Thinsulate Thermal Insoles

Thinsulate Thermal Insoles

Review by Coy Starnes

Insoles provided by Thinsulate for testing.

Thinsulate Thermal Insole

The Thinsulate website describes the insoles better than I could even attempt but I will share a few of my thoughts before revealing what they have to say.  The thought of adding an insole to dramatically improve a boot or shoes cold weather performance seems like a stretch until you consider that heat conduction between 2 solid objects can take away heat fast.  Consider for example, holding your hand outside in 30 F air.  It will get cold but it takes awhile.  Now take the same hand and grab hold of a chunk of ice.  See what I mean.  Another classic illustration is to lean up against a cold object when outside.  You will feel the temperature change almost immediately and much more dramatically than the surrounding air even though both are about the same temperature.  Now considering that when outside the soles of our feet are usually the only part of our body in contact with a solid surface, it makes sense that adding good insulation there can give maximum return. Anyways, that is exactly what the Thinsulate insole is all about.  Here is the description taken from the website.

“Designed for Comfort | Made for Warmth
Thinsulate thermal insoles combine 3M™ Thinsulate™ Insulation with energy-return performance foams to provide exceptional warmth and minimize shock in every step. With the added features of antimicrobial and moisture management technology‚ Thinsulate thermal insoles reduce odor-causing bacteria in the insole and keep your feet dry while you’re active outdoors. Add Thinsulate thermal insoles to your footwear so you can stay outside longer and enjoy your experiences even more.”
Let me start by mentioning I have never worn an aftermarket insole.  Usually by the time I wear out the insole I have worn out the uppers.  However, I have had a few occasions when some new insoles were needed.  Anyways, I am excited to test these insulated insoles from Thinsulate.  The Thinsulate Thermal  insole is designed to make just about any kind of shoe or boot warmer.  There is a chart on the package that shows how much it increases warmth in hikers and winter boots.  Basically it takes the hikers up near the level of winter boots and the winter boots about a third again as warm as before. Here is a photo of the chart.  To better read it you can click on the photo and view full size.
As might be expected, the insulation used in the Thinsulate Thermal insole is Thinsulate.  Actually the insole is made of 4 layers.  Instead of typing them all out, here is a photo that was on the packaging.  Again, click on it to view full size.
My next task was to pick which shoes or boots would be best suited for the insoles and testing them out.  I first tried them in a pair of winter boots, specifically, my Bogs Snakeboots. However, the boots are nearly new and the insole in them is still in great shape so I decided they might not be the best candidate. I did notice that the Thinsulate insole is much thicker than the factory Bogs insole.  My next candidate was a pair of Redwing *8602 boots I like to wear to church and town. However, I decided I really did not wear these in cold conditions enough to justify using the insoles in them.  I next turned to one of my favorite winter hiking shoe which is a pair of New Balance MT1110GT Trail Runners.  They are waterproof which makes them a decent winter trail shoe but I do find that are not real warm for riding my recumbent bike,  mountain bike or even walking when conditions are real cold.  Plus, the insoles in these are starting to show quite a bit of wear.
Fit
The Thinsulate Thermal insoles come in several sizes but each size covers 2 sizes so if your shoe size is the smaller one they need to be trimmed to fit.  For example, the pair I received is a size 11 -12 and my New Balance shoes are 12 EE’s.  However when I pulled the old insole out I noted the Thinsulate insole was about 1/8 of an inch longer.  I therefore trimmed it to match the ones that came out of the  shoes.  The width was fine. Here are the insoles in the New Balance shoes.

Thinsulate Thermal Insoles in my trail runners

Trying them out
It really needs to get colder to do a true test but I have already worn them on a couple of bike rides.  The first was on my mountain bike when I did a short 4 mile ride in just over 30 minutes.  It was 58 F so I can’t really say if they helped keep my feet warm but I did notice they insoles were very comfortable.  It is hard to say they were a lot more comfortable then the old insoles were but I do think these felt a little cushier when walking around.

I next wore them on a 10 mile bike ride to Grant and back.  This time I was on my Tour Easy recumbent. It was not much cooler at 54 but with me hitting speeds of 28 mph on the downhills my feet were exposed to faster moving and colder air than when riding my mountain bike at just over walking speed.  They did keep my feet plenty warm.

Please stay tuned for my next installment to see how these insole perform.  Hopefully I will see some real winter conditions over the next couple of months.
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Update for the Thinsulate Insole: April 11, 2012
I have been using the insoles in my New Balance trail runners. I have no idea the exact mileage but I’ve worn them day hiking and bike riding mostly, but have worn them on several other occasions. I know I have worn them at least an average of three days a week and often all day.  I’ll be the first to admit, thinking of something useful to say about a product like this is difficult.  They were very comfortable, but still, you put them in a pair of shoes and there is really not that much difference in how the shoe feels before or after, unless the old insoles were worn out.  I guess the fact that most of the time I did not even think about them when wearing them is a good thing.

I will mention that the weather has not been very cooperative for testing something designed for cold weather performance.  Since getting them in late February the coldest testing was on a morning walk just recently when it was 38 F.  A better test may well have been a recumbent bike ride early in the morning when I had an 8 AM dentist appointment and rode my bike the 5 miles up to the dentist office and then back home.  It actually dropped 2 degrees for the ride home, from 45 F earlier to 43 F.  However, with my recumbent, I think it was more of a test because my feet are facing forward all the time and up in the air, so blood flow is not quite as good as it is when walking or even riding a regular bike.  Anyways, my feet stayed warm for the ride.

I will also mention that the antimicrobial properties seem to help.  I’ve worn the shoes on some bike rides and walks when the temperatures were in the low 80s F and have I have been pretty much soaked in sweat several times.  As a matter of fact, I wore them on a warm afternoon just recently for a quick ride on my mountain bike.  I had worked up a good sweat when my ride came to an abrupt end (I crashed hard).  In regards to the accident, I broke my collar bone.  I will be pretty limited in my activities for the next several weeks but I am able to walk and have walked about 4 miles in the last few days.  Once to the holler and once to take a few pics where I crashed my mountain bike. I just walk real slow and with my arm in a sling.  But more to the point, when I smell my shoes right after a ride or hike they don’t smell great but are not bad.  However, after a day the odor seems to calm down a lot more.  I expect it will only get warmer for the rest of the testing period. However, I will see if they remain comfortable and also see if the odor fighting abilities lessen.

Final Update for the Thinsulate Insole: June 10, 2012

My shoulder has pretty much recovered and I am now back to pre-wreck active level. However, as predicted, it has only gotten warmer as the test has progressed. Here lately I have hiked in temperatures as warm as 91 F and several other hikes and bike rides were in the mid to upper 80’s, so no new news on the insulating abilities of these insoles.  However, their comfort level has continued to impress me.  I really don’t believe they have worn out much and upon taking them out of the shoes for a good final inspection for this review, they are still about twice as thick as the old pair they replaced.  I also suspect that the mileage on these is fast approaching the mileage of the old pair.  Here is a photo of the wear.  Notice how it is most pronounced at the letter T which is in the heel area and gradually shows less wear all the way to the letter S which is in the arch area.

Summary
I really do like these insoles.  They were soft right from the git-go (get-go for the language impaired) and have retained much of their original cushion.   I am still amazed at their ability to keep a pair of sneakers smelling reasonable fresh despite many miles of hot sweaty use.   One thing to keep in mind though, is that if used to replace an insole in a pair of snug fitting shoes, especially snug top to bottom instead of side to side, these do take up more volume inside a boot or shoe.  I noticed this when I tried the insoles out in several different pairs of shoes at the start of this test.  Fortunately, the New Balance shoes I settled on were a good match foot volume wise.  I have enjoyed testing these insoles, and even though I may wear cooler shoes (sandals etc) during the summer, I feel they are a very smart addition to most cold to cool weather shoes. If you want cushion all the time then I see no problem wearing them year round.

About the Author I am from northeast Alabama where I spend a lot of my time divided among several hobbies that include  backpacking and dayhiking, canoeing and kayaking, and just getting out enjoying nature.

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