local trails. As the weather warmed up I have also taken three other day trips where I encountered variable conditions. One trip was a successful summit of Mt Shavano which I earlier had noted above where I conditions ranged from dry conditions at the trailhead to snow summit conditions requiring crampons and an ice axe.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Overall, I have been satisfied with the performance of these footbeds. They have taken a bit longer to adjust to than I would have liked, but overall the adjustment has been fine. I noticed in my initial report that these footbeds are significantly thicker than my previous ones, as noted by the difference in available space in my boots. On each of my hikes so far I have noticed cramping issues particularly on the tops of my feet from the increased pressure these put on my feet. This discomfort has noticeably decreased and on my last hike, the discomfort subsided within 10 minutes of hiking. I have tried adjusting how I lace my boots to allow for more room in some areas, but my boots are just too snug to really make a difference.
One thing that has really helped has been changing out my winter socks for my warmer climate socks. The latter of these are thinner and provide more room for my feet. I have noticed an increase in hot spots on my heel as well since I began using these footbeds which I attribute to my foot sitting higher in the boot. I have a small bony protrusion on my heel that does present blister problems in some boots but I haven't had this problem for some time.
I have noticed that the soles of my feet really notice a positive difference with these footbeds. I can feel the cushioning under my feet, especially when hopping around on small boulders. The heel cup also keeps my heel in place and has made a stable place to land on the downhills. I have not noticed any shifting of the footbeds in my boots; in fact they feel quite snug in the boots! While inspecting the footbeds just before writing this report I did notice a small amount of wear on the bottom of the footbed near my big toes. This doesn't appear to affect the performance and was minimal enough not to appear on any pictures I took.
The footbeds have been easy to care for through the past two months. I take them out each night after wearing them to air out and so far I haven't noticed any lingering odors. Since my overnight trips have been in near or below freezing temperatures, I have tucked them in my sleeping bag so they won't freeze. I like putting on boots that have at least one warm part!
So far these are working out fine for me. Despite the earlier discomfort issues, I am getting used to wearing them on a regular basis especially now that my socks are thinner due to warmer weather. I really appreciate the added comfort for my soles as I hike.
I would like to thank SOLE as well as the folks at for allowing me to be a part of this test series. Please check back in approximately two months to see how the footbeds have fared after more hiking and use!
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Over the past two months, I have worn the footbeds on three additional backpacking trips as well as five day hikes. All told, I have logged five trips over ten days and ten additional days of hiking. The total distance hiked over the four months of testing was 98 mi (158 km).
My first trip was in the San Isabel National Forest in Colorado in the vicinity of Brown's Creek. The temperatures were mild from between 30 and 50 F (-1 and 10 C) with sunny skies and breezy conditions. My campsite was at approximately 10,500 ft (3,200 m) in subalpine forest conditions. There was a small amount of snow about the area, but the trails were mostly clear.
My second trip was into Missouri Gulch in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in Colorado. Temperatures were unseasonably warm; between 50 and 80 F (10 and 27 C) with mostly sunny skies. I camped at 11,750 ft (3,600 m) in an alpine meadow.
The final trip I took was an annual trip up Longs Peak in the Rocky Mountain National Park. The elevation was 9,400 - 14,255 ft (2,865 - 4,345 m) on rocky alpine terrain. With the temperatures ranging from 80 to 40 F (26 to 4 C) and conditions from sunshine to snow pellets we needed to be prepared for anything. While it was quite windy at the time the overall conditions were fine.
As I mentioned above, I have also taken five other day trips where I encountered variable conditions. All but one were summit hikes over 14,000 ft (4,267 m).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
|Giving the Softec footbeds a rest after a summit hike
Through the past four months, the SOLE Softec Ultra Custom Footbeds have definitely been a plus for the soles of my feet. My feet feel happy as ever despite the abuse I put them through the past four months. On one of my hikes, a 7 mi (11 km) loop of the fourteeners Democrat, Lincoln and Bross in Colorado, I forgot trekking poles. Normally I would have sore knees and soles of my feet, but I felt great after the hike despite the 3,500 ft (1,070 m) of elevation gain and loss.
Much to my amazement, my boots don't stink either. I have made sure to air out the insoles after each hike, as the picture above shows beneath Missouri Mountain in Colorado. While the manufacturer does not make mention of odor resistance this is a plus for me and my hiking partners...
I wish the heels of my feet were in as good of shape as my soles. I mentioned in my field report that I had some discomfort but that I was able to manage through lacing. Well over the past two months I have begun to develop massive blisters on my heels. I honestly believe that the footbeds take up too much room and therefore raise the angle of my heel causing excess friction. I have experimented with two separate boots and have found the real problem to be an incompatibility with my summer hiking boots.
With my summer boots, I swapped out one footbed for my old set. I developed the blisters on the heel with the SOLE footbed even though I put preventative padding (moleskin) on my heel. With my winter boots the shape of the heel does not cause much friction. This clearly is not the fault of SOLE, it is just incompatibility with my foot, the product and that particular boot.
I can see no deterioration of the footbeds whatsoever. In fact, they look almost new still!
Things I like:
- They really make my soles happy!
- Very easy to customize (cut, heat, step on them, repeat)
- Does not seem to attract odors
Things I wish were better:
- Does not work well with my summer boots
Sadly I will have to replace these footbeds with another pair for my summer boots. However based on my experience I will likely purchase another pair of SOLE footbeds that are thinner. These made that much of a difference on the bottoms of my feet!
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
For my winter hikers, I plan to continue using these footbeds since they work well.
I would like to thank SOLE as well as the folks at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this test series.
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Read more gear reviews by Brett Haydin