OrthoLite was founded in 1997 by Glenn Barrett, a lifelong footwear entrepreneur. Barrett believed the interior environment of the shoe had not been sufficiently addressed and while on a sourcing trip to Taiwan he was introduced to an innovative new open-cell PU foam that was the ideal technology to solve the problems occurring inside the shoe by creating insoles for top shoe brands.

For an update on its business, Running Insight interviewed C.B. Tuite, OrthoLite chief sales officer.

Running Insight: Most people in the running business know OrthoLite as the provider of insoles for top brands of running shoes. Where is your business today?

Tuite: As a vertical manufacturing partner to more than 350 of the world’s top footwear brands, we’ve ramped up production capabilities across China, Vietnam, Indonesia and expanded into South America and Europe.  Another priority has been technology innovation — we’ve committed resources and have worked closely with brand partners to introduce more branded OEM innovation in recent years than we have previously. Today our portfolio of comfort performance solutions has grown dramatically due to our “Innovation through Collaboration” model. Our product roadmap is focused on delivering eco, value and performance innovations across all categories and price points, which has enabled expansion both within the running category, and outside of it with comfort, dress, casual, fashion and outdoor partners.


How are you positioned in the market?

We’re positioned to help our brand partners deliver superior comfort and performance in footwear, a win-win on both sides. For us, it’s about helping sell that second pair of shoes and creating brand evangelists for those investing in OrthoLite.

We give partners the unique ability to customize their OrthoLite technology story by color, density, hardness, rebound and more, and because of that we have over 75 percent share of our category. From a premium running perspective, we estimate our technology is utilized in more than 50 percent of the category.


What are the major trends you are seeing in your business, especially as it relates to running?

There’s a continued focus on how eco is now part of a performance story versus solely a sustainable one. OrthoLite is able to deliver our new eco Hybrid solution across all formulations, allowing brands to elevate their overall eco-content while remaining cost-neutral.

Customization is huge. Our brand partners love the ability to customize their comfort and performance attributes to meet specific performance metrics with a combination of insole and midsole technology.

We’re also seeing the running category in particular continue to lean in on lightweight footwear. We’ve introduced our new UltraLite technology, which has all the key performance attributes that OrthoLite is known for in a lighter formulation.


What impact do you see the custom and 3D printing business having on OrthoLite?

OrthoLite has and will always embrace innovation and new trends. We are further exploring this new technology, but from a mass production standpoint, and as a provider of OEM branded insole solutions it’s not yet where we need it to be when it comes to capacity and speed. It’s an exciting innovation, but the key will be the ability to scale it for mass production.


Can you talk about your sustainability initiatives?

Twenty years ago we pioneered sustainable insole technology with our first formulation that utilized recycled rubber and now OrthoLite humbly boasts the largest suite of eco-technology. We take the insole/outsole post-production waste and grind it into our proprietary formulations.  It’s part of our secret sauce.

Today, our focus is on closing the loop and achieving zero waste across our global production regions. We’re sustainable in both production and product and have opened our own recycling facility to fully repurpose and reuse all post-production waste. We’re now commercializing this 100 percent recycled technology in parallel to our new eco Hybrid technology – patent pending –  where we take post-production waste foam and mix it into all of our technologies during the actual formulation process. We have created a unique way to reuse the waste while retaining performance, truly a game change in insole technology.


So what’s next for OrthoLite?

Another interesting trend is what we refer to as investment engineering versus cost engineering. Over the last few years some brands made the fatal error of trying to down spec their products to save cost and increase margins versus making the right investments to improve product performance. Consumers can tell the difference and those brands that continued to invest in the best materials and innovation are the ones winning and taking market share.