Putting your best foot forward in cycling can come down to more than hours in the saddle. Since your feet are the contact point for power transfer, I was intrigued when I came across G8 Performance Archtech 2600 PRO insoles and decided to test them out over a period of eight weeks in training and competition. l thought it was nice to believe insoles could increase my performance and reduce my risk of injury but I was more intrigued by their underlying approach to feet so I caught up with G8 Performance founder David Lee.
ADJUSTABILITY AND WEARER FEEL
“There are numerous measurement devices and scanners out there but none are able to tell exactly where support is needed under the foot. This is where the minor adjustments on the 2600 are so unique,” says Lee. The Archtech 2600 PRO, their insole geared toward cyclists, comes with four different arches of variying heights. The unique adjustability, however, comes from the triple row of pegs where each arch clicks into place on the bottom side of the insole. You can move the arch forward or back, in or out, depending on your needs. The insoles are easy to fit and making micro-adjustments with the pegs to find optimal arch placement is simple to do, even mid-ride.
“There are so many determinants and variables in getting the right position and the only way we could come up with tackling this was multiple adjustments and wearer feel,” Lee explains. While the customizable arch is the primary factor of comfort, the built-in heel cup provides good rear foot support while the forefoot of the sole is thin enough not to take up too much room in the toe box. Made of compressed EVA and plastic, the insoles also have several vents for air flow and a metatarsal button to prevent hot foot.
During testing, another comfort feature I appreciated as a multi-sport athlete was the smooth top layer. Since the arches snap on from underneath and are covered by the smooth top layer, unlike other insoles, the foot doesn’t make skin contact with any moveable pieces, making the insoles comfortable for sockless riding. I also found the insoles stayed in place during transition whether I was preparing to dismount or jamming in my foot after T1.
“PRO-PRONATION” AND POWER TRANSFER
The adjustment options, Lee explains, are not to fix or correct a rider’s biomechanical movements. Instead, G8 products are designed to allow “enough pronation so as not to upset the biomechanical symmetry” of a rider. Although some riders outside the normal scope may need additional wedging, G8 believe that the foot and body know what it’s doing and, unlike what we’re all used to hearing from the footwear industry, they are pro-pronation. I’m not an expert but common sense tells me that letting the foot go through it’s natural biomechanic motion is going to keep me father away from injury than forcing it into an unnatural rigid pedal stroke. Lee agrees. “Strapping the foot in a carbon soled shoe with minimal movement is akin to riding with blocks of wood attached to our ankles,” he jokes.
Unlike other insoles on the market, G8 arches support the arch from the first metatarsal back—the midfoot. “The highest part of the arch, where most people refer to, has very limited effect on the gait and energy transferal,” Lee explains. Positioned to support from the mid-foot, G8 insoles claim to support the foot through the whole range of motion. “The idea is to allow for natural pronation to occur, coupled with full foot flexion,” Lee says.
During the full range of motion, or a pedal stroke, the G8 arches are designed to compress under load and spring back providing, as their marketing proclaims, “suspension for your feet.” According to Lee, “allowing the forefoot to flex under load allows the greatest capacity to expel and dissipate energy. In turn, there is a reduction in returned energy to the point of origin as well as a reduction of lost energy at the point of impact.” In other words, letting your foot flex and pronate naturally means less wasted power returning back to your foot and more power to the pedals. While independent testing in the UK still being conducted is showing even more promising results, in-house testing of rowers in a controlled time-trial reveals an 8% increase in rowed distance while wearing G8 insoles.
Part of the increase in power transfer, Lee adds, is the full connection between foot and shoe. The insoles help “close the gap” between the foot and the bottom of the shoe which “limits the amount of power leakage as the foot tends to slap down at impact” Lee says. The sensation of full contact was the most noticeable change I experienced during the initial testing period and the change that made the most difference. I found having full continuous contact with the insole made for a more responsive shoe which, in turn, gave the feeling of increased power transfer.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The price point on the 2600 PRO arches is pretty steep, running around CDN $110, but I was satisfied with their durability during the two months I tested them; the insoles don’t feel or look worse from wear and if they last for a few seasons or longer they would be a sound investment.
I did initially find it awkward to adjust to the new set up. Knowing any bike adjustment takes time to get used to, I stuck it out for a few rides, fiddling with the arch placement on the side of the road. Eventually I found a good fit, which was actually different on each foot. After a week or so, I took the G8 insoles out and put my standard insoles back in to feel the difference. Without the G8 insoles I felt very disconnected from the pedals and, frankly, like my shoe didn’t fit properly. Having constant contact with G8 Archtech 2600s throughout the pedal stroke is not only comfortable but the feeling of increased responsiveness is not something I want to give up. The best part is that I can easily move that advantage into whatever shoe I choose, triathlon or road (or mountain bike), regardless of brand, barefoot or with socks.
While I would eventually like to see the results of the independent testing to verify all the G8 claims, after two months of testing them in training and competition, it would just be icing on the cake. It all comes down to how it feels on the road and they feel comfortable and responsive and that feels fast.
For more information and stockists, visit g8performance.com.