Shoe Cue insoles look like an interesting concept designed to prompt runners into adopting a more efficient running technique. They look like a standard insole but with a textured plastic heel plate covered in small pimples which the wearer can feel. The idea is that by being more aware of how your feet are contacting the ground the insoles act as a prompt or “cue”. This encourages you to favour the ball of your foot rather than the heel and thus reduces over striding. That all sounds plausible so I decided to test them out using a bit of sports science technology.
The first thing I did was to go for a short, easy run wearing the insoles to get used to how they felt. I even wore one shoe with a Shoe Cue insole and the other with just the standard insole so that I could compare how they felt.
How do they feel?
You can definitely notice the pimples under your heel, they don’t feel uncomfortable, just unusual and you do get used to them the longer you have them on. Obviously the thinner your sock the more aware you are of the textured heel plate. My first run was on gently sloping, hard packed trail wearing them inside a pair of Inov-8 Trail Talons. I was aware of the insoles although didn’t find them uncomfortable. On my next run I used the same shoes but over terrain with some short, steep up and downhill sections. On the steep downhills the insoles were uncomfortable, especially at a fast pace as more impact was taken through the rear of my foot. (To be fair the insoles probably aren’t designed for that type of terrain)
It would be a subjective guess to say if the Shoe Cues made any difference to my running technique so a bit of science was needed. I asked the kind chaps at Front Runner in Sheffield if they could help and they offered carry out a test using their treadmill and RunScribe technology. RunScribe uses small devices attached to each foot which measure data such as Stride Rate, Ground Contact Time (GTC), Braking Force and Footstrike Type (forefoot, mid-foot, heel).
Indoor treadmill wearing Inov-8 Trail Talon 275 shoes. After warming up I ran for 5 minutes at a pace of 10km per hour without the insoles then repeated the 5 mins at the same pace with the Shoe Cue insoles.
I then repeated the 5 mins without / with the insoles but this time at a faster pace of 15km per hour.
The RunScribe data was taken for the middle two minutes of each run.
The RunScribe data shows that for the slower paced run there is very little difference in stride rate (cadence) and GCT with a slight reduction in braking force with the insoles. The foot strike type (lower number = more heel strike) shows that I actually went a little closer to heel striking whilst wearing the Shoe Cue insoles.
The RunScribe data for the faster paced run shows almost identical stride rates and GCT with and without the Shoe Cue insoles. As for braking force it decreased on my left foot but increased on my right foot when wearing the insoles (work that one out!) A similar discrepancy with foot strike type saw no change in my left foot whereas my right foot landed closer to the heel whilst wearing the insoles.
Do they work?
That is the big question! The scientific data here certainly doesn’t point to a big change in my own running metrics whilst wearing the insoles, however there could be a number of reasons for this:
- I’ve been running regularly for many years, performing fairly well in competitions – maybe I already have a reasonably efficient technique?
- Although I could feel the Shoe Cue insoles I didn’t actively try to change my technique – maybe I also subconsciously resisted changing.
- It might take a longer period of time to adapt to using the insoles.
A less experienced runner or someone who over strides (having a cadence closer to 160 steps per minute) might find the insoles more beneficial. It is difficult to over stride and still land on your mid-foot, hence how the sensation of feeling the pimples under your heel can help overcome this.
However as with the recent popularity of barefoot, minimalist and zero drop shoes, any change should be made gradually. There are lots of stories of runners who actively tried to change their running technique to a more “efficient” mid-foot landing only to suffer from calf and achilles problems. Anyone trying Shoe Cues should avoid making radical changes to their technique.
Personally I probably won’t use the insoles although I may use them as a coaching tool to lend to clients to enable them to become more aware of their own running technique.
More information on Shoe Cue insoles can be found here: https://www.shoecue.com/
What I also found interesting was that I landed more on my heel the faster I ran whereas you would expect the opposite to be the case. Attentive readers will also note some Left / Right discrepancies particularly regarding pronation (I’ve been told by different physios that I have one leg slightly longer than the other which may explain it)
Thanks to Ali at Front Runner for providing the RunScribe data.