Background: I ride daily in a very cold climate (Fairbanks, AK). My typical winter riding footwear includes a pair of trail running shoes underneath an insulated (NEOS) overboot, as this is a very warm and light combination. However, on longer rides or endurance races, I find that I notice significant strain on my calves and Achilles tendons, much more so than similar efforts when wearing cycling shoes. I assume this is due to the lack of stiffness in my footwear. I am sure I lose power transfer efficiency in my pedal stroke for the same reason.
I am considering adding some type of stiff insert (e.g., plastic) in between the shoe and the overboot to address these problems. So here is my question, in two parts:
From an anatomical and physiological perspective, is maximum stiffness of the sole the ideal situation for a cycling shoe in terms of comfort and injury prevention, or is the shape of that stiffness-providing structure equally important (i.e., I realize cycling shoes are not flat pieces of carbon or plastic, but they conform more to the shape of the foot).
From a physics perspective, will a stiff footbed between the shoe and overboot provide similar power transfer to a cycling shoe, assuming there is minimal movement between the three components of the footwear system?
Note: I do not wish to switch to clipless pedals/shoes on this bike. Even with 45NRTH Wolvhammers or the like, most winter cyclists in my area still require aftermarket boot covers for long, cold rides.
Another note: I am going to experiment with inserts either way, but was interested to see what folks on here think about it.