Depending on who’s speaking, ‘footbed’ can describe the sockliner inside a new set of boots, the insoles found at the corner drugstore, the neatly packaged options on the rack at the local ski shop, the custom molded variant from that same ski shop, and orthotics provided by a pedorthist.
Also the highly-tuned products that I make at Beckmann AG.
All of these products fall into the category of ‘foot support’.
How they differ is an important consideration if the goal is enhanced athletic movement.
For that, you need accurate contouring, and tuned support.
Priority one for most footbeds is comfort.
Then perhaps an effort to improve the connection between the shoe and foot.
Off the rack products have to fit a range of feet without discomfort. They can’t be too ‘supportive’, nor can they be very specific in terms of contour.
A manufacturer might offer more options in the product line in terms of arch height and arch length, both of which are simple useful, and straightforward.
At increased cost, the custom molded insoles can provide improved comfort, and a better sense of what goes on between foot and snow due to the more personalized contour. This option generally comes in two forms; universal-fit heat-molded, and those fabricated in-house from separate components. Better contouring channels more feedback through the sole of the foot, and even if they lack adequate support, they will provide more uniform weight distribution than cut-to-fit products.
The materials used for fabricated custom molded footbeds have to account for the skill of the fitter, and the time available in the retail environment for fitting. As a general rule this means softer and more forgiving; less supportive and less accurate. If the primary goal is to rapidly gain comfort in a pair of walking or hiking shoes, ‘custom molded off the rack’ are a good place to start.
Orthotics lie further along the scale. By definition, orthotics are prescription devices, and have to be produced by someone with specific training. That training may have a lot more to do with how the orthotic affects gait, and much less to do with what happens within the confines of a ski or snowboard boot.
If you build an orthotic with a thorough understanding of gait, but not of what takes place on snow, the product may not be up to the task.
While running and walking, the load on each foot is fairly close to body weight; a load the feet and associated musculature are accustomed to carrying. While skiing or snowboarding, the rapid and/or sustained direction changes at speed suggest that the feet will bear quite a bit more than body weight.
BeckmannAG footbeds are tuned to the specific support needs of each foot, to accommodate the unique movement signature of the athlete.
All of the products described above are useful. In most cases they’re a great first step on a longer journey, a path toward totally personalizing your footwear.
Besides, anything that keeps you outside longer in comfort is probably a good thing.