(Disclaimer: Fleet Feet provided Superfeet ME3D® insoles for this writer to try. As always, we only talk about the things, brands and experiences we are passionate about, and all opinions are our own.)
When I went to get fitted for my first real pair of running shoes in 2010, I was amazed by the thoughtfulness that went into the process. Compared to the normal, chaotic experience of trying on shoes in a department store, having a dedicated store employee watch me run outside a few times to inform what types of running shoes would best suit me felt personal. A few years later, in 2014, I went into a running store and ran on a treadmill while an employee took a video of my gait analysis on an iPhone app. As I watched the video of my feet run on the treadmill in slow motion, my mind was blown.
If my experience resonates with your latest understanding of getting fitted for running shoes, it’s time to go back to the running store. It is not 2014 anymore, and there are a lot of cool, new things happening in running technology, above and beyond watching slow motion video.
A few weeks ago, I scheduled an appointment at Fleet Feet in Lakeview to get fitted for new insoles for my running shoes (and, spoiler alert: I also ended up walking out with new running shoes). Admittedly, I have not been inside a Fleet Feet in a while – as a recovering Nike addict, avoiding places to purchase new athletic clothes and shoes has been a critical step in maintaining my budget. I went in with a mission to get a new pair of running shoes (it’s been a while) along with getting fitted for customized insoles.
When I walked in, I was surprised to find a couple of sleek tech products in place of a treadmill. Jay, fellow runner and Fleet Feet employee, explained how far foot measurement technology has come in the past few years – clearly, I’ve been missing out.
First, he walked me over to a foot scanner that looked like a bright white scale from the future. After a few seconds, it spit out more information than I ever thought I could know about my feet – most noticeably, how different they were from each other. When it comes to customization of footwear, I’ve generally always thought about personalizing the shoe or insole for each person, but never thought about the power in personalizing the feet per foot. It makes sense – looking at the data, my feet are a whole ½ size different from each other, along with many other individual discrepancies from their width to arch height.
The major shortcoming of a simple scan is that it does not account for movement – but don’t worry, there’s a tech solution for that: pressure plates. Jay had me walk a few times back-and-forth across their in-store pressure plate to get a reading of how much pressure I put on different parts of my feet when they are moving. Understanding the natural path of each foot’s motion and weight distribution means that an insole can help account for extra support where it is needed most.
It seems like everything is getting more personalized these days, and running gear is no exception to the trend. Fleet Feet Chicago’s CEO Dave Zimmer weighs in, saying “We’re upping the game and leaning into the technology available to us now. When we look at products available now, we’ve seen sensors being built into shirts to give you data that can capture biometric data. More obviously, there has been more of a focus on apps and fitness trackers over the last few years, which can help gamify the sport or be used as an engagement tool for people.”
When it comes to foot data, stores like Fleet Feet have undeniably come a long way since Brannock devices (wow, remember those?!) – which were invented in 1927! Nearly a century later, it was time for an upgrade in how we think about fitting our shoes.
“Shoes are incredibly 2D,” Zimmer explains, “but the foot is 3D: there is motion and up and down and side to side. As runners, our feet hit the ground 1,700 times per mile. If we can do a better job aligning the foot with the shoe, the foot will have a better experience during the run.”
Products like Superfeet ME3D insoles are upping the technology game for runners once again. By taking both the shape and motion data, they custom print insoles that are designed to perfectly support each individual foot.
But are they worth it? Like nearly every spending decision, I think it depends. If you consider yourself a runner (note: if you run, you are a runner), having a customized insole will provide more running comfort for most people. Since they are insoles, you can pop them into multiple shoes, or they may keep your current shoes in running shape for longer. Zimmer notes, “Eighty percent of people can benefit from some sort of orthotic device whether that be over-the-counter or custom-made.”
And I will say – it has been about two weeks with my custom Superfeet ME3D insoles arrived, and I instantly felt the difference. In fact, my running experience is so much more comfortable, I’m considering swapping the insoles in my more casual sneakers for everyday wear. Once you feel the comfort of custom insoles, it’s honestly hard to wear shoes without them.
Regardless of the running technology you decide to embrace or leave behind, or the insoles you decide to invest in or not, Fleet Feet’s end goal is for people like you and I to simply enjoy the running experience. “The phrase we have at Fleet Feet is that running changes everything. I believe that running gives something to the individual and gives so much back to the world,” Zimmer reminds us.
And with that, it’s a nice 50 degree day and about time to lace up my new Hokas and take them for a ride.
Pssst… Interested in getting a pair of Superfeet ME3D® for yourself? Join our Instagram giveaway starting Friday, April 9 for a chance to win them! Details coming soon on our Instagram page, so make sure you’re following us.