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OrthoLite Milestone: Cushion Effect

OrthoLite Inc. is stepping out.

Over the past 15 years, the company became a leader and innovator in the foam-insole market, with its products a staple of many of the shoe industry’s biggest brands.

Looking to build on that success, OrthoLite is extending its proprietary foams to other parts of the shoe — and even to products outside of footwear.

“There are many potential applications for our foams, so we see a lot of growth avenues for our brand,” said President Pam Gelsomini.

OrthoLite’s first product, in 1997, was the .13 Density, a standard open-cell foam insole that combined breathability and moisture management, along with durability and long-term cushioning — something Gelsomini said was not available in the market at the time. “We created a groundbreaking material that had the best of both worlds from what had traditionally been offered,” she said.

Over time, as the company collaborated with its footwear customers, the product line expanded to address a wider range of performance needs. OrthoLite’s line now features eight unique foam formulations, from the slow-recovery Lazy to the high-rebound X-40. Within those formulations, different hardnesses, thicknesses, colors and mold designs are available, allowing brands to mix and match materials to create customized insoles. “There are literally thousands of different ways brands can layer our foams — and they can call it their own technology,” Gelsomini said. “That ability to customize is a big part of our story and why we’ve been so successful.”

K-Swiss Inc., which uses OrthoLite products in its high-end tennis footwear, has worked with the company to create insoles that meet the specific demands of the sport, with features such as high resiliency and moisture management. “[OrthoLite insoles have] been a constant in our early 7.0 series, in styles such as the Ultrascendor, Defier RS and Glaciator SCD. They’ll also be [featured] in our new 2013 Bigshot II,” said Martin Mitani, director of product development for K-Swiss. “The quality of OrthoLite’s products is superior, and they back it up with great follow-through and customer service at all levels.”

OrthoLite also tiers its product line to offer customers flexibility when it comes to pricing. Depending on their cost requirements, companies can opt for die-cut, single-density molded, dual-layer or multi-density insoles. “You’re still getting the same foam, so it’s not diluting the OrthoLite name in any way, but you’re able to create product for a wide range of price points and niches,” said Gelsomini.

About 75 percent of OrthoLite’s business is concentrated in athletic and hiking footwear, with the remainder spread among the casual, dress and work categories. Gelsomini said the dress business, in particular, is a significant growth opportunity for OrthoLite. “We think we have a lot to offer in this area,” she said, noting that the company already is working with brands including Prada, Michael Kors and Kenneth Cole. “People today want to be comfortable; they aren’t as willing to put up with pain,” she said. “We’re able to do thinner, lower-profile insoles and create a fantastic comfort story in heels and other dress styles.”

Constant innovation is critical, said Gelsomini, as OrthoLite strives to maintain its edge in the market. “There are other companies out there that want to capture our niche, so we’re constantly coming up with new ideas and collaborating with our brands to tell the best performance stories possible.”

For more on OrthoLite’s growing children’s business, aftermarket initiatives and what brand partners say about the company, go to Footwearnews.com.

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