SOLE SOFTEC ULTRA FOOTBEDS
TEST SERIES BY EDWIN MORSE
INITIAL REPORT - March 14, 2010
FIELD REPORT - May 16, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - July 19, 2010
ed dot morse at charter dot net
Grawn, Michigan USA
5' 8" (1.73 m)
145 lb (65.80 kg)
I started backpacking in 1979 with two weeks in northern Michigan along the Lake Superior shore. My gear was cheap, heavy and sometimes painful. My starting pack weight was 70 lbs (32 kg) with food but no water. Since that first time I have made one and two week trips in Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Last May I did a 2 week hike in Northern Minnesota. My starting pack weight was 35 lbs (16 kg), including 10 days of food and 2 qt (2 l) of water. I am slowly learning what lighter gear works for me.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.yoursole.com/
MSRP: US$ 44.95
Listed Weight : Men's 10: 150g (5.29oz) This is what I requested and received.
Measured Weight: 5.1 oz (145 g)
Other details: When I carefully re-read the website I found that the SOLE company also sells several other footbeds.
The first picture shows the footbeds still on the hangtag.
|1 Sole footbeds on hangtag|
Before I read the directions I put the footbeds in my running shoes. When I tried the shoes on with the footbeds they were much too tight. I then put the footbeds in my hiking shoes (trail runners) which are a larger size and this was a good fit.
When I finally read the website and the directions attached to the hangtag I learned a few things. I copied the following from the website.
» Moldable Base Layer
» Softec Cushioning
» Moisture-Wicking Top Sheet
» Adjustable Arch Support
» Deep Heel Cup
» Heat Moldable
IS THIS PRODUCT RIGHT FOR ME?
» Hiking Boots
» Steel Toe Boots
» High Volume Running Shoes
» High Impact Activities
» Working on Concrete Floors"
All the above I had read before. This time I went through the website and read about all the footbeds sold by SOLE. The company makes several other custom footbeds and all share two features: moldable base layer and the deep heel cup. As I read the different descriptions it appears that two other models might fit some of my lower volume shoes. The Softec Ultra model fits best in my high cut work boots and the trail runners I use mostly for backpacking.
My first impression of the SOLE Softec Ultra Footbeds is (in shoes with enough volume) comfort. I am finding them to be very comfortable even before they have wear molded to my feet.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
According to the instructions in the little booklet attached to the hangtag "The first step is to choose one of two molding methods for your new footbeds". The first (wear mold) method is to place the footbeds in the footwear and wear as with any other shoe. It will take about 3 days of wear for the footbeds to wear mold. The second method is Heat Mold. "The other option is to heat mold the footbeds in an oven before wearing them. Heat molding will provide the highest level of customization in the shortest amount of time."
I chose to wear mold my new footbeds. I would usually call them insoles but the really do feel like beds for my feet.
There are also detailed instructions for heat molding the footbeds in an oven.
TRYING IT OUT
After I put the SOLE Softec Ultra Footbeds in my more high volume backpacking trail runners I found them to be very comfortable.
|2 SOLE footbed in shoe|
I wore the trail runners with the footbeds the rest of the day and the next two days around home and shopping. Then I put the footbeds in the lightly insulated waterproof boots I use for cool sloppy conditions doing trail work. I expected the trail to be a foot (30 cm) deep with wet snow. I hiked 7.5 miles (12.1 km) on a very hilly and mostly bare ground trail. I ate lunch, took a few pictures and hiked back for a total of 15 miles (24.2 km) for the day.
|3 Sole footbeds in boots|
The Softec Ultra footbeds treated my feet very well.
I own at least eight pairs of after market insoles. Some have good support, a few have deep heel cups, some are thicker than the Softec Ultra footbeds, some are thinner but give no support at all. The SOLE footbeds appear to combine the better features.
The SOLE Softec Ultra footbeds are very comfortable at this time, in the trail runners I wear for backpacking. The deep heel cup and the soft upper layer of the whole footbed both contribute to the initial comfort. The high volume of the footbeds eliminates wearing them with some of my shoes. So far this is the only problem I have with them.
After this test is completed I may try one of the other models of footbeds sold by SOLE.
This concludes my Initial Report.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Most of my use of the Sole Softec Ultra footbeds, so far, has been in the Manistee National Forest and the Pere Marquette State Forest. There have also been several shorter hikes on roads and trails between my home and the village of Interlochen. Since it is early spring, weather has varied from 30 F ( C) up to 65 F (18 C) and from cloudy and windy to calm and sunny, sometimes all these conditions on the same day.
I've done two hikes of about 10 miles (16 km) during which the terrain varied from the mucky edge of swamps with heavy brush and a few down trees on the trail to rolling sandy hills with more open forest including several more trees down. I wore the footbeds in waterproof trail runner shoes and carried a small pruning saw. My purpose was to check trail conditions after the winter storms, besides I just like to walk in the woods and any excuse will do.
Next I did four days of shorter hikes of three to six miles (5 to 10 km) each. I wore the footbeds in heavy leather work boots and carried a chainsaw instead of the little pruning saw. These hikes (trail work days) were to remove the trees down on the trail. Another trail work hike was about five miles (8 km). Again I wore the footbeds in trail runners while we painted blazes on a new section of trail.
I was finally able to do a short overnight hike. I used the footbeds in my trail runners and picked an easy section of trail in the nearby Manistee National Forest. It was cloudy, very windy and 54 F (12 C) when I started hiking. I only hiked about three miles (five km) in nearly two hours, probably the slowest hike I've done in a long time. For some reason I've decided that hiking slower and looking more can be very enjoyable especially in the spring. I like to air out my hiking shoes and insoles every night as much as I can. I didn't think about a picture of the footbeds until I was in the tent for the night. I had taken several other pictures but I was wearing the shoes and footbeds at the time.
When I woke at about 2 AM the sky was clear with a cool 40 F (4 C). I got up soon after 6 AM to a bright sunrise and 34 F (1 C). While I was fixing breakfast frost was forming on the ground. Then I discovered a disadvantage for me in the spring. My feet get cold easily and wearing thin liner socks in trail runners exacerbates the situation. Fixing breakfast and breaking camp with the temperature around freezing does nothing to get my feet warm. This is a temporary problem since there probably won't be many more mornings that cold this spring. My feet were warm again soon after I started the hike back.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Sole Softec Ultra footbeds have done very well for me after a period of adjustment - on my part. The Sole Softec Ultra footbeds are thicker than other insoles I have been using in warmer weather. I usually wear fairly heavy merino wool hiking socks for all hiking and trail work. I finally found that I have three pair of shoes (one work boots and two trail runners) in which I can use the Softec Ultra footbeds - if I wear thin merino or synthetic liner socks.
Even without the thicker wool socks I usually wear (mostly for comfort) the Softec Ultra footbeds are very comfortable under my feet whichever shoes I wear them in. This was most noticeable with the work boots I use for chainsaw safety. With the Softec Ultra footbeds in the boots I have no problem hiking several miles and carrying the chainsaw. These footbeds are not slippery under foot as are some I have used. My feet stay in place regardless of whicch socks and shoes I wear.
I am most happy with the comfort of the Sole Softec Ultra footbeds. I have had to switch to wearing much thinner socks (liner socks rather than heavier hiking socks) than I have ever worn for hiking. The one disadvantage is that on a cold spring morning my feet have less protection from the cold. This is a short term problem and no fault of the footbeds.
Sole makes other styles of footbeds most of them thinner than the Softec Ultra footbeds. I intend to order a different model designed for hiking. Just for my own information, I will eventually compare another, thinner, model to see if thinner footbeds have the same comfort as the Softec Ultra model. I also need to buy another pair of shoes soon so I will get them sized to fit with the Softec Ultra footbeds and my preferred hiking socks.
This concludes my Field Report.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I've worn the Sole Softec Ultra footbeds nearly every day in the last two months which includes yard work and trips to town for shopping or doctor visits. More specific to testing I've worn the Ultra footbeds 4 days doing trail work, two day hikes, three overnight hikes of increasing distance and one hike of three days and two nights. I'm slowly recovering from a back problem that caused pain in one leg and made hiking nearly impossible.
Two trail work days were in the Pere Marquette State Forest (July 6, 2010 and July 13, 2010) and two were in the Manistee National Forest (June 5, 2010 and July 10, 2010). I wear the footbeds in high cut leather work boots for all trail work. The first three work days were all in wet and nearly swampy areas building boardwalk. The fourth and last day of trail work was higher and dryer. All four work days just happened to be sunny with high temperatures of about 84 F (29 C).
The first day hike was June 1, 2010 with rain and a temperature of 68 F (20 C). I only hiked 2.6 miles (4.2 km). The second was July 14, 2010 with bright sun and a warm 82 F (28 C). I increased the distance to 4.7 miles (7.6 km). Both began at a nearby Pere Marquette State Forest campground. The terrain is rolling and slightly hilly.
The first overnight hike was June 5 & 6, 2010 in the Manistee National Forest, I starting after a day of trail work building boardwalk. I parked on a forest road and bushwhacked about a mile (1.5 km) into the forest hiking above the edge of a large marsh. It had been cloudy all day with a high of 78 F (26 C). The rain started just after I finished setting up my hammock and tarp.
The second overnight was June 19 & 20, 2010 I managed to increase the distance to 3.5 mi (5.6 km) in mostly hilly terrain. This was another sunny day with a high of 85 F (29 C) and a low during the night of 66 F (19 C).
The third overnight hike was July 2 & 3, 2010. This was a hike I had been hoping for over two years. Our middle son, his wife and seven year old daughter were visiting for the weekend. We hiked 3.8 miles (6.1 km) to a small lake in the Pere Marquette State Forest. Doug is an experienced backpacker while his wife and daughter were campers but had never backpacked. The trail was a little hilly with steep climbs down to and up from a river but mostly rolling with a mix of hard wood and softwood trees. The high temperatures were 85 F (29 C) with a low of 65 F (18 C) during the night.
The two night hike was July 16 & 17 & 18, 2010 in a hilly section of the Manistee National Forest. My intention was to push myself, if possible. I decided to hike the Manistee River Trail combined with the North Country trail for a 22 mile (35 km) loop. Since I wanted the option to add more distance if I felt all right I planned to start at the north end and when I got to the south end I could go south on Upper River Road several miles and back on the North Country Trail. Except for the three miles (5 km) on Upper River Road this is a rather hilly section of trail. The first two days the high was 86 F (30 C) with bright sun and the lows at night were only down to 66 F (19 C). Here is a view of one of the few flat and easy sections of the Manistee River Trail on the first day of my hike.
|Manistee River Trail view|
The last morning rain started just as I was taking down the tent. By the time I was ready to hike out it was a hard steady rain and held at 66 F (19 C).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
When I did the hike on June 1, 2010 it started raining just before I got to the Trail Head. I was wearing the footbeds in low cut waterproof trail runners. I had thought my gaiters were in the day pack but they were in the overnight backpack. The rain pants I wore had tight ankles. Both the rain and water from brush and ferns ran down the pants and into my shoes. When I took the shoes off at home the footbeds were soaked like a sponge. The toes of my feet were not wet but the soft spongy material in the footbeds was wet from heel to toe. The temperature held at 70 F (21 C) while I hiked a slow four miles (6 km).
Some months I spend more days doing trail work, which often involves walking as much as six miles (10 km), than I do hiking. The Sole Softec Ultra footbeds have changed my work boots from a required safety item to comfortable footwear. This fact alone makes them worth the cost of another pair.
I had considered the Sole Softec Ultra footbeds just comfortable insoles but after I finished the last three day hike I decided they are more foot savers than just footbeds. The longest distance I had hiked in the last six months was a six mile day hike. The first day of my three day hike I did 12 miles (19 km) and I was tired all over. The second day I hiked 15 miles (24 km). I was tired and achy all over but my feet did not hurt at all. I know from past hikes, when I was in better physical condition, that my feet should have been very tired with the soles sore and tender. This hike proved, to me, the value and comfort of the Sole Softec Ultra footbeds. The last day of this hike was a little less than five miles (8 km). This time I was wearing the footbeds in waterproof trail runners with gaiters over the shoes and under my rain pants. My feet stayed dry and comfortable.
I now take the footbeds out of the shoes to dry after every hike. Here is a picture from inside my tent early the second night of my last hike.
|drying inside the tent|
I'm happy with the Sole Softec Ultra footbeds. After switching to thin liner socks I can wear them in several pairs of shoes. The footbeds are comfortable and treat my feet very well on longer hikes. This works very well in warm summer weather. The need to wear thin socks is the only negative I can see, if it is a negative.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
I will need to wear heavier socks in colder weather. This week I will be ordering another pair of Sole footbeds. I've narrowed my choice down to two different (thinner) models. I hope to get the same comfort in my ski boots and snowshoe boots as I now have in my trail runners. I will continue to wear the Sole Softec Ultra footbeds for warm weather hiking and trail work.
This test makes me remember the old saying "Don't knock it til you've tried it". I was disappointed with the footbeds at first because I couldn't wear my heavy merino wool hiking socks. Some practices should be changed. Now that I've tried the Sole Softec Ultra footbeds I have nothing but praise for them.
This concludes my Long Term Report.
I would like to thank SOLE for providing these footbeds for testing and Backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to learn about Sole footbeds.
Read more reviews of SOLE gear
Read more gear reviews by Edwin L. Morse