The custom fit and heat mouldable Sole Sport Medium footbeds sit at a great price point and do an excellent job of supporting your feet for all-day comfort.
- Pros: Trim to any shoe shape, heat mouldable, odour control
- Cons: No ventilation, may be a little thick if you have 'tall' feet
I'll say it now – I've found custom footbeds to be a revelation. Having suffered in the past with hot spots and just plain sore feet on long rides, I bit the bullet and had some custom footbeds made a couple of years back, which eliminated all of the problems I was suffering (assuming the shoes were the correct size and fit).
The only downside is that I only have one set, as they were pretty expensive. I was interested then, to see how an off-the-shelf set at around a quarter of the price would fare, and if they would perform anywhere near as well.
Sole has a range of footbeds to suit a large range of applications, with these, the Sport, suited to... well, sports shoes of all types. There are five sizes available from XS to XL that cover shoe sizes 3.5 to 13, each covering two-and-a-half shoe sizes.
Made of layered foam of varying types depending on the model, and a wicking top sheet, the beds are firm but flexible and can be transferred between shoes. You pick the pack nearest to your shoe size and trim to suit as required. Sole recommends that you take the original insole and use that as a template to trim the new ones.
Once you have trimmed to fit comes the fun and slightly scary part – putting the footbeds in the oven to warm through enough to mould. I followed the instructions and put them in at 80 Celsius for two minutes; there is a heat-sensitive sticker which changes colour so you know when they are ready. In my case it was a little over the two minutes and I went by the sticker rather than the fixed time.
After carefully taking them out of the oven, you pop them into the shoes, put the shoes on and stand in a knees bent position to mould. Alternatively, you can just wear them out of the pack and they will mould over time, but it can take a week or more so the oven is far more efficient and will get you the benefits from the off.
Once you have trimmed and moulded them to your satisfaction – you can pop them back in the oven if not happy first time round – the immediate feel is great. From new, the arch support is quite high, with the idea being it will compress if needed, so from the first time of wearing they feel super-comfortable.
As mentioned, they are designed to be flexible which isn't relevant to cycling shoes, but the 1.6mm deep foam does provide a nice cushion which adds to comfort. In use, the now-moulded shape held my foot at the heel and supported the arch for a very natural feeling movement when pedalling, and stayed that way no matter how long I was riding, with no hot spots.
The only slight downside I found was that in this unusual hot spell my feet did get a bit hot as there are no ventilation holes in the footbeds (which most standard insoles will have, especially if the shoe has vents in the sole). This did highlight another feature, though: the Polygiene tech uses low concentrations of silver salt (silver chloride), which has antimicrobial properties, so despite sweaty feet, there was no associated smell. And there still isn't, weeks on.
Also, although it didn't affect me at all, another thing to note is the depth of the footbed – 1.6.mm doesn't sound much, but if you have a tall foot where there is slight pressure on the top of the foot to start with, these might make it worse, reducing space in the shoe. Sole does a range of thin footbeds which may be better for you.
In all, there really isn't much to dislike here. Ian tested the Active Thin footbeds with met pads and found they made little difference, but in his review admits he's never had trouble with hotspots when cycling; I'd say if you suffer from foot pain on the bike the Sole Sports are well worth trying to see if they can make a difference for you, especially for the price.
The added bonus is that they can be transferred between any shoes to see if they help in day-to-day stuff too.
If you try them and are sold on the idea you can always look at a professionally made pair of cycling-specific custom footbeds, but personally I think these are good enough for most and well worth a try.
If you want comfortable feet for all-day riding, these heat-mouldable footbeds could be a cheap and effective solution
road.cc test report
Make and model: Sole Men's Sport Medium Footbeds
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
A heat mouldable footbed designed to support the foot to your exact shape for more comfort and support.
Sole says, "Immediate step-in comfort and increased arch flexibility, engineered to enhance the athletic performance of footwear. This footbed is designed to work in concert with the biodynamics of the body by keeping it in a neutral balanced position and evenly distributing pressure to reduce foot fatigue. Features Polygiene® odor control technology and a moisture-wicking topsheet for all day comfort and confidence inspiring performance."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Trim to fit to your shoe size
Increased arch flexibility
Provides cushioned support
Reduces plantar fascia strain
Promotes natural foot alignment
Distributes weight and pressure equally
Heat and wear moldable for customized fit
DIMENSIONS (Size L Mens)
Width - Forefoot (approx.)
Men's 10 - 98mm
Women's 7 - 87mm
Length - Heel to toe (approx.)
Men's 10 - 290mm
Women's 7 - 245mm
They look well put together out of the packaging, and after many miles aren't showing any defects or separation.
Once moulded, they have made a big difference over the standard footbeds in my shoes, enhancing the comfort and stability of the foot on day long and multi-day rides.
So far, so good – a few hundred miles covered and a lot of it in the sweltering heat of our unusual summer and they haven't failed in any way. And they don't stink either!
As long as you get the relevant size pair for you, they are tailored to fit your shoe so you can't go wrong on the fit.
Each size pair has a range of shoe sizes that you trim to suit, so sizing is perfect.
They are nowhere near as light as a standard shoe footbed, but the standard ones aren't there to do a job other than line the shoe. For the function of these to work a little weight has to be expected, but in the grand scheme they add very little.
Excellent. Once trimmed and moulded they fit like a glove and in this medium compound, provide a nice level of cushioning too – more than suitable for hours on the bike.
For the benefits they bring they are a steal, especially when compared to a true custom-fit footbed which will cost at least three times as much again.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No washing, but after a month they are clean and smell free.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
When trimmed and moulded as per the instructions they performed excellently, cradling the foot and helping to prevent any hot-spots or arch pain on long rides.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The custom fit, and lack of smell.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Could use some ventilation holes for use with summer shoes.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
A cheap and effective way into custom footbeds, which can make a world of difference if you suffer with foot problems on the bike. A variety of sizes and types mean there is a set for pretty much everyone.
About the tester
I usually ride: Boardman AirPro Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives