Esker Wool Insoles NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG
TWO-MINUTE REVIEWS

Esker 'The Approach' Canadian-Made Wool Insoles

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Mar 30, 2021
Reading time

The Approach

Esker is the brainchild of two long-time Sea-To-Sky outdoor enthusiasts, Patrick Long and Andy Boniface.* Their goal is to make "more natural, versatile, and environmentally friendly, technical products" and The Approach insole is the first plastic-free production item to come out of their partnership. These insoles are designed by an orthotics expert and manufactured in Canada from Canadian wool, natural rubber, and linen.

The concept is to blend the performance of a quality off-the-shelf supportive insole that's good for myriad activities - cycling, trail building, hiking, skiing, etc - with everything woodsy folks love about wool gear. The promise is dryer feet, increased breathability, better temperature control, and reduced stink thanks to wool's natural properties.

I've been riding them in place of my usual foot support, the Specialized's BG++ Footbeds and SQLab's 215 Insoles, in a variety of weather conditions while turning the pedals on my commuter bike, the Banshee Titan test sled, and on my single speed. I haven't yet ridden them in summer, I can't say how they'll do when the air is hot and heavy.

*Who you might recognize from his previous career as a movie star, culminating in a role as an extra in IFHT's I'm Faster Than You.

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Brand spanking new - the size 43 Esker insole fits my size 43 Leatt 2.0 shoe without needing to be trimmed and fits my foot very well. As with any insole, some folks may want to go up a size and trim the toe in order to move the arch location to better fit their foot.

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At this point, my shoes have been full of water and then stacked on my boot dryer at least a dozen times. They are absolutely warmer than my other insoles on a winter's day when my shoes are full of H2O. Support is unchanged.

As I noted in my review of the Leatt 2.0 shoes, I really enjoy flat pedal shoes with a lot of flex in the sole - especially if the rubber is towards the less FiveTen-esque end of the spectrum. Combined with a big enough platform like my Kona Wah Wah 2 pedals or OneUp Composites, I get plenty of grip in all conditions. The issue for me with truly flexy shoes comes during long hike-a-bike sections or sustained out of the saddle climbs where my feet make their discomfort known through pain and numbness.

On that front, I've used the Esker insoles in both my Leatt shoes and the Crankbrothers Stamp, and the comfort and support are at least on par with my other preferred insoles. The big advantages are the aforementioned wet and cold weather comfort (which I think could be even more of a factor in a shoe with a metal heatsink/cleat bolted on it), and the anti-odor factor, which is a real improvement even in my case where I use a boot dryer regularly.

Price-wise, the 80 CAD is a bit of a premium if you're already happy with other off the shelf supportive inserts and certainly an investment if you get along fine with the basic floppy mouse pads that come in most shoes. Adding up Canadian manufacturing and materials, and wool's wonder properties, I can justify the investment myself as long as they continue to hold up well. I should note that the insoles had a little bit of a break-in period. They were comfy on my first two rides and then very comfy on my third and going forward from there.

As with any footbed, and footwear in general, no review can tell you that something will definitely work for you. If you have any questions about fit, I'm happy to try and answer them in the comments below. You can try The Approach in an increasing number of retailers and Esker also has a satisfaction guarantee whether you're buying in a store or ordering online. I think it's an awesome application for wool as a material and I'm excited to see what else they have coming down the pipe.

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Comments

khai
+1 Andrew Major
khai  - March 30, 2021, 10:19 a.m.

That's a cool option for sure! I spent this winter riding in Showers Pass waterproof merino socks and it was an absolute game changer. These would be a great option for those dry(er) days when full waterproof might be unnecessary/overkill, but this West Coast wimp still wants to feel his toes after 45 or so... Or in my Nordic boots.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 30, 2021, 10:40 a.m.

I really like the Showers Pass waterproof merino socks on truly soaking days and especially in clipless shoes where the metal cleats just suck any warmth out. Mine are on their last legs but I'd say they've still presented a solid value. They actually don't comfortably fit in these Leatt shoes (with my feet) so I haven't been wearing them much lately.

The Esker insoles are hopefully a year-round insert (I still haven't ridden them on any hot-hot days) and are also filling the role of a supportive insert that's as good as other off-the-shelf options I've used, and they don't stink. The fact they keep my feet warmer on cold rainy days is a bonus!

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khai
+1 Andrew Major
khai  - March 30, 2021, 11:05 a.m.

They sound worth looking into for sure.  My WP socks have definitely stretched my shoes to the point where I noticed recently while wearing thinner socks.  I pull the inserts most of the time and toss the shoes on a dryer after riding always - so the stank is mitigated.  But anything that helps is always welcome.  I pretty much only wear merino socks, which has also made a significant difference.  I had been thinking of trying a pair of Tread Labs insoles, but made in Canada from wool is pretty compelling...

As for year round, I wear merino socks in the dead of Summer comfortably so I'd think these ought to work pretty well.

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AndrewMajor
+1 khai
Andrew Major  - March 30, 2021, 12:14 p.m.

I'm the same way with merino socks - despite being an obviously exothermic diesel generator in the summer months - but I'm just hedging a bit since I'm really liking the Esker insoles but haven't ridden them when it's hot-hot-hot.

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andrewbikeguide
+1 Andrew Major
AndrewR  - March 30, 2021, 7:02 p.m.

Wool is wool, warmer when it is cooler and cooler when it is warmer. I am sure these will be comfortable in summer.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - April 4, 2021, 6:24 p.m.

That’s my assumption as well! 

Some of the first product testers were landscapers using them in rubber boots all year round. Apparently they’re comfy-not-funky even sweating about in the summer.

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jorukfundan
0
Jordan Yard  - April 6, 2021, 7:27 p.m.

Very intriguing. Wool is bomb material. If they fight the funk they shouldn't keep the odors much and work well for summer riding.

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