A prospective controlled trial was carried out to determine the usefulness of a viscoelastic polymer insole in prevention of stress fractures and stress reactions of the lower extremities. The subjects were 3,025 US Marine recruits who were followed for 12 weeks of training at Parris Island, South Carolina. Polymer and standard mesh insoles were systematically distributed in boots that were issued to members of odd and even numbered platoons. The most important finding was that an elastic polymer insole with good shock absorbency properties did not prevent stress reactions of bone during a 12-week period of vigorous physical training. To control for the confounding effects of running in running shoes, which occurred for about one and one-half hours per week for the first five weeks, we also examined the association of age of shoes and cost of shoes with injury incidence. A slight trend of increasing stress injuries by increasing age of shoes was observed. However, this trend did not account for the similarity of rates in the two insole groups. In addition, we observed a strong trend of decreasing stress injury rate by history of increasing physical activity, as well as a higher stress injury rate in White compared to Black recruits. The results of the trial were not altered after controlling for these factors. This prospective study confirms previous clinical reports of the association of stress fractures with physical activity history. The clinical application of a shock absorbing insole as a preventive for lower extremity stress reactions is not supported in these uniformly trained recruits. The findings are relevant to civilian populations.