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Review: ThermaCELL Heated Insoles

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November 27, 2013

Gizmag reviews ThermaCELL's Heated Insoles

Gizmag reviews ThermaCELL's Heated Insoles

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ThermaCELL released its wirelessly-controlled Heated Insoles in 2012, and I've been wondering about them ever since. A local store couldn't keep the things in stock last winter, yet I've also seen more than a few user reviews stating that they just don't work. Given that I live somewhere where cold toes are a common problem for several months a year, I really wanted to know what the case was ... and I figured that lots of other people would like to know, too. I got the company to send me a pair, in order to find out.

First of all, a bit about the product ...

Each water-resistant insole has an integrated RF receiver, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and a heating element that's located under the front of the foot. The batteries are replenished using an included charger – a complete charge takes about four hours from empty, and the charger lets you know when it's done by shutting off its green "on" light.

Unlike other heated insoles, a simple push-button wireless remote lets users switch between High, Medium, and No Heat settings. On High, a thermostat within each insole maintains an output temperature of 110ºF (43ºC), while Medium keeps things at 100ºF (38ºC). No Heat turns off the heating element – it's a handy feature, as it allows you to save battery life by only running the elements when needed, without having to pull the insoles out to flick their own power switches on and off.

A simple push-button wireless remote lets users switch between High, Medium, and No Heat s...

Should you lose track of whether or not the insoles are turned on, blinking LEDs in the back of each one will let you know that they're powered up, and what mode they're in. Their battery life sits around three hours on High, and closer to five on Medium.

When I first went to use them, I discovered that although the insoles don't look particularly thick, they won't fit comfortably inside just any footwear – even if you do remove the existing insoles first. This was disappointing, as I'd been hoping to use them in my cycling shoes. Undoubtedly they do leave plenty of foot room inside some shoes, but I'd say that they're mainly intended for use in boots.

Once I got them in my boots, I decided not to kid around and set them straight to High. I tried them out over several days, during which the temperature got as cold as -18ºC (0ºF).

A diagram of one of the insoles

So, did they make a difference?

I have to admit, at first I could understand why some people would think that they don't. They're not much warmer than body temperature, so they're never going to leave your toes feeling satisfyingly "toasty." Your feet instead just feel neutral, like they do at room temperature, making you wonder if the insoles are making any difference.

According to ThermaCELL, though, that's the whole idea. If your feet were to get sitting-in-front-of-the-fireplace warm, they would sweat. That sweat would proceed to carry heat away from your skin, and ultimately leave you worse off than you were in the first place.

It took some different testing methods, but I was eventually able to determine that the insoles did indeed allow my feet to keep feeling "neutral" in situations where they would otherwise get noticeably cold. They're comfortable, too.

A complete charge takes about four hours from empty, and the charger lets you know when it...

Time will tell how they make out against some of the really stupidly cold temperatures we get here (i.e: -35ºC/-31ºF), but at this point I can say that they're definitely up to the task for most places' more "civilized" winter climates.

My only real complaint, aside from the fact that I can't use them in my cycling shoes, is the buttons on the remote. They could easily be accidentally pressed when the unit is stuffed in a pocket or purse, inadvertently changing the heating mode. Perhaps a single sliding switch might work better.

Oh yes, and one other complaint ... it's too cold where I live.

ThermaCELL's Heated Insoles are priced at US$135, and are available in a variety of sizes that can be trimmed to fit.

Product page: ThermaCELL Heated Insoles

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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10 Comments

Why don't you charge just one insole, but wear both of them. That way when you activate them you will have just one working and you will be able to have a control (non-working insole) and find out whether the heated insole really makes any difference.

Konstantinos Margetis
27th November, 2013 @ 05:06 pm PST

These are really nothing new, I had a pair of heated Lange ski boots circa 1990... The only real difference was an external battery pack.

They worked OK for 3/4 of the season, but would sometimes get way too hot, as in have-to-remove-your-boots hot.

Chris Maresca
28th November, 2013 @ 01:07 am PST

I just solved my cold-feet-problem cycling by getting shoes two sizes up and using double socks for winter riding.

But this sounds like a good solution provided there's enough room.

As an aside: Slightly larger shoes are zoo comfortable and prevent quite a few issues when cycling.

moreover
28th November, 2013 @ 09:36 am PST

This is not the way to go. You need a cushioning material that can sense the body heat and use it to warm the insole. Who would want to add another remote in your pockets? Besides, all the insoles get pressed down sooner or later with use, durability might be another question for $135.

kamaaina
28th November, 2013 @ 11:56 am PST

Someone needs to make a dehumidifying sole.

Gary Richardson
28th November, 2013 @ 12:36 pm PST

@ kamaaina: "This is not the way to go. You need a cushioning material that can sense the body heat and use it to warm the insole."

The problem with this approach is that by drawing heat from already neutral or warm feet to heat the insoles, nothing is achieved besides, perhaps, cooling the feet. . . and if the feet are already cold, there would be no body heat available to warm the insoles. See the problem?

Cold feet can't warm the insoles to warm the feet, while warm feet that could warm the insoles don't need warm insoles if they're already warm. ;-)

KrakaTaoJones
28th November, 2013 @ 02:08 pm PST

would moving to a warmer environment be an alternative soul-ution?

ADVENTUREMUFFIN
29th November, 2013 @ 07:58 am PST

Great idea; not only for feet. How about a belt, like bikers wear, to warm the kidneys (and all the rest of me) while I wait for the bus in this shill breeze?

Joel Reed
1st December, 2013 @ 07:02 am PST

Just wondering what issues you had with your cycling shoes. I ride year round and suffer from a circulation issue that even living in Louisiana, limits me to 2 hours or less when below 40F.

Its painful to ride not just uncomfortable and if these work and I can make them fit in my cycling shoes it'd be a life saver. Its in the 20's this morning, I'll wear wool socks, winter shoes with thick shoe covers and still freeze.

Thanks for any recomendations. If there is anyone who knows of a brand that will work for cycling, please share.

The integrated battery and remote (no cables and battery packs) make them very appealing. I tried a pair that used a battery pack, not only did they not work, they were a pain to deal with.

Thanks.

fattiregeek
8th January, 2014 @ 02:55 am PST

They work very well.

I have them in my ski boots for two seasons now. My feet were perpetually cold from being frozen a few times as a youngster and from just plain weird circulation. (It takes my body forever to warm-up. resting heart rate too low etc).

I pre-warm the boots with the soles on the drive to the ski hill (45 minutes) and leave them on medium or low when skiing.

I have the non remote style, same thing, just have to push a button on the battery pack.

I will be trying them in my sailing boots this summer. (I live in PNW - cold water even in summer)

fatehunter
27th January, 2014 @ 03:49 pm PST
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