Custom footbeds

Custom molded footbeds used to be available only through retailers like ski shops, where fitting your foot to an anatomically-unique insole was managed by professionals.

Now two companies make products that let you mold a custom insole at home.

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SOLE Custom Footbeds (www.yoursole.com) has six heat-moldable insole types in its line, with models made to provide arch support, better heel cup fit, extra padding, added volume, and sweat wicking.

The rigid foam base of a SOLE insole molds to your foot when heated up, and the customization process requires nothing more than a conventional gas or electric oven.

Masterfit Enterprises’ Zapz insole (www.zapzinsoles.com) is a similar custom footbed concept, though a microwave is employed instead of an oven to heat a foot-cradling gel inside a rigid foam shell.

As Masterfit Enterprises explains it, a microwave heats the gel to turn it viscous, thus allowing the footbed to mold to the foot’s arch shape. Extra gel is evacuated through small ports as the wearer weights the heated insole.

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In my tests, the customization process — heating the insoles, inserting them in your shoes, and stepping in — was simple and straightforward for SOLE. Zapz required more effort, with a complicated list of instructions and a dozen or more steps that ended with sealing several tiny holes with cap screws.

My old microwave also struggled to melt the Zapz gel sufficiently, requiring me to bake the insoles for several minutes more than alluded to in Masterfit Enterprises’ instructions.

The end product was similar from both companies, with a nice cradling fit noticeable in the arch and heel area of the shoe.

Masterfit Enterprises touts Zapz as having finer molding ability than SOLE, its gel and complexly-constructed footbed identifying a foot’s tiniest idiosyncrasies. Zapz are more rigid, too, which can be good or bad depending on personal preference and intended use.

Distinguishing itself, SOLE offers more options, including low- and high volume insoles as well as models made for non-athletic casual use. Zapz takes the one-size-fits-all approach with one model that molds to all foot types.

SOLE is also less expensive, with prices starting at $40. Zapz go for $59.95.

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