After a small flurry of emails, I had a 4:30 appointment to get fitted for a pair of Solestar insoles. Only downside: since founder Oliver Elsenbach had a 5pm presentation to get ready for, he wouldn't have time to do my fit. Or so said Sean Campbell from Paris Orthotics--the North American partner of Solestar.
Ironically enough, I'd already scheduled a 1:30 appointment for an insole fitting with a different company--which was ok, good, even. But as it turned out, it was most important to give me a reference point for Oliver's fit. Yep. See, it pays to be just a little early. Since I showed up a bit before 4:30, Oliver was able to "begin" my fit--which meant taking the measurements and doing the functional analysis. I thought I'd be put on a bike, since they'd insisted I bring my shoes and shorts (the other guys didn't), but I didn't. Turns out, they want the shoes because, unlike the other guys, they need to customize the insole to the shoe as well as the foot : Oliver took one look at my battered Northwave Extremes, glanced at me and said "You know these tilt down, right?" "Oh?, sez I as only the clueless can. "Yeah, 3mm. When we worked with Northwave on these we specified a 3mm drop from outside to in on the sole because the pros want it for power transfer. Some of them even have them made with a 5mm drop."
For an idea of the fit process, click das video.
For an idea of what I do to pedals, here's a snap of a year-old Look Keo: See the gouge where I've ground a channel into the pedal-body?
So, after the analysis, we discovered I've got a slight leg-length discrepancy (who doesn't?) and an equally slight pelvic-twist that drives a bunch of weird things at the pedals. Taking those problems into account, Jody Weightman of Paris Orthotics in Vancouver made up my insoles on the spot (which differs from customer process because customers have data taken by a trained fitter and sent in, orthotics are made and shipped back in a week, more or less).
A sizable swatch of carbon fiber in the mid-foot to resist foot-shear over the pedal, that's how. That and an ingenious heel-cup that hides at the underside of the insole. That and a really obvious and rigid arch-support:
You might also notice that, if any thing, the solestars are a little thinner than the standard thin Northwave insole. TO save picture space, I won't include a pic of the forefoot--which is really thin and contains little to no customization, since, in my case, the funky stuff happens mid-foot and at the ankle.
But do they make a difference in the ride? Oh. Hell. Yes. All of the crew warned me to take it easy the first couple of days and take my regular insoles with me in case the solestars caused discomfort at first. They felt a little weird for the first mile, but then . . . well, in the interest of saving your reading time, in nearly 30 years of riding semi-seriously, these danged insoles have provided the most noticeable improvement in ride quality of any product that I can remember. I feel straighter, more relaxed, better balance and agility, better road-feel, way more power through the pedal stroke with less perceived exertion or 'fighting the bike.'
Of course, they ain't cheap: around $300US, and they aren't widely available in the US yet. But . . . if you have--or suspect that you have hip- knee- or ankle-alignment problems like I do . . . it will be worth your effort to look into getting fit for a pair of these. (And if you need pro endorsements beyond the ones on the page, a certain Canadian MTBer has been pestering them to make him 5 pairs--one for each pair of shoes he uses, I think).