Advances in Store for Ferndale-Based Superfeet
Since 1977, Superfeet Worldwide Inc. has been a leader in the insole industry, developing new technology right in our backyard of Ferndale. It has developed and makes some of the most popular shoe inserts, or foot beds, for running, ski and snowboard boots, ice skates, football cleats, ballet slippers, and footwear of all kinds. They provide support for arches, heels, soles and, increasingly, they are being customized for individual feet.
Superfeet’s market is the 75 percent of Americans who experience foot-related pain, says Jeff Gray, director of outreach and fit at Ferndale’s Superfeet headquarters. For 11 years, Superfeet has been driven to target that immense market and give their customers more energy, comfort, and general quality of life through their shoe insoles. While Superfeet is already in the market of creating custom orthotic insoles, this fall they will begin manufacturing custom running shoes for brands like Brooks.
“We are really going to change footwear sizing for the retailer and the consumer and bring this technology forward,” Gray says. From creating each insole by hand to computer-generated 3-D printing, Superfeet is emerging as a leader in footbed technology.
The line of individualized footwear has been developed with a handful of partner companies in the technology and orthotic industry including Hewlett-Packard, DESMA, SafeSize, and Jabil, Gray says, and depends on another Superfeet co-partner creation, the HP FitStation. The FitStation can be found in 26 footwear retailers across the country, including Fairhaven Runners and Walkers in Bellingham, and enables customers to have their foot and step pattern scanned for no cost, Gray says.
Customers walk on a small pad that reads unique characteristics of each foot like pressure, heel rotation, and propulsion. The data gathered from the FitStation can then be fabricated into custom orthotic insoles, which usually run at about $150 per pair, Gray says. When Superfeet begins manufacturing individualized footwear, customers will be able to use a FitStation and choose to have their insole data attached to their Brooks running shoe. “It will change how shoes are fitted and sold and bring custom footwear back into the market,” Gray says.
For customers looking for a product in a lower, less customizable, price range, Superfeet still produces a wide array of insoles that can be fitted for every type of footwear. It all began with fitting ski boots with orthotic insoles in the 1970s, which required a device that could stretch the boot so the insole could fit properly, the Superfit Shell Expander. From a ski boot to ballet pointe shoes, hockey skates, rock climbing shoes, even rubber scuba diving flippers, Superfeet insoles have been made for just about every kind of footwear.
“We wanted to focus on the hard things to fit first,” Gray says. Everyday insoles cover running and hiking as well as dress shoes for men and women, which includes high heels too. Superfeet insoles range from about $40 to $60 depending on the style and type of activity for which they are intended. The company also began producing shoes with built-in insoles in 2015, including sandals and casual styles ranging from $60 to $120.
Beyond the innovative products, Superfeet has made a name for itself as a great place to work. In 2015, Superfeet was named on Outside Magazine’s Best Places to Work list as the sixth-best in the “gear jobs” category, which highlighted companies on the cutting edge of technology and manufacturing. Employee satisfaction undoubtedly has something to due with the Ferndale location, which was originally chosen because “you can ski in the morning and kayak in the afternoon,” Gray says.
Additionally, when Superfeet was in a time of potential transition in 2008, leadership asked the employees where they wanted to move, the answer was to stay in Whatcom County. The company is 100 percent employee-owned and promotes a culture of activism by donating 1 percent of total sales to charitable organizations.
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