The orthotics market is a bit of a foreign place to me—I’ve never worn any type of insoles when running (or walking) in the past. I used to think orthotics were only designed for people with imbalances or issues with their feet. Turns out, I was wrong. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been testing out the newest running-specific product released by Superfeet: the ADAPT Run insoles.While undergoing my wear trials, I simultaneously dove into the scientific literature surrounding the topic of orthotics. I was enlightened to learn the abundance of different options available not just to help those suffering from injuries or imbalances, but also to help improve performance, and increase overall comfort while working out. A product that could make an activity I love even more enjoyable? Sign me up please 🙂
Orthotics can help with a wide array of issues including fixing our stride (pronation/supination) and relieving pain in the back, ankles, heels, feet, and legs. The correct insoles can also serve a preventative role. That is, they can decrease the probability of injury. There are two main types of orthotics: custom-made and prefabricated. Insoles such as Superfeet fit in the premium prefabricated foot orthoses category and come in a wide variety of shapes and materials, and lie somewhere on the rigid/flexible spectrum. To help you determine your solemate, Superfeet provides an Insole Finder on their website that presents a series of questions then spits out a recommended product to help with a specific issue (ie. added comfort, relieve pain, improve athletic performance, etc.).
While I don’t have any specific issues with my feet or am suffering from any pain/discomfort, I wanted to see how Superfeet’s new insoles altered my running experience—coming at this experiment from a place of curiosity. Before we dive into the product features, look & fit, and wear trials, we’ll first deduce the main differences between custom-made and prefabricated orthoses—why you would want to use either product in the first place.
One last thing before we jump in. This blog post is sponsored by Superfeet. However, akin to all my gear review posts, I always give my honest opinion during wear trials and don’t fabricate any sort of ‘positive’ experience to make the brand happy—all partnerships I engage with know that my values are honesty, authenticity, and to serve my community first. Now let’s get into it.
Why Use Orthoses?
There are a myriad of reasons to use orthotics which can be boiled down to preventive or reactive. James P. Loli, Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Harvard Medical School recommends that his patients use orthotics if “ muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, or bones are not in an optimal functional position and are causing pain, discomfort, and fatigue.” This would of course fall into the reactive category—using orthotics to help fix a pre-existing issue.
On the inverse, orthotics can be used to prevent injury—where you don’t have any current issues, but are simply looking for more support or comfort while running. Orthotics can also help prevent lower body injuries including heel issues, plantar fasciitis, ankle pain, stress fractures, etc. Several elite athletes in a multitude of sports use orthotics for the aforementioned reasons, but also to get more arch support, aligning their lower body, and thus enhancing performance in their respective sport. The type of orthotics can be boiled down to two categories: prefabricated and custom-made.
Prefabricated vs. Custom-Made Orthoses
Custom-made orthotics are exactly what the name implies: custom-made for each individual. The custom-made orthotics are produced through a casting process, which profiles the individual’s foot in a specific/desired posture using a 3D modelling technology. A wide range of materials can be used and the orthotics are casted to solve a specific issue with the patient. While this sort of customization is great, the cost is hefty and can typically range from $200-$800 which doesn’t even include the cost of the visit to a podiatrist (or the like) or any subsequent office visits. Many insurance companies won’t cover orthotics and if they do, it’s typically partial only. Resurfacing costs can be an additional $50-100 and over time, the orthotics may need to be replaced altogether. Podiatrist James P. Loli suggests the custom-made route for people with “[diabetes, poor circulation, or any sort of deformities caused by arthritis].” Other people that might want to go the custom-route are those that have tried prefabricated in the past (but to no avail), have inherent foot imbalances/disorders, recurring injuries, or elite athletes that need every edge they can get. But, for the rest of us, over-the-counter insoles like Superfeet, may be a better option if you don’t want to drop a hefty amount on the former.
Prefabricated orthoses, also known as “over-the-counter” orthoses can offer similar benefits to custom orthotics, but at a significantly smaller price tag. As mentioned, there is no one size fits all when it comes to the type of insoles. There are a myriad of different options available depending on what activity you’re using them for and for the primary purpose. Most prefabricated soles can help with generic issues like heel pain, plantar fasciitis—helping to decrease pain and discomfort.
Which route to take?
Several studies compare the effectiveness of the two types of orthoses and while in certain cases, custom-made is certainly the way to go, most studies show comparable results in effectiveness between the two. A 2008 study compared the use of casted foot orthoses (over the counter/mass produced) with prefabricated foot orthoses (custom-made orthotics) in 67 participants experiencing plantar heel pain. At the end of the eight week period, the researchers deemed both treatments effective and concluded that there was no difference between the two treatments.
A 2009 meta analysis looked at 11 different studies with over 1,300 participants over a 2-month to 3 year span. The study concluded that in regards to functionality, the custom-made orthotics outperformed the prefabricated, but not for pain reduction. The researchers write, “At two to three months and at 12 months, prefabricated orthoses were as effective as custom orthoses.”
So based on the scientific literature, unless you’re suffering from one of the issues described above or have tested out many of the prefabricated types and haven’t been able to solve your alignment issues or injuries, the prefabricated will have similar benefits at a fraction of that cost.
Superfeet ADAPT Run Overview
You’ve likely heard of Superfeet before—the brand is well known in the prefabricated insole market and has been in the space for over 40 years. While Superfeet has been around for a while, just last month they launched two new running-specific insoles: ADAPT Run Max and ADAPT Run. The main difference between the two is the arch height and the level of cushioning. The Max version has a deeper heel cup, higher arch profile, and more cushioning that wraps around the foot. The latter contains a thinner design and is built for those with a low or medium arch. Superfeet worked in conjunction with researchers at the Human Performance Lab at the University of Calgary during the product development phase. The process was a long one—6 years to be exact.
During the product development phase, Superfeet patented their technology that they titled ‘Adaptive Comfort’ and what Matt Gooch, Director of Product and Innovation at Superfeet explains as “the core innovation of the ADAPT Run and ADAPT Max insoles.” The insoles deliver what Matt describes as a “lower dose of Superfeet shape and support” for more flexibility and cushioning.
For the sake of this review, I’ll be diving into the features and trials of the ADAPT Run insoles only. Let’s dive in now to the nitty gritty:
- Adaptive Comfort Technology – as aforementioned, the driving feature behind the insoles is the patented Adaptive Comfort Technology which allows the insole to flex with the foot and “efficient heel-to-toe turnover and a smooth easy ride.” As the name implies, the technology “flexes and adapts” to the natural movement of your feet.
- Cushioning – the flexible design allows runners to use the insoles right away and derive the benefits from the extra support—omitting any sort of “break-in period”
- Responsive forefoot zone – The amalgam of cushioning and “rebound” helps optimize energy transfer, making your stride feel more supported and thus, enjoyable.
Look & Feel
When I first took the insoles out of the box, I was impressed by the aesthetically pleasing design—it’s almost tragic that no one will be able to see them while running. The insoles have a good mix of flexibility and semi-rigidity to allow for adequate support. Superfeet designer, Christian Kraski strived to keep the insole’s aesthetic and design to a mimicking nature. Akin to a chameleon, with its ability to change state in accordance with nature, the ADAPT Run Insoles aimed to do the same. “I looked to nature, specifically how elements and patterns in nature change to adapt to their environments,” writes Kraski.The construction of the sole is a combination of soft, sturdy, yet pliable – granting them the ability to metamorphosize with your feet as you run.
Before we dive into the wear trials, I need to give you a bit of background re: my foot type and gait. I have a neutral stride, don’t suffer from any incessant or recurring running injuries (knee pain, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, etc.), and have a low arch. For my foot type, I prefer more of a minimalist shoe that feels lighter-weight, but contains adequate support. For the wear trials, I decided to test our the ADAPT Run Insoles in my most minimalistic shoes to see how they fare: Under Armour’s Flow Velociti Wind SE. the shoes have a drop of 8mm, stack height of 26mm and a weight of 221g (for women) and 235g (for men). With the elimination of the rubber outsole and the “bootie” design, these shoes are the most minimalist feeling runners I’ve ever worn. They also don’t fit as snug and offer as much support as my other runners so with all things considered, I thought the SE’s would be perfect to test out the ADAPT Run insoles.
First Wear Trial
The sizing for the insoles came in a foot size 8.5-10 and the brand suggests trimming the insole to make it fit just right. The first step (no pun intended) is to place the insole underneath the shoe and align it, trimming the excess (if warranted), then inserting the insole to make sure it fits. Once secured, walk around a bit and see how it feels.
I wear a size 9 and just slid the insole into my runner. The SE’s fit a bit bigger than a 9 (they’re loose on my feet) so the insoles fit perfectly—no trimming was needed on my end. Not going to lie, since I haven’t worn any sort of insoles before, they felt a bit weird on my feet—not in a bad way, but rather, just an unfamiliar way. Since the brand claims there’s no break-in period required I decided to jump straight into trailing them during a 5-mile run (vs. walking around in them first).
While I am going to share with you my experience in the first wear trial, I would be remiss without mentioning an important part of the fitting process I neglected: to remove the existing insole. So basically my first wear trial was conducted wearing two insoles on top of each other…yeah…lol. So make sure you actually remove your existing insole before inserting the new one 🙂
Despite doubling up on the insoles, my first wear trial went okay. I mostly just noticed that my shoe fit a bit more snug. I also felt a bit higher off the ground for obvious reasons, which caused a bit of discomfort in the soles of my feet in the last few miles. Clearly, wear trial #1 was not a good representation of the product’s performance, but wanted to include it because, well, it actually happened.
Wear Trials 2-7
The next wear trial, I thankfully realized my mistake and removed the current insole and slipped in the ADAPT Run insole only. For my second trial, I ran my usual 5 miles/8 kilometers while focusing intently on the feeling of my feet, my stride, and was on the lookout for any sort of discomfort. The insoles felt a bit cushy as if there was a layer of gel beneath my feet. As I continued to run, I barely noticed the insoles at all, but my feet felt comfortable and my stride felt strong. The insoles adapted immediately to my feet and I didn’t feel any sort of discomfort in the least. With each subsequent wear trial (3-7), my enjoyment increased. During wear trial 5, I switched back to the regular insoles and that’s when I noticed a big difference with the support. Within a few kilometers, I realized how much I missed my Superfeet—I got a taste of the good life and these old insoles just weren’t going to cut it now. I decided to also try the Superfeet insoles in a few other shoes including Under Armour’s Flow Velociti Wind and Under Armour’s Machinas and noticed the same thing: much more comfort and support while walking and running.
Since I don’t suffer from any pre-existing injuries or issues while running, I can’t speak to any resolutions in that regard, but from a performance and comfort perspective, the Superfeet ADAPT Run insoles definitely fit the bill. My feet were happy and they really did make my run much more comfortable.
Where to Buy and Price
Superfeet are sold online at superfeet.com and the ADAPT Run Insoles sell for $49.95 USD. Compared to custom-made orthotics, the price point is beyond fair. In terms of durability, you can use the same pair for up to 500 miles / 800 kilometers or 12 months (whichever comes first). If you rather purchase in-store, you can use Supefeet’s Store Locator.
Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by the product’s performance and loved the sleek, sexy design. While I didn’t have to make any sort of modifications, the instructions to customize/trim the insoles were straightforward. Don’t make the same mistake I did and insert the new insole on top of your existing insole or you’ll likely experience some discomfort. Lastly, I want to thank Superfeet for sending over a pair for me to test. Insoles are something I didn’t realize I needed (or wanted) until I tried them out. They did enhance my experience and are now going to be an integral part of my running gear arsenal.