A few weeks back after moaning about my crappy and old MTB shoes (which also double as my road shoes when required) and how uncomfortable they were under foot I was given some foot beds to try out by my LBS (R&R Sport Hamilton) so I thought I'd let everyone in on my thoughts. I've been super impressed with them and actually went back to the shop offering to pay for them if they were just for a short term demo that I would have to give back!Id heard and read about this type of arch supporting footbed before but never really brought into the hype, however after half a dozen rides on both MTB and road I can now say they are well worth the money.
Manufactured by "Conform'able", they are comprised of a blue foam type bed (the 'top') with a fully heat mouldable heel and arch support. The fitting took roughly 30 minutes with Jason (foot guru) checking out the shape of my foot and height of arch and tweaking the heat mould machine to suit. The actual moulding unit/bed is the same as what's used for ski boot footbeds and the beds themselves are very similar but offer more flexibility through the front of the foot and toe area.
Your foot usually has to do a fare amount of stabilizing while riding, even in a well fitting shoe, using small muscle movements to help stay stable. Putting pressure down on your foot inside a stiff soled shoe you basically try to 'squash' your arch down which the foot must counteract by flexing some muscles, causing fatigue. These footbeds support your arch and foot so it's not needing to do anywhere near as much stabilizing, and ultimately mean your feet don't get as fatigued, crampy or uncomfortable.
A couple of hours after fitting was done I headed out around a familiar road loop to test the units and the difference was noticeable immediately. Some users say they feel more powerful with footbeds in their shoes, I'd tend to agree. While out of the saddle climbing the extra support was ideal as my arch wasn't having to support itself and I could mash the pedals (not ideal pedalling technique but good for testing!) to my heart's content with minimal foot movement in the shoe. Off road the benefits are the same as on the road and up short 'pinch' climbs or pushing a tall gear along the flat or a slight incline I really felt the difference.
At $129RRP (plus fitting charges which vary from store to store) the "Conform'Able Custom Bike" units are a great addition to any cycling shoe, old or new, mountain or road. I'm assuming there are other brands out in the market place that would do a similar job so make some enquiries at your local shop. As they need specific machinery and knowledge to fit up it's unlikely your LBS will be able to fit a custom foot bed but most outdoor or ski shops will have the knowledge, or there are similar 'stock' items which offer similar benefits.