Carbon fiber shoe insoles: a new edge in sports?

From super strict diets (looking at you, Tom Brady) to doing three-a-days, five days a week (LeBron 'King' James), athletes are always looking for an edge in sports.

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From super strict diets (looking at you, Tom Brady) to doing three-a-days, five days a week (LeBron 'King' James), athletes are always looking for an edge in sports. Well, a startup believes that you can add carbon fiber shoe insoles to that list. VKTRY Performance Insoles combine ‘aerospace-grade’ carbon fiber with a foam cushion that reportedly can help improve an athlete’s performance. These carbon fiber insoles weigh less than 30 grams and are less than 1mm thick. The company claims that unlike shoe insoles that are made from a foam or plastic material, these carbon fiber insoles are specifically designed to store the energy that would normally be wasted and direct it toward the ground, which can increase the speed or vertical jump while improving energy efficiency. The patented shape and engineered carbon fiber layering maximizes ground force to help propel an athlete in any direction.

Matt Arciuolo, the inventor of the VKTRY Performance Insoles, is a board certified pedorthist specializing in pain management and performance enhancement using custom orthotics and footwear. He told CW that he first got the idea when working with the U.S. Olympic Bobsled & Skeleton teams as they explored ways to make the bobsledders faster in the “push” position. They looked to design shoe inserts that would store and return energy so that the athletes could have a more “explosive start” and win more races. They experimented with various materials but had problems with both wearability and longevity.

“We didn’t want it to be obtrusive and if it’s too bulky the shoes won’t fit,” he says. “The design challenge was to get something effective and not have it be cumbersome.”

Eventually, they designed a carbon composite insole with ‘specific layering’ to fit in the ice spikes. Once the product was proven to work for the Olympic athletes, Arciuolo says they turned their attention to other sports. He received a patent for the design in 2015 and while they had previously made the product overseas, they brought the work to the U.S. in 2016. The shoe insoles aren’t a 'one size fits all' but instead are made in different degrees of flexibility based on athlete size (weight and foot size) in order to provide customized and optimized athletic performance.

The insoles can be used any sport where the athlete relies on efficient ground contact to move—football, baseball, soccer, volleyball, basketball, track, etc.—and are currently being used by professional, college and top-tier high school athletes. For example, the San Francisco 49ers have introduced the insoles to its players and the insoles have been endorsed by Gary Vitti, head trainer of the LA Lakers for the past 32 years.  

Right now the insoles are targeting the elite athletes market but Arciuolo says that they’re working on a cheaper model for the average consumer.