Choosing the right aftermarket insole is tricky. The fit and feel varies widely from brand to brand, and specialty stores carry styles made specifically for anything from athletic footwear to cycling shoes or even dress shoes.
Orthosole came up with the cool concept of making a modular insole to suit a variety of activities and types of footwear. And to a certain degree, the company has succeeded. Over the course of a few months, members of the SNEWS® crew used the insoles while running, walking, traveling and hiking, and determined that, overall, they proved useful and performed pretty well, though some of our folks aren’t ready to abandon other insoles and orthotics they’ve been using for years.
The key to the Orthosole footbed is that each set comes with three arch pads and two metatarsal pads that can be interchanged to provide light, medium or firm support. A Velcro-type material on the pads makes it easy to switch them out and create six different combinations, so you can customize the level of support. Pads for each level of support are a shade of blue for men’s models, and a shade of red or pink for women’s models, which helps you easily identify what you’re looking for.
Of course, reviewing insoles is a bit different than judging other products. This is due to the fact that each manufacturer has its own philosophy on how exactly an insole should support the foot. For example, the folks at Superfeet do not place much padding in the heel area of their products because they believe that the fatty part of a person’s heel does the job adequately. Orthosole footbeds, on the other hand, have a built-in gel pad at the base of the heel for cushioning. Because there are so many ideas about how to support the foot, you should try several of them to see what’s best for you.
To understand a bit about Orthosole’s fit method, it helps to compare it to what you get with Superfeet’s green Trim to Fit insoles. The biggest difference we felt is that the arch and metatarsal pads of the Orthosole product combine to provide much more support directly beneath the arch than we’ve felt with Superfeet insoles, which place more support at the rear of the arch, near the heel. One of our testers who regularly wears Superfeet said that it took a few minutes to get used to the feel of the Orthosole support beneath the middle of his arch, but he eventually did. Again, this comes down to personal preference. He did like that the arch and metatarsal pads are themselves a bit cushioned, so he didn’t feel as if he were standing on hard plates.
In general, our testers agreed that Orthosole insoles provide a level of support that equals other over-the-counter products. But one tester who wore them at a trade show and while traveling said the level of support wasn’t quite what she required. This tester wears orthotics with a firm arch support and a metatarsal bar that lifts and supports the foot just behind the ball of the foot and the metatarsals.
“I put in the firmest and most supportive fittings, but they still felt a tad thin to me,” she said. “My foot still felt tired at the end of a day of walking around. However, I did find that for basic ‘around town’ and not long-term walking around, they were really nice. In fact, I still have them in my yank-em-on shoes for going out for errands. However, I would not wear them again for travel that would entail a lot of walking in airports, on sidewalks or on cement floors.”
Another tester, who does not wear orthotics, but does wear some type of insole with most shoes, said the Orthosole product provided good support during long day hikes. He uses insoles not only for support, but also to occupy space, as he has low-volume feet. He said that the arch pads and metatarsal pads for the light support setting occupied about the same amount of volume as the green Superfeet insoles.
A third tester said that he settled on the firm support, because the medium had little noticeable effect. He added that he couldn’t imagine that the light support pads would be useful. Obviously, the opinions of our testers varied widely, making it impossible to give these insoles a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down.
One advantage of the Orthosole system is that it allows you to adjust the support and volume to fit various types of footwear. One tester said he found it useful to attach the “light” support pads in a pair of casual slip-on shoes, while the “medium” support pads worked best in a pair of low-cut light hikers. Naturally, other people might have a different experience, because fit differs depending on the type of shoe and the footwear brand, but the point is that Orthosole gives you the option of customizing the insole. One tester said he wished there was an even greater level of adjustment, but wasn’t sure how you could achieve this without juggling handfuls of little pieces and parts.
One tester really liked that the modular Orthosole system allowed him to customize the fit for each foot, as one has a higher volume than the other. While his left shoe fit well with the medium support pads, the right shoe felt best with the light support. It seems like a good idea, as plenty of people have one foot that’s shaped differently from the other.
Aside from the fit, the Orthosole insoles held up pretty well to months of use, so their lifespan is similar to what we’ve seen with other insoles we’ve tested. The nylon fabric covering the insoles showed some wear, especially where there was raised padding at the arch, but the fabric never wore through.
One other thing that’s notable is that we didn’t have to trim these insoles to fit our shoes because they’re available in sizes, such as 8-8.5, 9-9.5, etc. This just makes life a little easier, because you can just pull them out of the box and go, without having to get out the scissors.
Orthosole is on the right track in making a product that’s very convenient. Really, your greatest concern with this product will be whether it simply suits your taste. It basically comes down to whether you like the type of support it offers your feet. Certainly, our testers agreed that the modular concept is attractive. Since everyone has a little less money to spend these days, it sure seems like a good idea to have one insole that can move from shoe to shoe, and adjust to serve many walks of life.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.0 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $49.95
For information: www.orthosole.com