How to Choose the Best Cycling Insoles

by | Dec 5, 2023

When was the last time you thought about your insole let alone what would be the best cycling insole for you? Take a minute. Right now. Go over and extract an insole from your favorite cycling shoe and examine it.  For most cyclists, you’ll notice that stock insoles that come with cycling shoes are often cheap, flimsy, and provide minimal support. Below is a video example of a common stock cycling insole:

Based on the insubstantial nature of a stock insole, perhaps you’ve experienced pain, numbness, discomfort, or you don’t feel like the power you produce is going directly from your foot through to the pedal. After reading this article, you’ll begin to understand the incredible value of replacing your cycling insole and we’ll help you understand how to select the best ones.  

Why Cycling Insoles Matter  

  • Enhancing Comfort: There’s an odd, antiquated belief in cycling that is best portrayed by the character Dalton, played by the late Patrick Swayze, “Pain don’t hurt.” While cycling has thankfully evolved, there are circles who downplay pain in cycling as just part of being strong and overcoming it. Physical exertion is hard and it should be whether you are climbing mountains, traversing trails, or hitting top speeds but pain caused by discomfort ruins the cycling experience and can potentially be dangerous. Cycling shoe discomfort can lead to hot spots, numbness, and even injuries. High-quality insoles, specifically ones that work best with your unique anatomy provide an extra layer of cushioning and support, reduce discomfort, and allow you to focus on what you truly enjoy–the ride.    
  • Improving Performance: The right cycling insoles can enhance your power transfer, helping you pedal more efficiently. They reduce the loss of energy through the shoe, ensuring that every ounce of your effort propels you forward. This is achieved through a combination of structural support and neurological messaging.  The structural support provided by a good quality insole is probably obvious, but less obvious and more important is the role an insole plays in communicating to your brain and central nervous system where the feet are in space during the pedal circle. This is known as proprioception. Without the ground force impact of walking and running, the cycling “gait” can leave the brain unsure of where the feet are, muting the commands for force generation. A good insole provides positive neurological feedback to the brain, promoting strong force generation. 
  • Addressing Foot Issues: If you have specific foot issues such as overpronation, supination, or arch problems, cycling insoles can provide the necessary support and correction, allowing you to ride without pain or discomfort.  
  • Overpronation Correction: Overpronation, where the foot rolls excessively inward, can lead to knee pain, hip discomfort, and other issues. Specialized insoles can provide the necessary corrective support to alleviate overpronation and reduce the risk of related injuries. 
  • Supination Support: For cyclists with high arches and supination (outward rolling of the foot), insoles can provide the needed cushioning and support to minimize discomfort and enhance stability. 
  • Arch Condition Management: If you have pre-existing foot conditions, such as fallen arches or plantar fasciitis, cycling insoles can play a pivotal role in managing these conditions, allowing you to ride with reduced discomfort and risk of exacerbation. 
  • Neurological Conditions: If you suffer from neuropathy or a Morton’s Neuroma, the right insole and appropriate use of a metatarsal pad can help provide relief, enabling you to continue riding. 

How to Choose the Best Cycling Insoles  

When it comes to choosing the best cycling insoles for you, it’s essential to consider various factors that align with your unique needs and riding style. 

Consider Your Riding Style

Different cycling disciplines demand specific features from your insoles. Understanding your riding style is the first step in choosing the right insoles: 

  • Road Cyclists: Road cyclists benefit from insoles that prioritize power transfer and support for sustained pedaling. Look for insoles designed to enhance efficiency and reduce fatigue during long rides. 
  • Mountain Bikers: Mountain biking often involves rugged terrain and varying foot positions. Insoles with excellent shock absorption and stability are ideal for off-road enthusiasts. 
  • Commuters and long-distance tourers: Commuters value comfort and versatility. Insoles that provide all-day support and cushioning are essential for those who use their bikes for daily transportation. 

Arch Support and Footbed Shape

Understanding your foot’s arch type is critical for selecting the right insoles: 

  • Medial Arch: If you have a pronounced medial arch (the inner arch of your foot), you’ll benefit from insoles that offer substantial arch support. This support helps maintain proper alignment and reduces the risk of overpronation. This is the most visible foot arch, and in layman’s terms may be described as high, medium, low or flat. 
  • Transverse Arch: The transverse arch, which runs across the middle of your foot, plays a crucial role in stability. Insoles that provide support in this area enhance stability and reduce foot fatigue. 
  • Lateral Arch: Adequate support for the lateral arch (the smallest arch along the outside of the foot) helps maintain proper alignment during pedaling, contributing to an efficient pedal stroke. 
Overview of the different types of arches of the foot

Arches of the Foot. Photo Courtesy of Teach Me Anatomy

Sizing and Compatibility

Insoles must fit your cycling shoes perfectly to be effective. Pay attention to sizing and compatibility: 

  • Shoe Size: Ensure that the insoles you choose match your shoe size accurately. Ill-fitting insoles can cause discomfort and affect your riding experience. Off-the-shelf and semi-custom insoles can usually be trimmed down to fit the shape of the shoe, whereas custom orthotics cannot. How much volume an insole takes up will also affect the fit of the shoe.  Insoles designed for other types of footwear may take up too much space in a cycling shoe. 
  • Shoe Type: Different cycling shoe types (road, mountain, touring, etc.) may require specific insoles for the best fit and performance. Check compatibility with your shoe type. 

Types of Cycling Insoles 

Cycling insoles come in various types, each crafted from specific materials, and each offering distinct benefits that cater to different riders and riding conditions. Understanding these insole types is essential for making an informed choice but it’s important to note that materials alone do not make a great insole. A combination of functionality, material, purpose, and design will provide the best results.  To further classify the insoles, we’ll break them into 3 main categories and then discuss the materials used: off-the-shelf, semi-custom, and custom. 

Off The Shelf 

  • Off-the-shelf cycling insoles are readily available and more budget-friendly. They can provide good support for many riders, especially if you don’t have specific foot issues. In most cases, these will be better than the standard stock insoles regardless of the cost of your cycling shoes. 
  • Example Brands: Superfeet, Solestar, Curex, BGFit by Specialized, and Bontrager by Trek. 

Off-the-shelf insoles and information about materials selected for their design:

EVA Foam or Memory Foam Insoles: Foam insoles are lightweight and offer decent cushioning. Most insoles on the market use some combination of foam as part of their anatomy.  Foam comes in different thicknesses and hardnesses so it’s almost impossible to judge an insole by the material alone.   

Cork: Carbon-negative insoles that mold to your feet through wearThey are naturally shock-absorbing, antimicrobial, and insulating. 

Sole Performance Thin Cork Cycling Insole

Carbon Fiber Insoles: Carbon fiber insoles are known for their stiffness and efficient power transfer.  They are favored by competitive road cyclists who prioritize performance. 

Solestar BLK Cycling Insoles

Gel Insoles: Gel insoles provide excellent shock absorption, making them suitable for riders who encounter rough terrain or have joint issues.  Many of these like Dr. Scholl’s are cheap and may not be the best solution. 

Sidas Gel Cushioning Cycling Insole

Plastic or Thermoplastics: They are lightweight and flexible but strong at the same time which helps tremendously for cyclists traveling thousands of miles.  Usually this material is combined with others in cycling insole design.

  • Example: Ergon IP3 Solestar – $59.95.  These specifically are a combination of materials including thermoplastics, fiberglass, eva foam and mesh.

Ergon IP3 solestar cycling insoles

 

Semi-Custom Insoles and Modular Insoles

This category provides some customization such as different arch heights, heat moldability, or add-ons to the insole to provide unique customization without paying the full price for custom insoles. 

Heat-moldable insoles conform to the unique shape of your feet, providing a customized fit for enhanced comfort.  These are semi-custom insoles, not full custom as their marketing may imply. Heat moldable insoles may simply lock the cyclist into maintaining poor foot posture unless there is an active process to establish a neutral foot and positive posture during the molding phase.  Below are a few examples:

  • Lake Raven Custom Insole – 84.99. The semi-customization of this insole involves placing the insole in the oven, then returning it to the shoe, tightening up the shoe, and finally waiting for the insole to mold to the contours of your unique foot. 

Lake Raven Carbon Cycling Insole

Retul Custom Footbeds – $160 – $180.  With this semi-custom insole (again it’s a misnomer and incorrect depiction to name it fully custom), there’s a slightly different process.  Retul uses a “molding tray” to outline the contours of the cyclist’s feet, then they use blank insoles and a heat gun to mold the flat insole to the curvature of your foot. 

Retul Cycling Footbeds and the custom creation processs

Modular Insoles (Semi-custom): These insoles offer options for individuals to choose between different arch heights or support for certain foot shapes. 

G8 Performance 2620 Pro Series Insoles L1 Arch View

Custom Insoles / Custom Orthotic Insoles

If you have unique foot characteristics or specific issues that require tailored support, custom insoles or orthotics may be your best bet. These are crafted based on a detailed analysis of your foot shape and gait by a medical professional such as a podiatrist or pedorthist. It’s important to note that custom insoles are much more expensive than other insole options, are often of very rigid material, are rarely made for use in low-volume cycling shoes, and may not fit in them very well. It’s also important to note that some insoles proclaim to be custom when they are in fact heat-moldable, and so are a type of semi-custom insole. The price of custom cycling insoles usually starts around $200 but can cost much more. 

Custom Orthotic creation process at The Us Orthotic Center

Custom Orthotic creation process at The US Orthotic Center – Photo, US Orthotic Center

Enhancements and Modifications  

Cycling insoles offer a level of customization that goes beyond their base materials and design. These enhancements and modifications can further tailor your insoles to match your unique needs and improve your cycling experience.  It’s extremely important to note that working with a professional bike fitter removes some of the trial and error from this equation as they can substantially help make proper recommendations based on vast experience with foot shapes, foot analysis and cycling analysis.   

Metatarsal Pads 

G8 Metdomes Metatarsal dome pads

G8 MetDomes

Function: Metatarsal pads, also known as met pads, are cushioned inserts placed slightly behind the ball of your foot. They provide targeted support to the metatarsal bones to lift and separate the bones so that the related nerves do not get pinched. 

Advantages: 

  • Pressure Relief: Metatarsal pads distribute pressure away from the metatarsal heads, reducing discomfort and the risk of developing hot spots or pain in the ball of your foot. 
  • Improved Comfort: These pads can enhance comfort, especially during longer rides when pressure on the forefoot can become more pronounced. 

Ideal for: Metatarsal pads are beneficial for riders who experience ball-of-foot pain or discomfort, which can often result from prolonged pressure on the metatarsal heads. 

In-Shoe Wedges 

Function: In-shoe wedges are inserts placed beneath the insole to adjust the angle of the foot within the shoe. They can correct alignment issues and optimize pedaling efficiency.  In shoe wedges can be deployed under the forefoot, heel or both. 

Advantages: 

  • Alignment Correction: In-shoe wedges are used to address alignment problems such as pronation (inward rolling of the foot) or supination (outward rolling of the foot). By adjusting the angle, they promote proper foot alignment. 
  • Reduced Fatigue: Correcting alignment issues with in-shoe wedges can help reduce muscle fatigue, discomfort, and the risk of overuse injuries. 
  • Pressure distribution: In Shoe wedges work to help to both support the alignment of the foot in the shoe and distribute pressure so that force transfer is more immediately transmitted through the shoe to the pedal. 

Ideal for: Riders with specific alignment issues, such as those related to their gait or foot mechanics, can benefit from in-shoe wedges. These wedges optimize foot positioning for a more efficient pedal stroke. 

Orthopedic Adjustments 

Function: Orthopedic adjustments refer to customized modifications made to insoles to address specific foot conditions or abnormalities.  It’s important to note these should be performed by a professional bike fitter, physical therapist, pedorthist or podiatrist with experience in augmenting orthotics in cycling shoes.   

Advantages: 

  • Precise Correction: Orthopedic adjustments are tailored to your unique foot structure and condition, providing precise correction and support. 
  • Pain Relief: These adjustments can alleviate pain associated with conditions like plantar fasciitis, bunions, or joint problems. 

Ideal for: Riders with pre-existing foot conditions, structural abnormalities, or significant alignment issues benefit from orthopedic adjustments. A podiatrist or orthopedic specialist can provide recommendations and create customized insoles. 

Personalized Fit Options 

Function: Some cycling insoles offer additional customization features, allowing you to fine-tune the fit according to your preferences. These options may include interchangeable arch supports or modular inserts. 

Advantages: 

  • Tailored Comfort: Personalized fit options enable you to experiment with various support configurations to find the perfect balance between comfort and performance. 
  • Adjustability: The body is asymmetrical which means your feet may be different sizes and different shapes. Without following the custom shoe route, adjustable or modular insoles provide the benefit of customizing the left and right foot to your unique needs.  

Ideal for: Everyone.  It’s hard to imagine that any human fits any norm or average especially when it comes to the uniqueness of arch height and foot shape.    

G8 Performance 2620 Pro Series Insole Arch Supports in the Box

G8 Arch Supports

Reviews and Comparisons  

It’s the 21st century and Youtube as well as other video sites provide in-depth reviews and analysis of products. It’s a great place to perform research to find the best cycling insoles for you but it’s imperative to also note that a glowing review does not translate to the perfect product for you. This is likely an extremely obvious point but it’s worth mentioning to provide transparency in your insole search. 

Price vs. Performance  

The price of cycling insoles can vary significantly, from budget-friendly options to premium models. While it may be tempting to choose either the cheapest or the most expensive insoles, it’s essential to consider the value they offer in terms of performance and longevity: 

  • Long-Term Investment: High-quality cycling insoles can be considered a long-term investment in your riding comfort and performance. They are designed to last and provide consistent support over many miles. 
  • Cost-Effective Comfort: Consider the cost-effectiveness of investing in insoles that enhance your riding comfort. The reduced risk of discomfort and potential injuries can outweigh the initial price.  This is extremely prevalent for anyone who has experienced consistent hot spots, foot numbness, or serious pain. It ruins your experience so investing in an insole can revive your love of cycling. 
  • Budget Options: There are affordable insoles that still provide comfort and support vs. stock insoles but it’s important to note that in some cases, you get what you pay for. A $20 investment may not solve your residual foot issues and back to the “cost-effective comfort,” spending for cycling enjoyment is worth the expenditure. 
  • User Testimonials: Reading user testimonials and reviews can provide valuable insights into the real-world performance and durability of cycling insoles. Look for feedback from riders who describe similar concerns as you and this may provide insight to what you need. 

When evaluating the price vs. performance of cycling insoles, think about your riding goals and how the insoles contribute to your overall experience. It’s not just about cost; it’s about the value they bring to your cycling journey. 

Fit Kit Systems pick for the Best Cycling Insole: G8 Performance Pro Series 2620 

Fit Kit Systems hand-selected G8 Performance 2620 Insoles as the only insole we offer because they are designed to address the unique needs of cyclists, offering a range of benefits: 

  • Personalized Fit: G8 Performance Insoles can be tailored to your unique foot shape due to not only the 5 heights of arch pieces for each foot but also the fore/aft and medial-lateral movement of arch placement. This ensures a snug and comfortable fit that minimizes pressure points. 
  • Exceptional Support: They provide robust arch support, including medial, transverse, and lateral arch support, to optimize foot alignment during pedaling. They also include a subtle in-built metatarsal pad. 
  • Durability: Fit Kit Systems’ commitment to quality ensures that these insoles are built to last, withstanding the rigors of your cycling adventures. 
  • User Satisfaction: Many cyclists have reported significant improvements in comfort, power, and overall riding enjoyment after switching to G8 Performance Insoles. 
  • Add-On Enhancements: G8 Performance Insoles can be customized further with heel wedges and metdomes to provide unique support and comfort.  
G8 Performance 2620 Pro Series Insole - Close Up on Arch Top

G8 Performance 2620 Insole

In the End

Finding the best cycling insoles is a game-changer for any cyclist. Whether you’re looking for enhanced comfort, improved performance, or relief from foot issues, the right insoles can make a world of difference. Don’t let your cycling experience suffer – invest in the right insoles and enjoy your best ride. 

Flimsy cyling insole flying off the table

Damon Wyatt

Damon Wyatt

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