Sunday, March 5, 2017

You call that a liner?

When I first bought a pair of Galibier SuperGuides I was warned to get neoprene sheets and cut them to fit the footprint. The insole of the superGs were beautifully crafted, hard leather. Along with the steel shank you could not have a more perfect conductor of cold from crampons strapped on to them (which is what they were for.) I dutifully used them, and they did cut down on the cold, but I also appreciated the additional cushioning. Fast forward about 35 years and I still like a nice insole, especially with my very flat and flattening feet. I use the term 'insole', 'footbed', and 'liner' interchangeably throughout this rant. 

(Benjamin Dulchin sporting said Galibier Super Guides in their 3rd decade, somewhere on the Sisters in the Adirondacks I think)

I'm a long time user of Superfeet's green, and at least one pair of orange insoles. I like their new black ones just as much as all I've used. The holes in the forefoot seem like they might breathe better, but I not sure and have used them only in cool and cold weather. The holes do cut some minor amount of weight. Maybe they are supposed to look cool and I’m overthinking it. They do last less long than professional leather orthodics, more on the pros below.

Custom orthotics insoles (what I used to call boot liners) are a luxury and arguably fit your individual feet best. Superfeet does offer a range of off-the-rack insoles for high arch/volume, etc. Except for the most specialized custom orthopedic applications, like for very small last ski boots (think Dynafit TLT 5s, more on that later) or other weird shapes, I'd use these. You can always trim them. I like to buy them to fit, which they do, and well. A good fit is also as warm as that specific boot will ever get. If you have a good fit on your boot you can focus on climbing or skiing as well as you can, whatever that means. Uncomfortable feet generally drive normal folks from the sport by which they experience that discomfort.

Cousin Joseph Hooper after almost stepping out of generously sized boots in the Catskills (Spiral Staircase?)

The insoles/liners these sometimes replace are those stock ones included by boot manufacturers who would like to sell you their $600 mountaineering or $900 AT boots. They should put these in there as stock, or something of similar quality. La Sportiva is the only one who includes footbeds which I'll repurpose/cut down for my child. The others are a placeholder, an admission by the manufacturer that it's not included in the price of their premium boot. It's similar to upgrading to an Intuition or Paulau moldable ski boot full liners (which top manufacturers do include): those who offer a premium boot should include a premium footbed/insole/liner. I think these are enough of a mountain standard that manufacturers of high-end boots should make them standard. And I like them in approach and work shoes too. If not Superfeet, then something comparable.

So when is it worth plunking down an additional $300-600 for custom orthodic footbeds from a professional? When nothing else works. I used Steve Rueda for some great TLT5s which were way too narrow for anything (, and he was at the low end of the range. The ones he made were based on bamboo and as a skier he totally nailed it. They are so good I use them in my TLT6s, really nothing like it. But when I presented my old Batura 1.0s, he asked if they were comfortable with stock aftermarket insoles, and declined to make customs because I said yes. I have also had street shoe orthos and while nice, the cost is rarely worth it. Except when it is.

So the blog title is from a (?) joke. A man in a trench coat walks up to an aged female fellow passenger on the subway platform. He opens the coat and exposes himself to her. She looks at his open coat, then looks up at him and says 'You call that a lining?'

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