My feet must hate me. I expect them to behave in high-heels at work, strut me around in my boots, push me faster in my running shoes, pedal powerfully on my bike, absorb shock when cross training, and provide stability during heavy weightlifting. Truly, they take a beating. To assist with my ventures, I have a closet full of shoes, each specialized for one of these activities. I wouldn’t doubt that I house $1000 worth of shoes…and I’m not the exception.
From my tallest, sleekest pair of heels to my flip flops, we know that every shoe is made differently, with different specifications, and with a specific purpose. But what you may not think about is that, even if you own the most expensive, lightest carbon cycling shoes, or the best weightlifting shoes on the market, you are still cramming your feet into something made for a larger market. Why have we come to assume that a shoe size completes the fitting process, and the rest is one-size-fits-all?
Hoping for answers to foot pain and consistent cramping, last week I had an appointment with Tad Hughes Custom Fit Studio, a local bike fitter and custom footbed retailer, to analyze my feet and try out some custom Footbalance custom footbeds to supplement my shoes.
I was greeted by Nick, the footbed biomechanics guru. After listening to an explanation of my needs and current complaints, he measured my feet and showed me the different types of footbeds for different types of activities – running, cycling, or cross training. They even have one for “every day” or dress shoes. The photo above is actually a variety of “QuickFit” footbeds – they are a “half-custom” option.
Next, he set me up on this machine (it’s called a podoscope) which literally scans your feet and maps out pressure points based on how you naturally stand and “load” your feet when squatting. Evidently I “pronate list a beast” (thanks Nick). After evaluating my computerized foot analysis, Nick decided on the “max” footbed option for me, because it has added stiffness to support “high-impact activities” such as Crossfit as well as running. The machine then heats the footbeds, allowing them to be hand-molded one-by-one. At Nick’s instruction, I stepped, flexed, and rolled my feet into them so that they formed to the shape of my foot.
Once the footbeds had cooled (like one minute later), he cut them to fit my foot and shoe size, and we replaced the inserts that came with my shoes. I actually brought two pairs of shoes with me – my Asics running shoes, and my Reebok Crossfit Nano Speeds. The footbeds are really easy to transfer from one pair of shoes to another, and Nick had me spend some time moving around in each so that I could see how it felt. As a bonus, he even showed me how to lace my running shoes with a “runner’s hitch” for added heel stability. I can’t believe I had never heard of that before!
Nick forewarned me that there is a slight break-in process for the footbeds, and initially it did feel like there was a little “bump” or rock near the back of the arch of my foot. Evidently this is completely normal, and that little pocket helps with blood flow and foot stability. As I am writing this now, on Day 10 of my wearing these footbeds, I don’t even notice it (and it has probably gotten a little more subtle after break-in).
I was so excited about my new custom footbeds that I went straight from the studio to my old crossfit gym down the street and dropped in for the WOD. What were the main two moves? Kettlebell swings and running! The perfect test…. Kettlebell swings can make my feet cramp since as I get more tired, I don’t keep my weight in my heels and my toes end up curling. And then running – what better measure of comfort? Plus, I could jump-start the “breaking in” process.
13 minutes later and voila! No cramping! Of course, that was Day 1, and I was not going to write any sort of review based on one workout. However, a week and a half later, I have completed six crossfit WODs and two trail runs with these footbeds (in both my crossfit and running shoes). My only complaint has been after my first long run – one of my feet got a little blister from rubbing on the new footbed. But that was on Day 3, and now on Day 10, it is no longer an issue.
Isn’t it funny how we spend so much money on sport-specific shoes, but never think that maybe we should take the step (no pun intended) to “customize” the experience from shoe to shoe with custom footbeds? The footbeds I have now work for basically any tennis shoe – and I can see the value in investing in future pairs for my work shoes and cycling. My feet are happy!
But… what am I most excited for? THIS. THC got to test out these Footbalance custom sandals before they will hit stores– a custom footbed and shoe in one! Flip flops are the WORST for my feet since they traditionally have NO support…. These are perfect! Put me on the wait list! :)
Crossfitters, runners, cyclists, walkers, hikers…. anyone with two feet. I strongly recommend investing in a pair of these. You won’t regret it!