How often do you think about the footbed of your shoes? Check yours, and we bet you’ll find a brand called OrthoLite.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on iRunFar.
Runners, hikers, and sneakerheads alike love to talk about a shoe’s outsole, midsole, and upper. But the insole, a critical component of a shoe’s comfort, is often overlooked. Part of this may be because footbed manufacturer OrthoLite has been providing more than 400 top footwear brands with insoles that work so well, people forget how necessary they are for a shoe to perform.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2022, the company is the largest manufacturer and supplier of insoles for all types of shoes (according to OrthoLite), including athletic, running, active, comfort, lifestyle, and fashion. More than 500 million pairs of shoes use OthoLite insoles each year, so the chances are high that several of the shoes in your closet sport these insoles.
But OrthoLite doesn’t only focus on creating comfortable insoles; the company is also dedicated to environmental sustainability. According to the brand, OrthoLite has worked hard since its beginnings to find ways to reduce waste and energy use in its manufacturing processes, all while still aiming to create highly functional and comfortable products.
Shoe brands including Danner, HOKA, Salomon, and La Sportiva have benefitted from OrthoLite’s focus on quality and sustainability.
A History of Environmentally Friendly Practices
OrthoLite has been dedicated to sustainable manufacturing practices from the start. Not only does the brand want to create great products, but OrthoLite seeks to do it with minimal environmental impact. The brand focuses on finding circular manufacturing solutions where everything that goes into its products is recyclable or compostable.
Because OrthoLite is a vertically integrated company that owns its factories, it has been able to incorporate environmentally friendly practices to reduce waste and energy use. The company’s commitment to increasing operational efficiencies, using solar panels for energy, and having a wastewater treatment facility has earned it scores above the 90th percentile from the Higg Index, a standard for assessing the environmental sustainability of a supply chain for a product.
OrthoLite factories also have a Zero Waste initiative and their own recycling facilities. The company is actively involved in the research and development of sustainable manufacturing practices. Its goal is to minimize the use of toxic chemicals and additives in its processes to protect the environment.
When OrthoLite first started manufacturing insoles in 1997, the company’s primary goal was to create more comfortable shoes. A significant upgrade from the basic foam insoles that existed at the time, OrthoLite’s replacements were made of open-cell polyurethane foam. This new material helped keep feet cooler and drier.
The brand’s ultimate goal still remains zero waste.
Modern Sustainable Insole Technology
By creating trust-based relationships with the leading shoe brands, OrthoLite is able to customize its insoles for the specific needs of various shoe manufacturers. According to the brand, it has the largest portfolio of proprietary eco-technologies for insoles in the industry.
With these options, OrthoLite can create products with various levels of eco-content, ranging from 5% to 98%. By working closely with companies, the brand is able to meet the specific performance and sustainability needs that brands have for different types of shoes.
OrthoLite also has two new options for sustainably created insoles: HybridPlus-Recycled and HybridPlus-Bio. Both new models of insoles have high percentages of recycled materials.
According to OrthoLite, the HybridPlus-Recycled insole contains 50% recycled content, including recycled rubber powder and polyurethane foam. The HybridPlus-Bio goes a step further, using 7% bio-oil in the insole to minimize the petroleum used in the manufacturing of the product.
The two insoles are among the latest innovations to come from OrthoLite’s team. The company continues to pursue the goal of repurposing waste materials from its manufacturing processes. And while the new insoles are made with new materials, OrthoLite still aims for optimum comfort and performance.
OrthoLite Cirql: Sustainable Insole Foam
Many shoe midsoles and insoles are made with EVA foam, a non-recyclable material. Created with non-renewable chemical compounds that don’t biodegrade, often called “forever chemicals,” EVA is not particularly environmentally friendly.
OrthoLite had a different idea for creating foam for midsoles, developing Cirql, a soil-to-soil circular product solution. This foam product, announced in early 2022 and entering into initial development with brand partners in 2023, is EVA-free and is created from plant and other biodegradable materials — according to OrthoLite. Even the processing of the material is executed in a zero-waste and chemical-free manner.
After a shoe wears out, the Cirql material will either biodegrade or can be recycled, leaving behind no microplastics or other harmful chemicals to pollute the Earth, OrthoLite says.
This advancement in foam technology has the potential to make the shoe manufacturing process much more sustainable by helping footwear brands elevate their sustainability efforts through cleaner manufacturing and using a true soil-to-soil product.
The Future of Insoles Is Comfortable and Sustainable
It’s important for brands to think about sustainable practices at least as much as they are thinking of creating a comfortable product.
OrthoLite is leading the way, providing options for top brands to create shoes in a sustainable manner. The brand believes that environmentally circular product manufacturing, where everything that goes into creating a product is biodegradable or recyclable, is the way of the future. OrthoLite footbeds reflect the company’s commitment to the environment and the advancement of sustainable practices.
So the next time you notice that comfortable OrthoLite insole in your favorite adventure shoe, you can also consider it an insole made with the future of your prized trails in mind.