For several weeks, I have been testing the first-ever small nerve plantar proprioceptive stimulation insole technology called NABOSO, which means “barefoot” in Czech. The surface science technology was invented by Dr. Emily Splichal and is being marketed by her in conjunction with NABOSO yoga mats and floor tiles.

Introducing Naboso Insoles by Naboso Barefoot Technology. Get ready to experience what it truly means to move from the ground up with the first-ever small nerve proprioceptive insole to hit the footwear industry.

The skin on the bottom of the foot contains thousands of (small nerve) proprioceptors, which are sensitive to different stimuli including texture, vibration, skin stretch, deep pressure and light touch. When stimulated these proprioceptors play an important role in how we maintain upright stance, activate our postural muscles and dynamically control impact forces. – Dr. Emily Splichal

Dr. Emily Splichal goes on to state:

The skin on the bottom of the foot plays a critical role in balance, posture, motor control and human locomotion. All footwear – including minimal footwear – to some degree blocks the necessary stimulation of these plantar proprioceptors. The result is a delay in the nervous system which can contribute to joint pain, compensations, loss of balance and inefficient movement patterns.

Naboso Insoles are backed by surface science and texture research – and have been shown to not only improve balance but also positively impact gait patterns, ankle proprioception and force production in athletes.

Dr. Splichal stresses that:

This (NABOSO insole) is an insole providing proprioceptive and neuromuscular stimulation – it is not an orthotic providing biomechanical control.

The principle proprioceptive neural activity associated with balance responses occurs across the plantar plane. It is strongest in the 1st MPJ (big toe joint) and big toe.

Dr. Splichal cites studies that found that textured insoles increased the activity of receptors in the plantar surface of the feet with a significant, immediate effect seen in the outcome measures of static (weight bearing) and dynamic (weight symmetry index, strength symmetry) in balance tests  as well as in gait symmetry (single support and swing phases). Thus, the proprioceptive stimulation benefit of textured insoles is carried over into footwear without textured insoles. I have noticed a significant improvement in  plantar proprioceptive sensitivity when barefoot or when my feet are not bearing weight. It is as if my feet have been put to sleep by a local anesthetic which has worn off.

Dr. Splichal’s information on NABOSO states that for the first time ever it is now possible to bring the power of barefoot science and plantar proprioceptive stimulation to all footwear – regardless of support, cushion or heel toe drop.

Assuming a NABOSO is trimmed, if necessary, to fit a shoe, there will be a positive effect on plantar proprioceptive stimulation. But my experience to date has been that the plantar proprioceptive stimulation will be much more pronounced in a minimal, zero drop shoe with adequate width for fascial forefoot tensioning and correct alignment of the big toe. I have experienced the best results with NABOSO in the Xero Prio shoe with the Lems Primal 2 and a Vivobarefoot model, close seconds.

The photo below shows the Xero Prio (blue-grey) with the Lems Primal 2 (black).

Both shoes have thin soles with low resiliency (the material compresses very little). The soles are also very flexible, an important quality. The sole wearing qualities of the Xero are excellent. The Xero Prio has become my all around minimal shoe. I use it for cycling on my mountain bike fit with large flat platform pedals.

The photo below is of the NABOSO insole for my left shoe.

Initially, NABOSO insoles are perceived, but not uncomfortable. After a time, shoes feel strange without them.

Over several weeks, I have done many tests of different shoes and insoles where I compare cushioned, standard insoles to NABOSO and different shoes with and without NABOSO as well as one-on-one comparisons with different shoes on each foot. After an initial walk in period, if I remove a NABOSO insole from one of my Xero Prios, it feels as if sole of the foot with the Xero without the NABOSO is signicantly less sensitive.

The most significant aspect of trying NABOSO insoles in different shoes is that it immediately becomes apparent just how bad some shoes are. The more cushioning, the narrower the fit and the greater the heel to toe elevation of the sole, the worse the shoe feels. For example, when I compared the Xero Prio with zero drop to a Nike Free with a 5 mm drop, I immediately sensed a pronounced negative effect on my posture and muscles of my legs, especially my glutes.

A Game Changer?

Prior to NABOSO, footwear companies could make shoes that have a negative affect on posture, balance and gait because it could be argued that the benefits of protecting the soles of the feet from mechanical damage outweigh any negative effects on balance and increased susceptibility to falls and injury. But the criteria for product liability is that a product must minimize, but not necessarily eliminate, the risk of injury to the consumer. Studies of textured insoles and even thin, low resilency soled footwear have shown dramatic improvements in balance and gait while reducing the risk of falls and potential injury. The inescapable conclusion is that footwear that reduces balance and the efficiency of gait while increasing the risk of falls and potential injury fails to meet this standard. This raises the question, “Will product liability litigation in footwear be the “next shoe to drop?””

NABOSO in  Ski Boots?

I have not yet had an opportunity to test NABOSO ski boots. But 2 racers I am working with are using NABOSO in zero drop minimal shoes. Stay tuned.



  1. Great review, I appreciate your experience with the insole and the prios. I have had my eye on the Prio’s for a while now, I am just going to have to check them out for myself.

    I can’t wait until the insoles are available for the public when I can try them for myself.

    Do you wear socks with the insoles?

    1. Hi Daniel, I have been aware of the benefits of texture and sole/insole resilency on proprioception for some time. I encouraged Dr. Splichal to produce insoles using her NABOSO technology. I firmly NABOSO is not just the next big thing in footwear, I believe NABOSO is THE BIG THING period.

      I am in the process of writing a post on shoe hacks to custom tune the fit of shoes, including the Lems Primal 2 and Xero Prio. Both shoes when fit with NABOSO insoles represent a quantum leap for whole body function. I walk and run trails near my home. The improvement in traction and stability is phenomenal compared to the same shoes without NABOSO. I also use Correct Toes toe spreaders and wear all my shoes without socks.

      1. Yes I agree, about the next big thing! I am blown away with Dr Emily’s research in barefoot living and the mat she has developed.

        That is great I currently have the Lems Primal shoes and correct toes. I am in the market for a new pair. Deciding if I should transfer over to Xero shoes. Have you tried the Xero sandal?
        I wonder how it would work with the insoles.

      2. I have not tried the Xero Sandal yet. A footwear hack that the CorrectToes blog suggests is to move the laces on eyelet set back from the toe eyelets to reduce the tension across the metatarsals. I have been shoe hacks like this for decades, well before the introduction of good shoes like Lems, Vivobarefoot and Xero. Another hack, I like is to diagnol lace the toe end eyelets so the toe eyelet on the little toe side is skipped. I did this on my Xero.

        It is satisfying to finally see shoe modifying thinking coming to footwear and especially the arrival of NABOSO. After centuries of foot damaging footwear, a growing camp promoting footwear that creates a functional environment for the foot is emerging. I am jubliant.

        Whenever I try a hack or a new technology like NABOSO, I experiment with one shoe first, then both, then back to where I started from. I have also done a long series of tests where I compared NABOSO to other insoles of different textures and resilency. NABOSO has consistently bested them all.

        After much experimenting with lace hacks, I consider the Lems Primal 2 and Xero Prio a dead heat with NABOSO insoles. NABOSO is THE Game Changer.

  2. No worries:) Other things to do than sit by the computer all day. For example:) climbing the ladder today in the ‘improved’ sneakers there was a hitch/glitch in the left knee. Since the toe spreaders make me feel really good, I wondered if the hitch/glitch could disappear on the ladder. I switched to my sandals with toe spreaders and it was much smoother climbing the ladder. Played with some shims alternating under the mid mets, first met, and fifth met with the toe spreaders still between the toes. All placements made things worse climbing the ladder and so I went back to the best with the toes simply spread.

    Later sitting and pulling the big toe into alignment definitely gives that foot the best looking arch I’ve ever seen. Without the toe pulled over to be in line with the inside of my foot, it appears the mets are jamming. I’m sure you are aware of this; just trying to paint a picture for those who haven’t tried this yet:)

    My Nabosos are somewhere in the mail (I hope:) and I guess the next thing is some Xero Primo or similar because right now I’m not happy the way I feel walking when I know there is better!

    Should be ‘fun’ ‘fixing’ the toe box on my ski boots for next winter:)

  3. Thanks for the report.

    Starting to fiddle (many years too late!) with my everyday foot wear on a more regular basis. Currently too cheap, also still too reluctant to buy foot wear on-line in spite of the fact that everything I buy at the shoe store doesn’t allow the big toe to align correctly. It helped going up one size in the stuff I buy.

    One pair of recently purchased Converse sneakers have worked the best so far. Unfortunately lifting my left foot to accommodate that leg being shorter than the other messes things up with the big toe. Here are some ‘ski boot fitting’ steps I’ve done so far:
    * Even though I haven’t been lacing the sneaks tight I incrementally moved the laces from the most bottom holes one at a time, now starting the laces in the 4th from the bottom. Relieved a lot of the problem.
    * Cut the stitching between the bottom of the tongue and ‘lace overlap’ which freed up the big toe a lot, just not perfect.
    * With the foot now sliding forward a touch at times, I actually tied the laces on that foot snug for the first time since buying them in the top three holes but not as tight as I used to do all my laces. Amazing!! Semi tight lace ‘bumping’ but now completely stopping my ankle glide path was irritating to my whole feeling of well being!! I unlaced the top one hole and now only laced two holes over my instep; very much like how David holds the foot in place with the instep compression in his patent and ski boots!! Hilarious with all the info on The Skier’s Manifesto it took me that long to figure that out:)
    * Next step is to see if I can ‘boot punch’ the big toe enough to allow it to be in line with the side of my foot……:)
    * Still a long way from accommodating ‘toe spreaders’ so may be buying footwear on-line soon!!

    Thanks for sharing all the info and hopefully soon have a positive update!

    1. Sorry for the delay in reviewing your comment Michael.

      I started modifying running shoes in about the mid’70s. In recent years, I started making the ‘lace hacks’ you are making with the same results. I went from having the laces in shoes like my Lems Primal 2s loose to having them very snug after hacking the laces with the result that the sole of the shoe feels like it is glued to my foot. Using NABOSO insoles dramatically improved this feeling as well as the sensitivity of the nerves in the soles of my feet even in shoes without NABASO. I now feel more solid and stable on my feet than I have ever felt in my life. I also feel much stronger in the whole. Dr. Splichal said this would happen.

      The best lacing/tensioning system I have found so far is in the Xero Prio. This shoe feels like it is integrated with with foot. With NABOSO insoles I describe the combination as better than barefoot.

      Getting a shoe with zero drop, thin, low resilency soles and a shape that allows natural alignment of the big toe and foot splay is key.

  4. David,

    I realize you haven’t been on the new insoles for very long but do you feel they also toughen up the soles? That would make them worthwhile right there!!

    I have some on order so shall be interesting to wear them:)

    1. I can’t say that the soles of my feet have been toughened up, at least not yet. But the whole stabilization and solid footing and traction is like nothing I have ever experienced before. It is barefoot function on steroids.

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