Imagine an insole that can make you run faster, jump higher and change directions quicker. Not only that, it makes you less likely to sustain the kind of lower-body injuries that typically plague athletes.
It might sound like science fiction, but that's the promise of VK insoles by VKTRY.
In the early 2000s, Matt Arciuolo, a certified pedorthist, created an insole to help the U.S. Olympic bobsled team generate more explosive starts. He soon realized that virtually every type of athlete could benefit from a similar design. Ten years of research and development followed, as various materials, designs and manufacturing processes were tested. The result is an insole that includes heel-to-toe aerospace grade carbon fiber, weighs less than 30 grams and is less than 1 mm thick.
We got our hands on a pair of VK insoles to get a better idea of how they worked and see if their purported performance-enhancing capabilities are the real deal.
Simple Yet Effective
VK insoles are not complicated. Sure, they make use of the same carbon fiber you'd find in aerospace projects, but the design itself is straightforward. Almost all explosive athletic movements—from chasing down a ballcarrier to grabbing a rebound over an opponent—rely on ground force. The more ground force you can produce, the more explosive you'll be. Traditional insoles do nothing to increase ground force. That's where VKTRY soles are different. The company explains how it works on their website:
"The VK Performance Insole improves performance by increasing the amount of elastic (potential) energy in the eccentric phase of movement and releasing that energy by reducing the time between dorsiflexion and plantarflexion in the concentric phase. The VK creates no energy of its own. It simply uses the energy that an athlete produces and focuses it directly back into the ground resulting in more efficient movement, less energy dissipation and increased athletic performance."
Since every athlete is different, the company offers five different "Pro" levels of insole. Using a proprietary algorithm that takes into account an athlete's weight and sport, the company recommends a given level. Each level has a different amount of rigidity, best suitable to an athlete's performance needs.
The research available on VKTRY's website is impressive. The company sent pairs of their insoles to a third-party testing facility in Florida that uses laser-activated digital measuring. The testing involved 34 athletes ranging from high school to pro. On average, the VK insoles led to a .12-second improvement in the 40-Yard Dash, a .17-second improvement in an agility test and a 4-inch improvement in the Broad Jump. A second study conducted at the University of Connecticut on 20 varsity athletes found that VK insoles led to an average 1.6-inch improvement in the Vertical Jump.
The company also makes big claims about the product's injury-prevention capabilities. They don't yet have research to back this up (in part because the product has only been available for a few months and injury-related studies are more long-term), but they claim that VK insoles absorb shock and lessen stress on an athlete's joints, reducing their risk of Lisfranc injuries, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and turf toe.
Gary Vitti, who served as the head athletic trainer for the Los Angeles Lakers for 32 years, believes in their injury-preventing abilities. He said, "The VK is the best combination of shock absorption and stability that I have ever seen. I have worn a lot of custom orthotics and none have felt as good as VKs." Other testimonials on the company's website come from the likes of Jack Marucci, Director of Athletic Training at LSU, and Ryan Reynolds, assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Kansas City Chiefs.
The objective and anecdotal evidence surrounding VKTRY insoles is impressive, but we wanted to test them out ourselves.
STACK's Wear Test
To help us review their product, VKTRY hooked us up with a pair of insoles. I ordered a size 13-13.5 optimized for a 215-pound basketball player. Based on those metrics, VKTRY 's algorithm decided I was best suited for a Pro 5 insole.
To conduct the testing, I headed to Speed Strength Systems in Chesterland, Ohio. Owner Tim Robertson Jr. has prepared players like Julian Edelman, Mario Manningham and Tedd Ginn Jr. for the NFL Combine, so he was the perfect man to put me through the testing. I had spent some time breaking in the VK insoles beforehand, per the company's recommendation.
Before we get into the results, I'd like to acknowledge that this testing was far from scientific. VKTRY has large-scale, third-party studies on their website that utilize more accurate technology than STACK readily has access to. Our "testing" was one lanky writer running through a bunch of combine events he hadn't previously trained for. Fatigue was likely a factor in certain drills. My speed and agility tests were hand-timed, so there was room for human error. The shoes I was wearing (Nike Kyrie 2s) were a bit stiff, so it's possible I wasn't getting the optimal flex out of the VK insole and thus not reaping their full benefit. This was about seeing how the VKTRY soles felt and what type of results I could achieve in this setting.
After Tim put me through a dynamic warm-up, we got into the testing. Here's the order we followed:
- 2 Vertical Jump tests (normal insoles)
- 2 Broad Jump tests (normal insoles)
- 2 Vertical Jump tests (VKTRY insoles)
- 2 Broad Jump tests (VKTRY insoles)
- 2 3-Cone Shuttles (normal insoles)
- 2 40-Yard Dashes (normal insoles)
- 2 3-Cone Shuttles (VKTRY insoles)
- 2 40-Yard Dashes (VKTRY insoles)
The results were as follows:
- Vertical Jump (normal insoles) 26.5 inches
- Vertical Jump (VKTRY insoles) 26 inches
- Broad Jump (normal insoles) 106 inches
- Broad Jump (VKTRY insoles) 109 inches
- 3-Cone Shuttles (normal insoles) 4.47 seconds
- 3-Cone Shuttles (VKTRY insoles) 4.46 seconds
- 40-Yard Dash (normal insoles) 5.02 seconds
- 40-Yard Dash (VKTRY insoles) 5.07 seconds
The only test in which I had substantial improvement with the VK insoles was the Broad Jump, where I had an increase of three whole inches. I also saw very slight improvement in the 3-Cone Shuttle. My Vertical Jump and 40-Yard Dash were actually slightly worse while wearing the VK insoles.
But there was something interesting about my last two 40-Yard Dashes. Although my overall time was slower with the VK insoles, I recorded a significantly faster 20-yard and 10-yard split than I had during my earlier attempts. The start and acceleration phases of the 40-Yard Dash are where ground force is most integral to success, so it's possible the VK insoles helped me better accelerate during that phase before my dead legs got the better of me.
As for intangibles, I did feel like the VK insoles added a little pep to my step. It wasn't like I was being launched out of a cannon, but there seemed to be some extra bounce. The soles themselves were quite comfortable, and I felt totally confident performing any type of athletic movement while wearing them.
VK insoles didn't suddenly turn me into an Olympic-caliber athlete, but that's not the idea behind the product. Nothing can replace a good work ethic and a dedication to training, but VK insoles are meant to give you the slight edge that all great pieces of equipment and gear offer. If you're interested, there's no reason not to give them a shot. You can learn more about the product at VKTRYgear.com.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock