Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SofSoles - The Secret To My Success

I have had this post written in my head for a long time, and despite the temptation to write it prior to the marathon, I just coun't bring myself to do it. I am THAT superstitious.

As many people, including myself, have wondered, how was it possible for me to progress so quickly back into marathon type training, after being sidelined with plantar fasciitis for nearly a month? Well my friends, it is time to let the cat out of the bag. I first heard of SofSole after Ray's review and instantly a lightbulb went off in my head that it seemed like a neat product to consider using. Of course, at the time I wasn't injured and frantically searching for a solution to get me back on the road. Then, Bill posted a similar review, in which he specifically mentioned how their product may have helped him alleviate some IT band/plantar fasciitis issues he was having. Bingo! You see, when I read Bill's post, I was injured, so that set in motion a very important set of actions. I was going through PT at the time, but for some reason unbeknownst to me, orthotics didn't want to make their way to my PT's office as quickly as I needed them. So, the following took place:

1) Comment on Bill's blog to ask for more details about his experience with their products
2) Consider my options of using SofSoles or waiting on my PT to order the orthotics that I had been asking about since the first day I started PT, since I knew they'd recommend them for me
3) Receive email from SofSole asking if I'd like to try out and review some of their products
4) Respond as quickly as possible by trying to reach my hand through the Internet to get SofSole to send their products to me
5) Receive SofSole products and begin using them

Let me back up for a moment first. Having read both Ray's and Bill's posts, I was particularly interested in the heat moldable Adapt model, which you bake in the oven and the insert molds to your foot by putting the insert into your shoe and standing tall for a couple of minutes while they shape to the contours of your foot. Since I knew I'd needed some type of orthotic, I figured these might be the best option for me. So I specifically requested those inserts, along with any other products they would like for me to review. SofSole also sent along their Athlete model insert, and a pair of their Anti-Friction socks.

I will review each of these items individually below:

SofSole Adapt
Within seconds of receiving the package in the mail, I was preheating my oven to bake those bad boys in the hopes of going on my 4 mile run the next morning to test them out (just ask Rebecca to recap the giddiness in my eyes as I tore open the box). A few minutes later, and I had myself some custom molded inserts. The next day, I rolled out of bed for a nice 4 mile run.

It was at this point in my recovery that I had literally just started to run again. Based on my workout log, I had just run my first 3 runs post injury, with 2 miles being the longest run. Everything felt great on my first 4 miler - no plantar fasciitis pain or nothing! That week alone, I was able to increase my mileage to about 20 miles for the week, a significant jump from almost nothing the week before. Toward the end of my week, I went for my longest run since my recovery - 13 miles. My foot felt a little sore, but not from any plantar fasciitis pain. After a few more runs that next week and still the sore feeling, I decided that the Adapt insole may be a bit too stiff for my foot.

Bottom Line
As a whole, these are drastically improved inserts over the basic inserts that come in your shoes. They kept my foot stable and secure in the shoe, reducing the potential for overpronation, which tends to cause lots of lower leg injuries. I wear a size 10 and the Medium size insert they sent me required no trimming and fit perfectly into my running shoes.

While I never experienced any pains that had left me unable to run, the stiffness of the insert did have me feeling a bit sore. As they state on their website, this insole offers the max in the cushioning department. For me, it was a bit too much. I put about 50 miles on these before I experienced any discomfort, so they worked well for a while and kept me injury free. However, since I am a lighter runner, I think there was just too much cushion for the pushin. I would imagine these would work best with larger athletes needing max cushioning, but also a customized shoe insert.

After putting nearly 50 miles on my legs, I started to have more confidence that whatever I was doing was working. I decided to give the SofSole Athlete inserts a try. While they are not custom moldable to the foot like the Adapt, they felt much softer, and they have gel inserts in the heel and forefoot, exactly where my plantar fasciitis pain was being caused. So I figured these inserts might be good for me with that extra cushioning where I needed it most. Off the bat, I ran a 6 mile tempo run, which happened to be on the schedule that day. Everything felt great. The soreness I had from the Adapt inserts was gone and my feet felt fresh after the run. As it turned out, I would continue to use the Athlete insert for the majority of the miles left in my marathon training.

As a side note, my PT finally got my insoles in their office and I rushed over to get them and ask a million questions about how quickly I can break them in, when I can/cannot run in them, etc. Sure enough, they told me that putting serious marathon type miles on my orthotics so quickly would likely result in injury, because orthotics typically have a 2-4 week break-in period. I needed to run long NOW.

I continued my marathon build by using the SofSole Athlete inserts for all my longer runs, which was basically anything over 8 miles. I wanted to break in my orthotics as well, so I took the orthotics for a spin on my shorter runs. While I can't compare my true orthotics and the Athlete inserts, since the orthotics are made to my foot, I can say that the Athlete inserts provide cushioning and support where it is needed most. As evidence of that, I ran the National Marathon this past weekend in them! I finished the race without any foot pain and my legs feeling relatively fresh for having just run a marathon. Only a day after the marathon, I felt like I was ready to start running again. Was it a function of the insoles? I'm not sure. But the end result is that I finished the race injury free and feeling great.

Bottom Line
I think any runner should have these inserts in their shoes. I dare you to pull out the footbed of your current running shoe and hold it straight out by the heel cup with one hand and watch it sag to the ground. I tried this will all of my running shoes (about 4 different shoes) and all of the footbeds become paper thin after as little as 50 miles and when you hold them out like this, the front toe area droops down. Now try to the same thing with one of the SofSole products. The first thing you'll notice is that they are much thicker firmer, giving you the support your foot needs to put up serious mileage. I've put a total of about 175 miles on the same pair of SofSole Athlete inserts and they still feel great. A definite must have for any runner.

SofSole AntiFriction Sock

The other item sent to me was SofSole's anti friction sock. The sock is designed to limit motion of the sock on the foot, limiting the ability of blisters and other fun stuff that can happen to your feet while logging serious miles. The socks have strips of cushioning along the bottom, which help provide a soft feel for any type of activity. I used these socks as my weekday running sock. By that, I mean that I used them primarily to run distances ranging from 3 - 10 miles. When it comes to the longer distance stuff, I have a very select few socks that I consider worthy enough to carry my through longer runs. More specifically, the socks I use for longer runs are the ones that don't tear my feet up or cause any blisters. I tried using the Anti Friction Socks on one longer run and although my foot remained pain free and blister free on the bottoms of my feet where the cushioning strips are, my toes did get a few minor blisters.

Bottom Line
For the average runner, these socks are great. They wick sweat away, keeping your feet nice and dry. They are also a low profile cut, which is a design I prefer, rather than something that goes up and over the ankle. For anything less than 10 miles, I've had great success running pain free and blister free with these socks. I'd recommend these socks to anyone who runs within those distance ranges. For more serious runners going the full distance, I'd recommend trying their other socks, like the Cushion model, which likely will give you the durability your feet need to carry you longer distances.

I'd like to thank SofSole for letting me sample and review their products. Were it not for them, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to run the marathon. For that, I am ever greatful. I am looking forward to continuing to using their products, specifically their Athlete inserts, as they seem to provide the exact support I need for long distance running.

If you have any questions about any of these products, drop my a comment and I'd be happy to provide additional details.


Rebecca said...

and this is exactly why we have a pile of various insoles on our kitchen floor...

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