If I could change one thing about most shoes I review, it wouldn’t be their width. It wouldn’t be the volume of their toe box. It wouldn’t be the closure style or placement of the straps or the type of cleat they accept, though adjustments to any of those details could improve many shoes, relative to my needs. However, the one change that would work for nearly every rider, that would improve shoes at each price point, is the quality of the insole.
Over the years I’ve tried premium non-moldable insoles like Superfeet. They do improve a shoe with a bad insole, but most premium shoes come with something at least as good as the Superfeet. I’ve tried a few different moldable insoles as well. Except for those a fitter made for me, what I quickly learned is that aftermarket moldable insoles I tried didn’t hold their shape for a whole season.
That is, until I encountered the Lake Raven 0.3 heat moldable insoles. They are made for Lake by Syskol and come in two versions, fiberglass and carbon fiber. I began riding with a set of the fiberglass insoles last spring and found them to be surprising in their simplicity and effectiveness, much the way a book and a hammock are for relaxation.
So what’s the big deal? I’m a believer in insoles for a few reasons. First, there’s the improvement in fit; most shoes will fit better with less tension on the straps. That means fewer problems with circulation and fewer hot spots. Then there’s the fact that a better fitting shoe results in better, more positive control over the bike. The more technical the terrain, the greater the benefit. Finally, many riders and fitters report that they see an improvement in power transmission through more of the pedal stroke often resulting in higher power numbers overall. Any one of those is a strong reason. Together, they are rather compelling.
The Raven insole has just a few components; there’s the lightweight, high-density foam that forms the body of insole. It’s covered with a breathable and antimicrobial liner. Beneath the foam is a thermo-formable cradle that provides the bulk of the support for the foot once molded and then it’s backed by either fiberglass or carbon fiber to keep it from breaking down.
More recently, I’ve been using the carbon fiber version of the Raven. The directions for molding these insoles are simple enough. Pre-heat your oven to 175 degrees (you’ll want to use a proper oven thermometer to make sure you’ve got the correct temperature). Then place one insole in the oven on a cookie sheet so that it lays flat. Wait 45-50 seconds before removing it (you’ll want to use some gloves), then insert it in the shoe and put the shoe on. Snug the shoe to the fit you’d ride with, but don’t over-tighten it. Sit with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle and wait five minutes. The point here being that you don’t want your full weight on the orthotic until it it cools and hardens. As the kids say, easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.
The reality for someone with, say, a really wide foot and a high arch is a bit more complicated. I found that I needed to mold the insoles outside the shoe in order to press the insole up into my arch and flatten the outer edge so that it didn’t dig into my foot. To do that I had to raise the temperature a bit and leave it in the oven a bit longer, more like three minutes. I also found that I got a better fit if I placed the insole on a firm rug and then reached beneath the arch and pressed it upward, rather than trying to hold the insole against my foot while it was in the air (legs crossed).
The fiberglass version of the insole goes for $60, while the carbon fiber version is $80. The difference I’ve found is just how firm the support is; the carbon fiber version feels just a bit stiffer under out-of-the-saddle efforts.
This is one of those investments that’s easy to skip. It’s not sexy, requires some time to set up and won’t look cool the next time you show up to a ride. But with an entry point of only $60, this may be the least expensive way I can think of to increase your comfort on the bike. Think of it as a chance to walk on wet sand everywhere you ride.