Hot spots, painful arches, numbness… common complaints from cyclists about their cycling shoes, but not something I’ve ever experienced. Honestly, despite a motor vehicle accident in 1985, which left me with one shorter leg and a 150 outwards rotation, I’ve never had any issues with any of the shoes I’ve worn or the innersoles that came with them. But when I was given the opportunity to trial a very technical set of innersoles, the the ARCHTECH™ 2600 PRO from G8 Performance, I decided to try them to see if I was missing anything.
G8 produces innersoles in two versions, the ARCHTECH™ 1800 and the ARCHTECH™ 2600 PRO, with the key differences being the number of positions to which the arch support can be adjusted. Many innersoles available on the market currently are limited in that they offer a single position for arch support. G8 recognised this limitation and have made a business out of producing performance innersoles for sporting types.
Aside from the 4 arch supports that you get in the box, there are two features that seem to make these innersoles different from the others that I have seen: the metatarsal pad and the ‘frame’ that cossets the heel area to provide stability to the foam base as well as linkage to the arch support section. The innersoles are currently sold in 4 sizes(S, M, L and XL) which covers shoe sizes from EU37 to 49, so they should be suitable for most people. The toe of the innersole needs to be trimmed to the individual shoe to ensure a snug fit. I used an XL pair to fit into my Sidi EU47 shoes with no problems.
As previously mentioned, the key unique feature of these innersoles are the adjustable arch supports – there are 4 of them and they can be snapped into differing positions on the innersoles in a matter of seconds. This means that not only can positional changes be made quickly and efficiently, the levels of support can also be altered as you need them. You can even set up each foot differently depending on what level and position of support you require. This was something that I was to find invaluable later on.
I initially set up the innersoles with the smallest of the arch supports (R18) and positioned the support where I thought it would work the best. I soon realised that if I wanted to do justice to these performance innersoles, I needed help. I contacted my local podiatrist, Mr Dave Visockis from The Podiatry Studio, to help me understand the intricacies of these supports and to also help set them up to gain the maximum benefit from them, rather than just guess at what works. After all, they represent a fair monetary investment, so it only makes sense to utilise them to their fullest. It was in these meetings and discussions with Dave that I learned a significant amount about proper foot support, the immeasurable complexity of the foot, and its relationship to our movement.
I had a consultation with Dave regarding my current cycling situation, how I had initially set up the G8s, my relevant medical history (i.e. my accident), and whether I had any issues with my current footwear. The result of all of this was the installation of the highest arch supports (R30) and locating the supports so that they matched the contour of my feet in a static position, as seen from a podiatrist’s viewpoint. We then discussed the sort of issues that I needed to look out for and was told to ride away with an “I’ll see you in 6 weeks” and a handshake. I was told that, regardless of whether the innersole is solid, as in a custom orthotic, or ‘flexible’, as with the G8, the body would take some time to become accustomed to the new setup. If there were any significant issues, however, they would show up quickly.
For a variety of reasons, my riding over the next 6 weeks was a bit more varied than normal, but apart from the initial feeling that was something different in my shoe, I never had an issue. It was noticeable that the overall height of the innersole, particularly at the heel, was a tiny bit thicker than the standard wafer like innersoles, but it never presented an issue during any of my rides.
So, did it make a difference? I can honestly say that there were no magical performance gains, no slashing of ascent times up any of my local climbs, no drug-like sprint advantages, but then again I’m no pro-level athlete. What I did notice though was that my feet were comfortable, they felt supported, and I did not encounter any issues prior to my follow-up visit to Dave.
During that period Dave was also provided with a pair of the ARCHTECH™ 2600 PRO innersoles that were initially too small for me, so that he could evaluate them, and not just from a cycling perspective. I asked him the following questions regarding his experiences:
BNA: What was your initial impression of the G8 system and now, having used them yourself, has that opinion changed ?
Dave: My initial impression was curiosity about how they would affect function or comfort, but I loved how adjustable they were, unlike anything else in the market. Having used them as a consumer, they give you an equivalent feel underfoot as a fully customised device. Once setup correctly, very comfortable. In regards to performance, the jury’s out, needs more research.
BNA: What are the potential advantages of the G8 system over traditional custom made rigid orthotics ?
Dave: Their flexibility and therefore comfort underfoot, and their low-profile, their fit in traditionally difficult to fit footwear (e.g. cycling shoes) is very easy. To achieve the same with traditional rigids is much more difficult, especially with fit, but also with flexibility of the device material itself.
BNA: What is the key standout feature in your opinion ?
Dave: Definitely their adjustability. The ability to setup, road test, and then tweak as required is a lot harder with rigid devices.
BNA: What are potential improvements that could be made to the G8’s ?
Dave: Higher and lower arch heights, something the company is already working on. Also, the addition of an adjustable metatarsal dome would be nice to help address a common complaint among cyclists: forefoot ‘hot spots’.
BNA: There are some significant claims made by G8 for their innersoles. Given your experience with them now, do you see any validity to them?
Dave: Need to be scientifically tested, but not unreasonable.
BNA: Given the complex nature of the human foot, what is your advice to potential customers that either require innersoles to correct a current issue, or those thinking about getting ‘something better’ than the standard liner in many current (cycling) shoes?
Dave: G8s are by far the most adjustable innersoles on the market, so are easily tweaked to suit most foot types. If you have pain that may need professional assessment, it’s best to consult with a health professional with a special interest in cycling to see if something more customised is required, i.e. custom orthotics, Physio or bike refit.
BNA: Is the investment (innersoles + advice) in the G8 system worthwhile for the average/recreational cyclist ?
Dave: Yes, definitely, a good starting point for someone looking for a more comfort inshoe. They can be successfully self fitted or professionally tweaked as required. When it comes to performance enhancement or symptom alleviation, experiences will depend on the level of pathology and personal experience, but more specific research is required.
By the time I got back to see Dave for a second adjustment, I was getting ready to ramp up my riding in preparation for the Alpine Audax Classic in Bright in January. After some discussion on my findings to date, Dave reviewed the static arch position and felt that the support needed to be moved further forward (one position) and laterally (one position outward towards the outside of the foot) on both feet. My initial impression was that it felt significantly different to the positioning before. That evening I headed out for a ride, and a 50km flat ride later, felt no real issues.
The next day however, after setting off for a climb up a local favourite, I noticed that on the left foot there was some pain coming from the outboard area. After a short while (I hadn’t even started the major part of the climb yet), I had had enough and I stopped the bike and made an ‘on the fly’ adjustment, moving the arch support rearward one position (but still retaining the last lateral change), and set off again a minute later. The pain was significantly reduced and I pedaled onward.
Further into the climb however, it was still bothering me enough to stop once again and undo the lateral change as well. So now I had the left foot back to the original setting from David and the right foot with the latest setting. The ride, from then, was completed without issue and I have covered a further 1,400km since, with over 16,000m of climbing, with no issues.
On relaying this information back to David, his response was:
Dave: From memory, we moved the arch piece forward and laterally (towards the outside of your foot), which would’ve shifted the load on your down stroke towards that painful spot, the 5th metatarsal head. Good you changed back and things settled, well done. What this displays to me is the fact that we can make mechanical changes to the way your foot works with a subtle adjustment and the ‘minimal support’ the G8s provide, really just altering the proprioceptive feedback of your foot. Also, the fact you can make adjustments on the fly like that also makes me a fan of the devices. Great result overall!
So are they worth it? I had been considering for some time whether I could have a better, more supportive innersole in my shoes, but was always confused as to what I should get as I didn’t know what was ‘needed’ for my foot geometry. As mentioned before, I wasn’t aware of any problems that I had, so what should I get to solve something that isn’t an issue ?
The discussions that I had with David regarding foot construction, behaviour, and proprioception (an interesting topic in itself, see wikipedia) showed me that whilst I may not have any known issues, there is a distinct advantage to be had even from a preventative perspective. Certainly the support provided by the standard innersoles with my shoes was non-existent. Having experienced the G8s now for well over 3,000kms, having seen how my feet are now setup differently (as are my cleats due to leg length issues), having seen their adjustability, I can say that the investment is more than worthwhile, especially when combined with a professional that can explain and assist with the optimal setup.
I cannot prove or disprove the claims from G8, but I have seen how they have helped me feel that my foot is better supported in my cycling shoes and how they give me a level of confidence that I am doing the best I can in this area. At the end of the day, it hasn’t made a noticeable difference or improvement, but that may come in the future, particularly with my specific medical issues.
So who should buy them? Certainly, for anyone with current issues (professional or recreational sportspeople), they are something that should be seriously considered in line with advice from a professional that understands what the G8s are capable of. They provide key benefits over the traditional rigid orthotics (adjustability, low weight and affordability), and with the right advice can be set up quickly and easily.
For the average recreational cyclist/sports person (they are also suitable for use in walking and/or running shoes), they could be considered as more of a preventative support that can assist with ensuring that any future problems are minimised or avoided completely. At around $110 for the 2600 Pro versions (the 1800s are just under $100), it is not an insignificant investment. However, if you consider it a form of ‘insurance’ for your feet, it makes sense as the feet are pretty important appendages for your mobility, now and in the future. After all, how much do we spend on a new bike that doesn’t really make us any faster?
You can find out more from G8 Performance and also purchase from the Australian website: www.g8performance.com. A number of bike fitters in Australia also carry and fit G8 Performance inner soles for cycling.
edited: 22.03.2013 – updated link to The Podiatry Studio