Often overlooked, insoles provide a crucial role supporting your feet. More than comfort, insoles also hold your feet in an optimal position and provide added stability on rougher terrain. As someone who never gave much thought to insoles until recently, the chance to test out Solestar’s performance insoles has opened my eyes.
Solestar are a German company who have made their name designing insoles for professional cyclists and who have now branched out to hiking insoles.
It turns out there’s much more to insoles than meets the eye. Boots and trail shoes are typically sold with standard cushioned insoles that provide comfort but not much in the way of support. They don’t last for long and soon become worn, thin and shapeless. Go on, remove a pair of normal insoles to see what I mean … or take a look at a pair from some of my old trail shoes below. Yuck!
By comparison, Solestar’s insoles are stiffened by glass fibre which gives them rigidity from just behind the toes right back to the heel. This glass fibre core is designed to hold your feet in a neutral position, giving stability and comfort. They have a distinctive high arch especially designed to counter flat foot and give strong arch support. The sole does have a little cushioning, made from an antibacterial and breathable material, but the overall impression is of a much stiffer insole than most people will be used to.
Solestar advise that it can take up to three training sessions for your feet to become used to the new insoles. I spent a couple of months with them in two different pairs of trail shoes first of all, just getting used to how they felt.
What was immediately evident was the additional stability that these insoles give you. Even just walking around city streets I felt that my feet were being ‘held in position’ much more than with conventional insoles. The rigidity gives added stability and confidence in placing your feet. It did take a while to get used them, particularly the high instep arch, but I found them comfortable to wear in my old Inov8 trail shoes.
It was a different matter in the new Salomon trail shoes I’d just bought, however. These were a fraction smaller, fitted more tightly and hadn’t yet loosened up with wear. I soon found that they lacked sufficient space for the additional volume that the Solestar insoles require, and the Solestars made them just too tight to wear. No amount of adjustments to the lacing made any difference. If you’re looking to buy a new pair of shoes or boots to use with Solestar insoles I therefore suggest you take the insoles into the shop with you to make sure they’re a good fit in combination.
Having got used to wearing the insoles in my old Inov8 trail shoes the next step was to use them in my walking boots. I tried them first on a day walk up a Corbett in the Cairngorms on a mix of well-constructed tracks as well as rougher, muddier paths. While at first I noticed the glass fibre core giving extra stability I soon felt the high arch digging in to my right foot. After persevering for a while my foot became very painful and I had to remove the insoles.
Everyone’s feet are different (I may be flat-footed, for example) and I can only put this down to the shape of my right foot in combination with my walking boot. The left foot remained comfortable, and I’d already found both insoles to be comfortable in my old trail shoes. I was disappointed that the Solestars didn’t suit my walking boots but have since been using them with my trail shoes without a re-occurrence of the issue.
Given my experience I have to recommend anyone interested in buying Solestars try them out first with the shoes or boots you intend to use them with. As Solestar themselves say, given the way the stiff insoles affect your muscles and movements, it’s advisable to use them for a few training sessions to get used to them. Although you can only buy them online at present, the good news is that Solestar give a six week money back guarantee – even in a used condition. My advice is to focus on the footwear and insoles in combination rather than buy separately.
The wider point is that it’s worth looking into insoles. By holding your feet in a neutral position they give your feet added support. Conventional padded insoles soon wear out, and well-constructed insoles could give additional benefit over a longer period.
What I liked:
- Stiffened design that gives additional stability and confidence
- Breathable and antimicrobial resistant materials
- Six week money back guarantee – in any condition
What I wasn’t so keen on:
- High instep arch may not suit everyone’s feet
- The additional volume of these insoles may make already tight-fitting shoes/boots too small to wear
Solestar insoles are currently available online only. They’re available in UK sizes 6 to 13.5 (European 38 to 48) and sell for 79 Euro (approximately £68).
Note: The insoles were provided to me to review for free by Solestar. I have no connection with the company. I have provided an honest and impartial review based on my personal experience in using it.