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If you look over the posts at racewalk.com you will see very few product reviews. There are a few reasons for this, but primarily I like the information at racewalk.com to be timeless. Advice on technique, training, etc doesn’t age like the review of the latest pair of training shoes. The other reason is I usually don’t buy a lot of equipment. After all that’s the joy of our sport. I haven’t bought into the craze to tech-up my race walking. It’s my chance to escape tech. When it comes to race walking, I need a clothes, a pair of good shoes (which for me are Herseys) and orthotics. I’ve always worn very expensive (~500) custom orthotics made by a former junior national champion now respected podiatrist. However, I currently only wear them to race walk for fear of wearing them out as I pop them in and out of different shows. So when Insoles and Beyond made me an offer to try any product from their site if I were willing to write a review, I figured it was worth a shot.
For those unfamiliar with me, I was a competitive race walker whose career ended early due to injuries. In general, I get injured easily and heal slowly. When I got my first orthotics they had to be tweaked with feedback of gait analysis. So needless to say I was dubious of using an off the shelf shoe insole. For that reason I asked to try the Birkenstock BirkoSport and figured I would try them in my hiking boots which desperately needed better more supportive insoles. I ordered them, they came quickly, and I popped them in. Given that I wasn’t race walking in them and typically only wear my hiking boots for long dog walks, I didn’t worry about breaking them in. They felt immediately comfortable and incredibly supportive. I had no issues getting used to them and they revived a pair of beat boots. These boots actually had the heel reattached with a wire from a Bedouin guide in Jordan. Once the new orthotics were in place, the boots felt better than new.
Of course, more of interest to the race walking world is whether or not off-the-shelf insoles can take the place of a custom orthotic. After explaining my situation to the rep an Insoles and Beyond they offered for me to try another pair. This time I tried the Archmolds Ultimate Heat Moldable. The concept is simple, you heat the insoles up so they are warm enough to conform to your foot and create a custom orthotic. I read over the instructions, warmed the insoles in my oven, waiting for the color-coated label to change color and then popped them in my shoes. I stood in place for a couple of minutes and then they were good to go.
Given my history of injuries and the greater intensity of race walking than hiking around with my dog, I took a very cautious approach. First I pedestrian walked in them with the dog. I did this for a few weeks to make sure I was comfortable. They felt fine, although if you don’t currently use orthotics they may be tight in your current shoes. I did notice a little achiness as my feet adjusted to them. This is normal, and familiar to anyone who wears orthotics at the beginning. However, it’s important to note that during this break-in time you shouldn’t be increasing mileage. I let my feet get used to them. After a few weeks, I was ready to race walk. Given that it was winter and we had lots of ice, I only got out a few times per week for a few weeks. During that time, the Archmolds felt fairly equivalent to my custom orthotics at 1/4th of the price. They were also more comfortable than the current version of custom orthotics, because the specific orthotics I have are of the harder variety.
Please note, I am not a doctor and certainly not a podiatrist. My experience is from the perspective of a coach and athlete. If you are having issues with your feet, knees, back or any part of your body you should consult a physician before altering your walking shoes with an orthotic. Also, although I received free product, I do not receive any kick-back for recommend them.