Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Geek Gadgets: ThermaCELL ProFLEX Heavy Duty Heated Insole Review

Winter is right around the corner and there is nothing this geek hates more than being cold. One of my biggest peeves is trying to get out and enjoy my favorite winter sports and having cold feet. Luckily it looks like I may have found the perfect geek gadget to solve that problem, ThermaCELL ProFLEX Heavy Duty Bluetooth enabled heated insoles. Yes you read that right, these things are Bluetooth enabled, totally wireless and fully rechargeable! They've got everything that screams GEEK (IMO anyways).

ProFLEX Heavy Duty Heated Insole Features

Before we get down to the review let's take a quick look at what we are dealing with here:
  • Bluetooth Operation - No remotes, no odd wires, you simply operate your ThermaCELL ProFLEX Heavy Duty Heated Insoles from your smartphone using their nifty little app (see list for compatible devices.). App features 3 Temperature settings: Low=100°, Medium=110°, and High=115°
  • Fully Rechargeable High capacity Battery - 30% more powerful than the standard ProFLEX, and will last up to 8.5 hours of warmth per charge. Each insole features removable, replaceable, lithium-ion polymer batteries that will charge in two hours or less.
  • Long-Lasting Durability - Made with even more durable materials to withstand all-day pounding. New optimized cushioning and stability will help you stay on your feet all day long. Tested to 1 million steps while batteries are reported to recharge well over 500 times.
  • Package includes: 2 ProFLEX Heavy Duty Heated Insoles, 2 rechargeable lithium-ion polymer batteries; 1 smart charging case, 1 wall charger, 1 USB cable; 1 drawstring travel bag, 1 instruction booklet.
As you can already tell these aren't just your every day Dr Scholl's insoles, they pack some pretty geeky features!

Getting Things Started - Quick and Easy
Unlike most of the geek gadgets we test out there really isn't much to getting started with the ThermaCELL ProFLEX insoles. Download the ThermaCELL Heated Products App (android - iOS) , charge up the batteries, trim if necessary, slip them into your shoes, and you are basically off and running.

ThermaCELL ProFLEX Product Video

Since there really isn't much to setup and the app doesn't come with a ton of features there shouldn't be many issues getting started. However, there are a few areas you might run in to issues like we did. For starters our Galaxy S5 didn't want to pair up with out insoles. We had to restart the phone and do a re-scan to get them connected.Once they were connected everything seemed to be fine, though we had a tough time telling if the insoles were working!

Temperature Controls - You Get The Basics
The ThermaCELL app provides quick and easy temperature settings and battery monitoring. Beyond that there isn't much to the app. You get 3 Temperature settings and a no heat setting (we aren't sure if this is standby or off though), battery monitoring and an active/inactive monitor. The only other real option is linking, to control both insoles at once or an individual temperature control to change either one independently.

Our Thoughts - Disappointing Results
ThermaCELL specifically states their insoles "keep feet warm, not hot", so I'm not sure if it was just our test set or if they really aren't intended to get very warm. Either way on high, which is supposed to max out at 115°, my feet just barely felt any warmth at all. Most, if not all of the heat is focused on the toes section of the insole, which isn't a big deal since that is generally where you want most of it anyways. However, I wanted the ability to turn on my insoles and slip my feet into a nice cozy set of boots that were warmed all the way through. No matter what we tried, that just didn't happen.

Another unfortunate effect of trying to keep our boots toasty warm, was rather poor battery life. Since ThermaCELL states a charge should lasts up to 8.5 hours of constant use (on low heat setting), we expected a couple hours of use on high. In reality, from a full charge, we saw between 1-2 hrs of continued use. This would really be less of a concern if we had reached a nice temperature level, again however we didn't get to the point we expected.

Sadly it doesn't end there! Adding to our disappointing results was the overall comfort of the insoles themselves, they just didn't seem to add much extra benefit in this area what so ever! Again this might be by design and is of course not the focus of the product, but at $199 I would have expected more!

Conclusion - What Doesn't Work For Me Might Work For You!!
ThermaCELL certainly seems to have a one of a kind product here, and looking at some of the other options out there they certainly seem to be at the front of the pack when it comes to technology. In fact I couldn't find anything even close to compare them to. So while I have to give them the nod for standing out from the crowd, I can't say that I would run out and buy a pair of ProFLEX Heavy Duty Heated Insoles. They just didn't perform up to my standards.

Now that isn't to say they won't work out for you, in fact they might! I admittedly didn't test them under extreme cold settings, this is where that 115° high temp might actually be 'just right' for your feet. I also didn't test them as an intermittent warming device, this was one suggestion I saw from several other reviews. I was testing more for long term comfort, or initial warming.

Feature Request and Improvements
I wanted to close out our review with a few notes for improvements and a couple of requests. For starters we could use a few 'added features'. With a $199 price tag I really would expect a bit more out of any geek gadget! I'd like to see a bit more in overall function, adding in something like a pedometer sensor so you can use the app for tracking your distance would be ideal. Adding in a warming setting with perhaps an alarm or timer with a  higher heat temp to warm your boots or shoes at a specific time would also be great. Imagine getting up for work to already warm boots!

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