The Benefits of Custom Insoles for Cycling Shoes
What many riders don't consider, is that much like running shoes, cycling shoes are not 'one-design-fits-all'. People's feet are notoriously personal features, with different widths, arches and volumes. The consequence of this, is that the structure and support that your shoes need to provide, should be tailored to the shape of your foot.
Perhaps people don't realise it, but professional riders will rarely be wearing off-the-shelf shoes. Most pro riders will have custom lasts (foot-beds) created for them, in order to provide maximum support for the shape of their foot. In particular, it is important to tailor the shoe shape around the ball of the foot, the arch, and on the heel; supporting the foot on the areas that move most when you push down on the pedals and put out the power.
Custom shoes for amateur cyclistsSome cycling shoe manufacturers (Bont shoes are a notable one) provide 'bake-your-own' technology. This is where you can put your riding shoes in your oven; warming up the resin in the carbon footbed, and allowing you to mould the footbed to the shape of your foot. This technology works well, and for some it will provide a huge increase in comfort and support.
However, many cycling shoe manufacturers don't offer 'back and mould' technology; equally some riders may find that the footbed still can't be manipulated enough to provide sufficient support. For these shoes from these manufacturers, and these individual cases, you want to consider custom support insoles...
Custom insoles for cycling shoesCustom insoles, from the likes of Superfeet, allow you to choose an arch, heel and volume support level that will provide a personalised fit to your shoes. Cycling shoes typically come with very simple and flat insoles, even from high end brands like Sidi; so adding a custom insole makes an incredible difference to the support profile.
With custom insoles, you select the arch support and volume that best caters to your foot's shape.
Picture this: when you pedal, and push down on the hard sole of your cycling shoe, the ball and heel of your foot squirms, and the arch of your foot tries to compress/collapse. By choosing an insole that supports the arch of your foot, takes up the excess space in the shoe (reduces excess volume), and supports your heel, you reduce this movement and subsequently increase power transfer and comfort.
Custom insoles will likely make your cycling shoes fit better, feel better and work better.
Sizing your custom cycling insolesFinally, it is worth commenting on how to choose the optimal profile of your custom insoles.
The volume level you select will depend on the available space within your shoe. If your shoes are tight over the top of your instep, then you're not going to have room for a high volume insole.
Equally, if there is not that much support/height around the heel, then you're going to want to choose a lower volume option. Select the volume of insole that provides the best balance between reducing excess room within the shoe, and not making it too tight or restrictive (you should still be able to wiggle your toes, and feel that your heel is stable).
Choose the arch support level that reflects your foot shape - if you have a high arch (under-pronator) then opt for a higher support; if you are flat-footed (over-pronator) opt for a lower support arch. A 'Wet Foot Test' like the one below, will tell you what kind of arch you have.
ConclusionThe benefits of custom insoles for cycling shoes are significant. An insole that provides optimal support for your foot, will provide better comfort, power transfer and efficiency.
I've converted to using Superfeet insoles in all of my riding shoes now, and can't see that I'll ever be able to revert back to just using the flat insoles that normally come in cycling shoes.