DO Tread on Me! Tread Labs Ramble Insoles for Happy Feet – A Review

Allow me to confess, right upfront, I just knew nothing would improve my aching feet predicament any better than just shoving a short stack of pancakes into my shoes sans the syrup. No, I never tried that. But, the idea appealed to my soul; make that soles.

After an introduction to Tread Labs, I need to get to my knees, admitting my total ignorance that such a technical solution as theirs existed. After trying almost every possible combo, reading countless reviews of this and that, I bow to Tread Labs’ technology.

My favorite Brooks walk-about shoes with Tread Labs Ramblers. One carries a single Shearling Top Cover to boost a meniscus-missing right leg, which shows how I set up each right foot. Photo: Phillip Gary Smith

Foot Protection

Your feet love you. When you don’t show that same respect back to them, they get offended. Feet will spend your pleasure hours on snow, dirt, or paved trails, reminding you of their displeasure. That little gift of pain comes with a beautiful bow and wrapping–a gift such as a day in the woods–promising scenic treks that, when unleashed and unwrapped, stops you in midstep. I can go no further, ouch, darn, I’m toast; I’m dropping.

I have passed countless hours and many dollars as Time/Life broadcasts their appeal for rock ‘n roll music collections, exploring methods to make those worn out, bottom-of-the-foot skin pads happy. This means protecting those foot bones, nerves, and everything else encased there, causing pain while allowing the ground impacts to shuffle me forward. At times my athletic shoes enjoyed piles of pads, pieces, and inserts that would make an Arby’s stacked-beef sandwich look skimpy.

If humanly possible, those feet would delight in giving my behind a swift kick for not knowing Tread Labs many blue moons ago. But at times in life, we become like the Eagle’s song of a few decades ago where they tell us, right there between the lines in “Already Gone,” we may spend our life in chains without ever realizing we are the ones with the key, the insight to unlocking the solution to whatever problem exists. That’s Tread Labs playing the role of the key the band croons about in their special way. The Big Lebowski, with his distaste for The Eagles, had it all wrong.

The Great Runner in the Sky knows many require more energy on the trails. Tread Labs’ owner, Mark Paigen, says he has “been messing around with footwear since the earth cooled.” He tapped into that consciousness to produce insoles packed with energy. Also, pain relief. They share a common bond.

Read More: Covering the Extremities: Prepare for the Snowshoeing Season

Tread Labs insole review: shoes with comfort insoles near pool

No, one can’t walk on water with these Brooks running shoes, but by adding the Tread Labs sole inserts, athletes may feel they’re getting close to that possibility. Photo: Phillip Gary Smith

Two-Part Design

The uniqueness in the Tread Labs solution starts with a two-part design. First, a replaceable top cushioning cover attaches to a molded arch support. That allows one to refresh and replace the cover without buying another arch support. Clever, right?

And, they guarantee a million miles on the arch support. That’s enough to outlast every snowshoer, runner, and walker except maybe those like “Fast Eddie” Rousseau. In his eighties, he’s still knocking out ultra distances along with Roy Pirrung, who medaled the 2020 Birkie USATF Half-Marathon Championships, and in about half the time that I turned in. I’m in his age class. Sometimes competitors such as I learn to enjoy the joy of finishing “In the rear with the gear.” That’s as Kubrick’ called it in his film “Full Metal Jacket.” Watch the film. You may never eat another doughnut.

Customize for Your Foot

A foot’s arch-height no doubt differs from your snowshoeing and running friends. No problem. Take a simple imprint of your foot by stepping out of the shower onto a medium-colored mat. Then, there it is, your arch defined for all to see. Well, at least until the mat dries. Tread Labs shows prints of a low, medium, high, or even extra-high arches. Choose the one most like the image on the bath mat. Then enjoy a homemade near-custom product. Save a significant sum.

Then, how firm do you want your new insoles? You have the following three options.

  • Choose “Firm” for flexible molded-arch support for walkers, runners, and snowshoers. These are called Ramble.
  • Choose “Extra Firm” if you carry heft or endure plantar fasciitis. If seeking to improve your alignment and find pain relief buy Pace.
  • Finally, choose “Ultra Firm” if you are a performance athlete like those lapping me on those USSSA National Championship courses. This version features 100 percent carbon fiber support. They’re super light and near-rigid for speed. They carry the name Dash.

Tread Labs provides a comparison of the above to help you choose the option you need. Also, locate size conversions and insole lengths.

Look what you can do with their Insole Kit for any of the above choices. Such a toolbox includes one pair of arch supports and three of each top cover. That is 3mm thick for thin and short top covers and 5mm thickness for regular tops. Now you can cover three differing shoe types with this one package.

Add Shearling Top Covers to provide luxurious carpeting for those precious feet. Shearling rhymes with “yearling,” a very young sheep, providing superior comfort fibers. In addition, if you’ve ever had a meniscus removed and one leg thus feels shorter (I know this problem), use one of the top covers for that leg. I do; it makes all the difference in the world.

Read More: Snowshoeing Footwear: Tips for Choosing Your Boot

Tread Lab Insole product photo

The Ramble greens are joined here with Dash yellows and Pace blues. The Ramble set shows the kit package that also is available for Pace and Dash insoles. On the left, Metatarsal Pads relieving forefoot pain. Truly customizable. Photo: Treadlabs

Insoles for Everyone

Here’s a first: the company offers refurbished insoles at significant discounts to new inserts. These may fit your needs while saving you enough to pay for a membership in the American Trail Running Association (ATRA).

Moreover, if Plantar Fasciitis, flat feet, overpronation, high arches, supination, Morton’s Toe, or tendonitis are words in your exercise vocabulary, Tread Labs will help you.

But, what about dress shoes. Do I wash my trail shoes to go out on the town? Well, yes. Maybe I should be thinking about staying somewhat civilized. Reminder: find those dress shoes pushed way back in the closet. Use Tread Labs’ “short” insoles available for the three categories above when the shoes do not have replaceable full-length pads to pull out.

Lastly, allow me to point out something when using Tread Labs: you may find posture improving. Mine did. I was totally surprised by that. Falling in love with my initial pair of Tread Labs, Ramble Insoles, took just minutes, not days.

layers of shoe inserts near pool

This shows a collection of inserts as emptied from my shoes thus far.  Then I replace them with Tread Labs selections for my favorite shoes like these trail-ready and trail-used Hoka One Ones requiring only two Tread Labs’ inserts and one Shearling Top Covers. I’ve ordered more Shearling Top Covers and inserts. Photo: Phillip Gary Smith

The original samples from Tread Labs to the author included a box of two Ramble Comfort, Ramble Short, and Ramble Thin sole inserts, plus one package of two Shearling Top Covers. The author purchased more directly from the company at the regular price.

The author purchased the trail and running shoes at Run ‘N Fun, Burnsville, Minnesota, at their regular price, less the discount for members of the Minnesota Distance Running Association (MDRA), now known as Run Minnesota.

Would you try or have you used the insoles from Tread Labs? Please share your experiences and insights of your review in the comments below.

About the author

Phillip Gary Smith

Phillip Gary Smith, Senior Editor, published "The 300-Mile Man" about Roberto Marron's historic doubling of the Tuscobia 150 mile endurance snow run. He publishes "iHarmonizing Competition" on various forms of competition, including drag racing, his favorite motorsport. Earlier, he wrote "HARMONIZING: Keys to Living in the Song of Life" as a manual for life with chapters such as Winning by Losing, Can God Pay Your Visa Bill?, and a young classic story, The Year I Met a Christmas Angel. His book, "Ultra Superior," is the first written on the Superior Trail ultra-distance events. He mixes writing with his profession--the venture capital world--a dying art. He is a creator of CUBE Speakers, a group espousing themes in "HARMONIZING: Keys" in a unique way. Currently, he has two books in the works.
Write to him at Phillip@ultrasuperior.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook @iHarmonizing.

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1 Comment

  • I walked /Sandshoed 50km 30+ miles. Jones Beach State Park NY over 7 continuous days.
    I swear by these insoles ! Increased balance, endurance and better circulation. True confession: I’m 60 with type II diabetes neuropathy and a touch vertigo.