Runners are always looking for an edge. We want to run longer, faster, more efficiently, and avoid injuries. Roar Athletic Performance has come up with a new product, the XG4 Performance Insole that promises to do all of the above. You simply slip the XG4 performance insoles into your running shoes and you’re ready to run faster, jump higher, and train harder. I was curious, so I tested a pair.

ROAR XG4 Performance Insole

The XG4 takes an athlete’s own potential energy and returns it back to them, helping generate more burst, power, and speed. Three scientific studies have been conducted confirming that carbon fiber insoles can increase performance and improve overall running efficiency. To achieve a performance advantage, the stiffness of the insole must be appropriate for the size and weight of the athlete using them.

XG4 performance insoles, running, ROAR

XG4 Performance Insoles: Road Test

I tested the XG4 insoles to see for myself why professional athletes in the NFL, NBA, and the MLB are using them. I took out the manufacturer’s insole, and popped the XG4 performance insole into my Brooks Ghost 8 running shoes. I took off for an easy 3 miles with a few strides thrown in, just to see how the XG4 would respond.

Before I even made it to the door, I was already feeling the increased “pop” of the carbon fiber insole. The extra bounce, coupled with the firmer feeling of the insole made my older running shoes feel new again. As I set out on my run, my feet felt comfortable and the bounce encouraged me to run my first mile a little faster than I’d planned.

I threw in some accelerated pick-ups, or strides, in the second and third mile of my run. I found that the more speed and energy I used, the greater the energy return from the XG4 insoles. Running with the XG4 insoles was a bit like running in heels. (Not that I’ve run in heels. But, if I did, I imagine it would feel like this.) My lower calves weren’t as engaged as they usually are.

XG4 performance insoles, running, ROAR, road test, review

XG4 Performance Insoles and ROAR Athletic Performance

I’m a 45-year-old marathon runner with a history of plantar fasciitis and a recent stress fracture. So, I’m careful with my feet. I had questions about this product and the long-term effects it might have on my running mechanics, and my body. Luckily, those questions were answered later that morning when I had a chance to speak with Matt Arciuolo, inventor of the XG4, and Founder of ROAR Athletic Performance.

I asked Matt if he thought that the XG4 performance insert is better suited for sprints and sports requiring explosive power, than it is for endurance running. Arciuolo said that is exactly why he’s created a matrix of XG4 products that are available in four different flex ratios. The stiffness of the insole is determined by three factors: the athlete’s foot size, weight, and sport. A 350 lb. football player with a size 15 foot would likely use a level 4 stiffness, and a 90 lb. marathon runner with size 5 feet might use a level 1.

Next, I asked him about flexibility. Runners typically pick shoes with good forefoot flexibility. With the less flexible XG4, is there a worry that fewer muscles will be recruited in the lower calves and plantar fascia? Could this lead to structural weakness and potential injury?

Arciuolo confirmed that using the insoles would not put any extra stress on those tendons and ligaments. But, I still wonder if enough stress is being put on them. If they weaken, could this ultimately lead to injury? Perhaps the XG4 insoles are better used for specific workouts throughout the training cycle, lessening any significant impact on running mechanics.

As for specific case studies, or “real life” examples of long distance runners using the XG4 performance insoles, he pointed me to an extraordinary runner by the name of Jonathan Williams. Williams will be running from Maine all the way down to the Florida Keys this year on top of XG4 insoles. Given the distance, that should make for a pretty good endurance study. 

ROAR Athletic Performance started at the top with professional sports teams, and now that the concept has proven itself, they are reaching out to a broader section of athletes. They’re also working with medical professionals, the U.S. military, and occupational therapists. Running shoe companies are quite interested in seeing where this technology leads, and Matt says that is a natural next step.

To find out more, or to help fund ROAR Athletics Kickstarter campaign, you can visit http://www.poweredbyroar.com/

Sample product was sent for review.

Thoughts?