Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sof Sole: Airr Orthotic Performance Insole Review

Image Credit: Sof Sole
If you’re not familiar with Sof Sole, well you’re not alone. I found out about Sof Sole few weeks ago in my search for insoles (inserts) that would help alleviate the injury I sustained while training for my ½ Marathon. I’ve been dealing with some minor injury on the bottom of my right heel and this is an on and off pain during my runs. I have to endure this pain for the first two miles then it will miraculously go away once I warmed up, but then it will hit me again after 10 miles or so. I’m not really sure what causing the pain but before I see a podiatrist, which might cost me a fortune, I decided to try some less pricey option. So to give you a quick introduction, Sof Sole is part of Implus Footcare, a company based in Durham NC and has been in the market since 1991, becoming a worldwide leader in footwear accessories. Not only they carry insoles but also socks and shoe care products for anything ranging from everyday needs to high impact performance activities. Their insoles are categorized in 3 series based on comfort and support:

Fit: designed for arch supports
Performance: maximum cushioned insoles for high impact activities
Lifestyle: gel insoles for targeted relief

Since I’m actually looking for insoles that will help me during my runs and my day to day activities, I picked the Performance series insoles. I reached out to Sof Sole and they sent me a pair of Airr Orthotic Performance Insole to test in exchange for a review. The Airr Orthotic is ideal for flat to normal arch, designed for motion control and support with maximum shock absorption. So let’s take a closer look and see what it’s made of.

Structural Components
Image Credit: Sof Sole
The outside packaging itself was well built and I can tell that they really put some good thought on how they would present these to the consumers. They included a quick guide to what these insoles are made for; the level of cushioning and the type of arch it is designed to support. So let’s dissect it from top to bottom. The top fabric is made of COOLMAX material designed to wick away moisture and Microban to prevent odor causing bacteria. The middle portion is made of polyurethane gel designed for full comfort. The bottom part is made of three distinct parts; 1. Nylon plate to support the mid foot 2. Extra gel to cushion the forefoot and 3. A semi-soft gel called Skydex, designed to convert the impact into kinetic energy. The picture on the right is an image that shows the structural layers better than I can describe it.

Fit and Functionality
I wear a size 10 shoes and they fit perfectly on all my running and casual shoes, it is cut perfectly and true to its size. The insoles are 5/16 of an inch thick at the heel and ¼ of an inch thick at the ball of the foot and toe region. The insoles in my running shoes are awesome and built accordingly to how the shoes would function, but those insoles tend to wear out as well (sometimes faster than the shoes). The insoles do take a lot of beatings from my day to day activities and much more when I’m running. You can just imagine the amount of pressure (in terms of weight) applied to those insoles so it does take a lot of load to support my body.

Encapsulated Air Chamber located at the heel
I’m basically heel striking when running and these insoles surely minimize the impact of my landing. The encapsulated air chambers, which is about an inch in diameter, located on the heel portion of the insoles create a small bump that protrudes. Initially, I thought this will be an issue for hot spots and uneven feel, but that were not the case. The encapsulated air chambers are designed to catch the heels on impact to lessen the blow and according to Sof Sole that it helps to convert the impact into kinetic energy to give you that rebound on the take-off. I felt this during my runs but not so much on my regular activities like walking, which makes sense since there’s not a lot of downward energy. The insoles have the grooves that secure and hugs my heel into place giving me the support under the arch. There’s a lot flexibility on the forefoot and toe region area but not so much on the mid-foot due to the nylon plate construction. I don’t see this as an issue since the foot bends naturally on the forefoot anyhow. I’ve tried these insoles on my short and easy runs of 5 miles and they were ok. However, in comparing these with my regular insoles that came with my shoes, they’re a bit heavier and I can even feel it just by weighing them on my hands. So this might not be a good choice when running my long distances.

My Verdict
This is the first time I’ve used insoles other than the one that came with my shoes and to be honest, it is really tough to review. I never had the chance to compare this with other products so I’ll just base my fair and honest assessment on “if it met my needs”. As I mentioned earlier, my quest for insoles is to alleviate the pain I’m having on my right heel. I have to say that it does, but not the magical solution that the pain just  went away. The pain is still there but it’s more manageable and tolerable now. This really helps me get by on those days that I needed to train. Any little help that I can get is better than nothing. This might not be the case for some so please make a good judgment for yourself. If the pain is excruciating and constantly bothering you, I suggest that you see a podiatrist and have it check. But for minor situation like mine, this is one less pricey option that I am willing to take. These insoles are designed to help us get back on track, so don’t let this be a crutch and rely on this totally. Once you feel that you’re back to normal, I suggest that you ease on using them.

The Airr Orthotic Performance Insoles sell for $29.99 and you can purchase it directly on their website and retail stores around the nation. You can also go to Amazon and probably get them cheaper and save you some bucks. Sof Sole stands behind their products and they have a one year guarantee against manufacturer defects. If by any chance that you are not satisfied with  their product, they have a 30-day money back guarantee for a complete refund.

Give it a shot and let me know what you think. I love to hear your feedback so feel free to post comments or questions below.

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