ProView – SOLE Men’s Performance Thin
As a career outdoor instructor in many disciplines, one of my favorite refrains is “feet are group gear”. Taking care of your feet is vital to being a successful expedition member and just as vital to being a successful and healthy recreationalist. I’m a big proponent of aftermarket insoles as a way to treat your feet right and so was excited to test the SOLE performance thin insoles in ski touring boots and mountaineering boots
This fall and winter I put some time in on the performance thins. I went on quick after-work ski tours in the Wasatch, all-day ski mountaineering slogs on the Pfeferhorn, evening ridgeline scrambles on Mt. Superior, and some long hikes.
SOLE Men's Performance Thin
Product Description: This footbed features SOLE's trusted customizable support, the addition of Polygiene® odor control technology, a moisture-wicking topsheet, high volume Softec cushioning and an eco-friendly 100% recycled cork base. With thick cushioning, these footbeds are perfect for loosely fitting footwear such as work boots, hiking boots, running shoes and footwear with removable insoles.
Offer price: MSRP: $59.00
Lightweight low volume inserts for your tight-fitting footwear that promote natural foot alignment and arch support for your adventures. SOLE’s website says: “With no cushioning, these footbeds are perfect for tightly-fitting footwear such as cleats, ski boots and running shoes.”
- Arch support
- Lateral stability
- Heat moldable
- Too wide for ski boots
- Hard to fit to arch without trying on first
SOLE is a footwear and insole company based in Canada. Founded in 2001 around the idea that any company can be focused on making a positive impact on people’s lives. They pursue this through sustainability initiatives like using recycled wine corks in production and offsetting their carbon footprint by planting cork trees. I personally admire the action-based approach they take when it comes to their company values. It’s refreshing to see a company put effort into “walking the walk”.
I was asked to review these insoles in both ski boots and mountaineering boots which presented some challenges. Right off the bat, you should know that the 3/5 score for fit is related to using these in ski boots. As I was unboxing them, I immediately started comparing their sizing to my already well used ski boot insoles and knew that I would have to do some trimming. I wanted to give the SOLES a fair shot without comparing them to a different product so I followed their sizing directions precisely. After giving them an initial trim to fit inside my ski boot liner length wise I noticed that they were slightly wider than the base of the liner for the entire length of the insole. I wasn’t sure how this would play out once I introduced my foot. At first I thought it might end up introducing more room (and comfort) in the boot. I found this hypothesis to be untrue. They were wide enough at the heel cup that it actually took up extra room in the boot. In the transition from the heel cup to the mid foot it was very difficult to trim and this area ended folding up inside the boot taking up even more space. I ended up having to take a belt sander to them and still wasn’t able to completely fix this situation. (Notice in the photo how different the heel cup shape is as compared to the other insole).
For context, I was using the insoles in the 2018/19 Dynafit Hoji Pro, which has a last width of 103 mm (pretty wide!). For this reason, I cannot recommend these insoles for use in ski boots. If SOLE wants to contend seriously in the ski boot realm, it should consider offering an insole with a more svelte heel cup and midfoot.
After molding them I encountered another fit issue. The arch of the insole was too far back and created a pressure point halfway across my arch. Just to be safe I took them on a few ski tours in the hopes that my feet would adjust to the new shape, but it never got more comfortable. In fact it resulted in some of the most intense foot cramps I’ve ever had! To be fair, that’s not necessarily SOLE’s fault (I wasn’t able to try any on before ordering them, and every foot is different!). Additionally, when I contacted them with this issue, their customer service was awesome and they sent me another pair in a bigger size. After trimming, the larger size’s arch was better placed for my foot. Even with the proper arch placement and trimming, it still just wasn’t a good fit for my ski boots. So, (deep breath) that’s what I have to say about that.
In my mountaineering boots (Scarpa Kodiak’s) they fit great, and felt great, and all was hunky dory. In fact I actually enjoyed the fit better than previous insoles. The caveat to that is I would prefer some more cushion for mountain clomping. So, unless I wanted a very tight precise fit to increase sensitivity in climbing, for example, or I had really high volume feet, I would go with the medium or thick version of this insole for mountaineering purposes.
These insoles have a few notable features that set them apart from other options. Most notable to me is that they are made with recycled wine corks. Combined with the fact the cork itself is already sustainably harvested from the bark of cork oak trees; these are some low environmental impact insoles. The ability to heat mold these insoles to your feet easily and safely in your home oven is a huge pro, and the “Polygiene” odor control technology seemed to work well, and if it didn’t, I would know.
I had great success following the directions that come with the insoles and are featured on SOLE’s website. The only variation that I experienced was needing to leave them in the oven for 3-4 minutes rather than 2 minutes.
The Final Word
Ultimately, I found the Performance Thin Insole to be a great option for improving your foot health and comfort in mountaineering and hiking boots. However, I can’t recommend them as a good solution for ski boot insoles due to their width and heel cup shape. I would have less of a hang-up about this if the company wasn’t recommending them for this purpose.