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Reviews > Footwear > Footbeds and Insoles > SOLE Softec Ultra Custom Footbeds > Test Report by Gail Staisil

 SOLE Softec
Ultra Footbeds
Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan

Page Contents:

Initial Report:
March 12, 2010

Tester Information
Author
Name: Gail Staisil
Age: 57
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 145 lb (66 kg)
Shoe Size: 10.5 US (42.5 EU)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
Email: woodswoman 2001 AT yahoo DOT com

For the last 19 years, backpacking has become a passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an off-trail navigator. Although I do take yearly trips to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my trips are in Michigan and Canada. My pack weight varies considerably but my base weight is below 18 lb (8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages more than 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow and sub-zero temps.

Product Information

Manufacturer
SOLE
Website http://www.yoursole.com
Model Softec Ultra 
Color
Black with gray, red and white graphics
Material
Top sheet: 35% recycled Moisture-wicking Polygiene, Base layer: 20 % recycled EVA blend
Cushion
3.2 mm (0.13 in) open cell polyurethane blend
Size
Men's 9 or Women's 11 US (42.5 EU) Unisex only, Whole sizes available from Men's 3-16, Women's 5-12 (35.5 to 50.5 Unisex sizing)
Manufacturer  Weight  For Women's Size 10 US: 4.90 oz/139 g
Tested Weight  Right footbed: 2.5 oz /71 g plus Left footbed: 2.2 oz /62 g = 4.7 oz /133 g pair
Model Year 2010
MSRP $44.95

Initial Impressions and Product Description 


The SOLE Softec Ultra Footbeds arrived in the correct size as requested. They are only available in whole sizes so I chose the size that correlates to a Women's 11 US (42.5 EU) or Men's 9 US (42.5 EU) as they are Unisex in sizing (I wear a Women's 10.5 US/42 EU). The footbeds appear just as shown on the website. Although I have worn a few different types of footbeds, they are most likely the thickest that I have worn and they are the only type that are moldable or custom. Three pairs of common insoles compared to the SOLE Footbeds

The Softec padding in the footbed is 3.2 mm (0.13 in) and the thickness of the footbed is 5.5 mm (0.22 in). This particular model is made f
or shoes with a high volume.

I quickly assembled an assortment of hiking shoes/boots to see which pair would be the most appropriate. I hope to wear them with a variety of my footwear (3 pairs) but some of my footwear doesn't have the volume to accommodate thick footbeds without restricting my feet.

I pulled out each stock insole from all three pairs of my hiking shoes/boots to see if they had a similar shape. One pair was longer than the other two but they were all the same width wise.

Then I compared them to the SOLE Footbed and found that it was wider and longer than I need (the SOLE Footbed is shown in the picture as the last one on the right). I next trimmed each SOLE Footbed so that they will fit in my shoes. The footbeds are much more rigid than the ones that came with all my shoes.


Fitting Instructions


Fitting instructions were included with the footbeds on a booklet attached to the footbed holder (cardboard sheet). There were instructions written in three languages.

The Softec Ultra Footbeds are custom footbeds in that they can be molded by heat. This does set them apart from many others on the market. Although they can be heated to conform to my foot they can also be molded by just wearing them. The manufacturer refers to these two methods as the "Heat Mold" and the "Wear Mold".

If I were to chose the "Wear Mold" I would just wear the shoes and the footbed would mold to my feet in a few days. However I decided to choose the 'Heat Mold" as I have experienced good results with ski boots with that feature. The "Heat Mold" option is quicker of course and the footbeds are molded after a few minutes of wear (after heating).

SOLE Softec Ultra Footbeds
Steps to "Heat Mold" the footbeds

One: I pre-heated my regular wall oven to 200 F(90 C). There are also instructions for using a convection oven or gas oven on the hang tag.

Two: I took out the stock insoles from my shoes.

Three: I trimmed the footbeds to match my insoles that I had removed. The manufacturer warns to only trim the length and not the width.

Four: Next I placed the footbeds on a clean baking sheet and monitored the small sticker (Opti-therm) indicator for it to turn from silver to black. The manufacturer suggests to not wait more than three minutes.

Five: I put the footbeds into the shoes and wore them immediately. I made sure that my heels were against the back of the shoes, my weight evenly distributed and that the shoes were laced. The instructions didn't indicate whether I should wear socks or have bare feet, so I chose the former as that is how I would normally wear the shoes.

Six: Finally, I stood straight with my feet shoulder width apart and pointed forward and waited for two minutes. Voila!


The manufacturer suggests getting used to the footbeds over a three day period where the user will slowly increase the time worn everyday. The molding process allows the footbeds to adjust to my feet so that my arches and heels are supported as well as other areas of my feet. If they seem to need adjustment after that time (three days) they can be remolded again. Theoretically molded footbeds reduce fatigue experienced. Although I don't have any real issues with foot pain per se, I certainly have experienced foot fatigue after long days on the trail. It usually sets in after 10 miles (16.1 km) or more. I'm looking forward to seeing if the moldable footbeds really make a difference!


Are the footbeds for everyone?

The manufacturer makes a variety of different footbeds for different types of use. The seven types vary in thickness (thick to thin) and usage (high endurance to standing on cement floors) so there are likely options for most people. The product does come with a warning however, and that concerns usage by people with diabetes or poor circulation. They need to have the approval of their health care professional before using. There is a handy interactive Footbed Selector on the website to determine what footbed is right for each person's needs.

I didn't find any care information on the website or on the hangtag so I assume that the footbeds should be treated just like stock insoles. Normally that would include taking them out and letting them dry naturally if wet and also lightly hand cleaning them if they became soiled or smelly. The footbeds do come with a 90-day money back guarantee if they don't live up to expectations.


Trying them out


Since there is still plenty of snow outside I am still wearing mostly boots. However I decided to start wearing my hiking shoes in the house to get used to the footbeds. So far they seem plenty comfortable and soon the walkways will be clear enough to start wearing them outside.


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Field Report:
May 5, 2010


USA Locations and Conditions

During the field test period, I have worn the SOLE Footbeds primarily for extended backpacking trips (8 days total) but they have also been worn for dayhiking six times (both in the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan). Locations included boreal and deciduous forest communities, back country trails, bushwhacking and more. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to approximately 1400 ft (427 m).
 

Trip 1 - Early April Backpacking Trip:

Location: Pigeon River Country State Forest - Lower Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Bushwhack 
Distance: Approx 25 mi (40 km)
Length of Trip: 4 days/4 nights

Pack Weight:
31 lb (14 kg)

Sky and Air Conditions: Light snow, cloudy and sunny
Precipitation: 0.14 in (0.36 cm)
Temperature Range: 22 F (-6 C) to 62 F (17 C)

Trip 2 - Late April/Early May Backpacking Trip:


Location: North Country Trail - Lower Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 31 mi (50 km)
Length of Trip: 4 days/3 nights
Pack Weight: 26 lb (12 kg) 
Sky and Air Conditions: Sunny, thunderstorms
Precipitation (Rain): 1.2 in (3.05 cm)
Temperature Range: 52 F (11 C) to 77 F (25 C)


Field Work 

No adjustments necessary

During the field test period, I wore the SOLE Softec Ultra Footbeds inside my mid-height Lowa trail boots on two different four-day trips. Since my boots were rather new, I first wore them on several dayhikes to make sure that the SOLE Footbeds were compatible with the footwear. My toes had plenty of room and the comfort was amazing. The dayhikes were several hours in length and I didn't seem to need an adjustment period. My arches felt completely supported and the soles of my feet were very comfortable.

During the initial treks, much of the terrain I traveled was a series of steep descents and ascents on local small peaks. Although the trails were short in length (5 to 6 mi) it was a continuous effort. I didn't experience any sliding of my feet towards the toes of the boots. This has been a problem with some other aftermarket insoles that I have purchased in the past (as the top surface of them was too slippery). Often times the other insoles haven't had the optimum amount of cushion either and generally served as a second rate effort to make my feet more comfortable.


Backpacking Trips
One of many beaver dams I crossed while wearing the SOLE Footbeds
It's always questionable how boots with new footbeds will perform on an extended trip where I am carrying a fully loaded pack. The first trip was a very wet bushwhacking trip. My feet were always in some precarious position either balancing on beaver dams or just heading through the uneven terrain in the forest. I hiked up and down over hills and obstacles. The forest was very wet and there was a bit of light fresh snow cover the first day of the trip.

My feet were very happy and I attribute that to the comfort of the footbeds. I covered about 25 mi (40 km) during this trip through rough conditions. My arches felt supported and my feet didn't slide sideways or forward in the boots. The heel cups no doubt aligned my feet correctly as I had no aches or pains.

The next backpack trip covered 31 mi (50 km) on established trail. About half of the trail was recently rerouted so it was rougher or much more uneven than a typical trail. There were also a lot of slippery clay sections. Most days I hiked about 7 to 8 mi (11 to 13 km). A longer day of 12 mi (19 km) was also hiked during the trip.

Because the weather simply was unseasonably warmer than I was used to, my feet became rather heated. I attribute that mostly to the weather and the fact that the boots I was wearing were waterproof. The bottoms of my feet experienced a bit of burning due to them being overheated but they felt comfortable otherwise. My feet did not slide around on the footbeds and there were
The SOLE Softec Ultra Footbed inside my boot no pressure points at any time. The footbeds were damp when I removed my boots but they dried quickly.
 

So far, I really like the SOLE Softec Ultra Footbeds. At no time have I experienced sore spots or fatigue issues from walking great distances carrying a fully loaded pack. Pack weight for the two backpack trips was 31 lb (14 kg) and 26 lb (11.79 kg) respectively. I walked over a variety of surfaces including wet and soft ground, beaver dams of sticks and mud, rock slabs and rocky trail, clay mud, sand and hard pack dirt without any issues.

I have also continued to wear the SOLE Footbeds for more dayhikes as well. Distances up to 10 mi (16 km) over hilly terrain were experienced with no issues.


Durability and Care So Far

The SOLE Footbeds look much like when I got them. I have pulled them out of the boots each night at camp to air out but the dampness has dissipated quickly. Although my boots, socks and feet were somewhat smelly on the last trip, I again mostly attribute that to the hot conditions and the waterproof boots. The SOLE Footbeds were surprisingly the best smelling of the lot. 

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Long Term Report:
July 12, 2010


USA Locations and Conditions

During the long term test period, I have worn the SOLE Footbeds for a few more backpacking trips (18 days total) plus several dayhikes. Locations included boreal and deciduous forest communities, islands, back country trails, bushwhacking and more. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to approximately 1400 ft (427 m).
 

Trip 1 - Mid May Backpacking Trip:

Location: High Country Pathway - Lower Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 80 mi (129 km)
Length of Trip: 6 days/5 nights
Pack Weight: 32 lb (14.5 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Clouds, thunderstorms and sun
Precipitation (Rain): 0.52 in (1.32 cm)
Temperature Range: 34 F (1 C) to 70 F (21 C) 

Trip 2 - Late May Backpacking Trip:

Location: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 42 mi (68 km)
Length of Trip: 4 days/3 nights
Pack Weight: 24 lb (10.89 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Clouds, thunderstorms and sun
Precipitation (Rain): 0.27 in (0.69 cm)
Temperature Range: 46 F (8 C) to 90 F (32 C) 

Trip 3 - Late June/Early July Backpacking Trip:

Location: Isle Royale National Park, Lake Superior, Michigan
Type of Trip: Trail/Canoe
Distance: 64.5 mi/104 km (hike),15 mi/24.15 km (canoe)
Length of Trip: 8 days/8 nights
Pack Weight: 30 lb (13.6 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly sunny, some rain and clouds
Precipitation (Rain): No data, but a few light storms blew threw
Temperature Range: 41 F (5 C) to 88 F (27 C) 
 

Field Work 

Lots More Trail Time
Hiking the cliffs above the Pictured Rocks in the SOLE Footbeds
During the long term test period, I wore the SOLE Softec Ultra Footbeds inside my mid-height boots on the first trip of 6 days. I then wore them in a pair of low-cut trail shoes for the following two trips (4 days and 8 days).

On all of these trips I backpacked a lot of mileage. During the first trip on the High Country Pathway in Lower Michigan, I covered over 80 mi in 6 days. The longest day was about 17.5 mi (28.2 km). Trail conditions were often wet and varied from dirt to muck. My feet were very comfortable for the most part. Since the weather was hotter than I would have liked, my feet became overheated in the Gore-tex lined boots.

At long rest breaks I would take off the boots, air the insoles and immerse my feet in whatever cold river or creek was around. Even though I took the insoles out of the boots they never felt particularly damp themselves and my socks weren't particularly wet either. Once my feet were cooled, I was ready to happily pound out some more miles.
 
I did not experience any blisters or pressure points so I was happy. My arches never felt fatigued either. During the following trips I switched over to non-waterproof low-cut trail shoes so that my feet could breathe better. The high got up to 90 F (32 C) one day which is very unusual in these parts. My feet still needed to be cooled in a lake or river (depending on where I stopped) but they were comfortable otherwise.

During the second trip I averaged over 10 mi (16 km) a day hiking the cliffs and shore of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The trail surface varies from hard pack dirt to sand dunes to rocky surfaces. The third trip to Isle Royale National Park consisted of mostly rocky surfaces with mileage up to 11.8 mi (19 km) on the longest day. I have also continued to wear the SOLE Footbeds for more dayhikes as well. Usually the distances for these hikes were approximately 4 to 6 mi (6.5 to 9.7 km).

I have been wearing mostly thin wool socks on all of the trips. I don't need a cushioned sock as the footbeds provide plenty of cushioning.


Durability and Care 

The SOLE Footbeds really look quite well after all this wear. They never seem to hold much moisture and they dry quickly after pulling them out of my boots or shoes. They haven't lost any noticeable cushion and the surface of the footbeds are not slippery.


Summary

In conclusion, I really like the SOLE Softec Ultra Footbeds. They have increased the amount of time that I can hike without tired feet. My pack weight has varied on all the trips with a high of 32 lb (14.5 kg) and a low of 24 lb (10.89 kg). These weights are the maximum carried with 2 qt (2 L) of water. The SOLE footbeds have experienced long days, uneven terrain, and a variety of surfaces including rock, mud and sand. I will continue to wear the footbeds and plan to invest in a thinner pair for my running shoes.

Total mileage for the entire testing period is approximately 344 mi (554 km).


Pros 
  • Footbeds are not slippery
  • Cushion is amazing
  • Arches are supported
Cons 
  • None really, but I wish one pair would fit in all my shoes (however, thinner footbeds are available from the manufacturer for that purpose).

Tester Remarks 

Thanks to SOLE and BackpackGearTest.org for this opportunity to test the Softec Ultra Footbeds. This concludes my Long Term Report and the test series. 

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