November 16, 2010

Sorbothane Ultra Orthotic Arch Insoles - First Impressions

UPDATED: Final Review Available Here.

With a history of chronic IT band issues, I am always on the lookout for exercises, stretches, shoes and insoles that may be of some help to me. I recently posted a blog about IT band pain I developed after several weeks of using a different type of insole manufactured by Sorbothane. I made the switch based on claims of superior foot-strike protection and cushioning. In response, I received an email from the President of Sorbothane requesting a second chance using an Rx Sorbo branded insole. I graciously accepted the offer and now have a little over 12 miles in the medium arch insole. The 2nd pair I'll be trying out are geared for high arches (which is very appropriate for my foot). In addition to the 2 pairs of insoles, I was also sent a brochure with product descriptions for several other types of Sorbothane insoles and an enclosed letter from the President stating these new insoles would give me the support I needed.

I am using the exact same shoe for the duration of the testing period and will not be interchanging the insoles. These shoes have less than 80 miles on them so they are well broken in and in great condition. The plan is to run 30 miles using each insert so I expect, given my current training schedule, to be in a good position to provide a fair and balanced review of these products around the first weekend of December. I have also started a brief list of questions I would like the President to have an opportunity to review and respond to as well.

The Promise

The arch is made of graphite (this is a pic of the medium arch Ultra Orthotic). More pics from my camera are below. I have to admit, $46 suggested retail was a little bit of a sticker shock. This would increase the amount of money I spend on shoes every year by 50% if the life of these insoles is limited to the life of a shoe, but that is something to address after a full test drive and review.

The Look

This is a close up of the medium arch insole. Rubbery on top with visible padding in the forefoot and heel. The red piece on the back is where the graphite support is positioned. I can literally make a knocking sound on it with my knuckles. However, the forefoot and heel remain soft and flexible.

Close up on the medium arch graphite support.

Side view of medium arch, top and bottom are side by side.

This picture is a side view of my tried-and-true Road Runner Sports performance insole (back of the pic) compared to the new medium arch Rx Sorbo with graphite. It's interesting to me to note the difference between the location of the arch in the insole itself. The highest point of the arch support in the RRS insole is closer to the forefoot (red vs orange). They are essentially designed opposite of each other. Where the RRS insole is flat, the Rx Sorbo is curved. Hmmmmm......

Meet the graphite insole for high arches. It was a bit of a challenge for me to recognize that these are the same exact insoles, but for different arch types. The packaging was not the same at all and honestly, the catalog included with the insoles was confusing. More on that with the pending review.

Top view does not show the same padding at the forefoot as the medium arch insole. The graphite piece on the bottom is very stiff (while still allowing for some flexibility at the forefoot and heel cup). I can knock a little louder on this one as the graphite piece is much more solid than noted in the medium arch insole.

Side view showing the contour and height of arch in the insole.

 Here is a side-view comparing the Rx Sorbo for high arches with the RRS performance insole that is also marketed for high arches. Big notable differences here. Again, the Sorbo is shaped in almost complete opposition to the RRS brand. While the Sorbo is arched from the forefoot back to the heel cup, the RRS brand is flat, with the exception of the forefoot which is actually starting to curl up. The heel of the RRS brand has plastic wrapped around the outside of it while both Rx Sorbo's are soft around the heel.

I wanted to show this view in order to point out another visible difference between the medium and high arch insoles.  Where you see the pen marking is the end of the thickest part of the heel/arch support (these points are slightly raised on the insoles themselves but could not be made visible using the camera alone).

Lastly, this is a rear-view of the Rx Sorbo's. Medium arch on the left, high arch on the right. The heel appears much thicker in this picture than it is. The heel is cupped so you are not adding more height than you would relative to other insoles (at least those that I have tried).

As I stated above, I currently have a little more 12 miles on the medium arch insoles. I wore them on a short 3-mile recovery run last Thursday and then again this past Sunday at the Calabasas Classic where I ran both the 5K and 10K on a very hilly course with hubby and our BFFs who flew in for the weekend from St Paul, MN. I was pleasantly surprised with how little residual soreness I was feeling in my quads on Thursday's run (last week was my first recovery week following the Santa Barbara Marathon) relative to the first recovery run 48 hours before. I recognize that an additional 48 hours of recovery time is significant, especially in the early stages of recovery, but could it be that that the Sorbothane insole contributed to such a huge reduction in quad soreness via superior shock absorbency?  The next question that came to mind was regarding recovery. Could these types of insoles speed recovery in terms of reducing the impact of recovery runs? Of course, not a single person would be able to make claims such as these. This would require a carefully designed study with at least 100 distance runners and my grad school days are over so I'll count myself out here. :-)

I was impressed Sunday after the races. First with myself because I ran them with relative ease - which is what I planned on since it was too soon after the marathon to go all out. Second, I'm surprised at the lack of IT band, knee and hip pain. I was actually expecting to feel tired and over-trained given the course hills but I can honestly say I had ZERO pain in any of those areas. I did have some slight lower back pain but having run a hilly marathon and then a 15K of nothing but hills within an 8-day period and only 2 short recovery runs in between, I think it's reasonable to expect that.

First impressions?  Thumbs up.


Freelance Freeman said...

I've been looking for some inserts for super high arch support for years. Mus have spent over $1000 on various over the counter AND two doctor Rx versions.

Somone at the gym mentioned the Sorbos and I was researching real epeople's reactions.

I have extreme arch pain even from grocery shopping,so I am desperate for relief.

What are IT band issues?

Arch Insoles said...

These insoles are looking perfect, I want these type of insoles for me. From where can I get these?