Superfeet University

by Tayt Tobias Tuesday, May 27th 2014

Recently a few Summit Hut staffers were invited to visit the Superfeet Headquarters in Ferndale, Washington for a few days of what is called “Superfeet University.”  We were also to visit Northwestern Podiatric Laboratory, the sister company of Superfeet.  Thinking we were going to get an in-depth knowledge of insoles over the two days of training, I was in for a bit of a surprise.  

I love Superfeet.  I’ve been wearing green Superfeet insoles for the last 13 years now, and I really believe in the product.  They are great as a fit tool (often improving the fit of footwear) as well as offering support underneath the foot.  But wearing them, and learning the science behind the design of Superfeet, are two different things.  

Many insoles on the market have a shape similar to each other and fill up the arch area to varying degrees.  But I now realize that the design of Superfeet is biomechanically impressive.

The three Ts (Taylor, Tiffany, Tayt) with some lush greenery

But I am getting ahead of myself, putting the product before the people.  The fact that this company DOES NOT put the product before the employee is what make the company stand out MOST in my mind.  As a company, Superfeet truly values its people, and you can see it in their faces.  Superfeet is employee-owned, and you can see that each and every employee has a vested interest in working hard and being an effective member of the team.

As we began our training and tour, we learned a lot, both regarding the business model and practices of Superfeet, as well as the biomechanics behind Superfeet and why the product works as well as it does.  I will share some of the more interesting things I learned.  

Superfeet is focused on their Purpose: “Making a positive difference in all the lives we touch.”  The Superfeet company focuses not on selling insoles, but on helping people.  For this reason, when customers call Superfeet, they will NEVER reach a voice recording, unless everyone is already busy on the phone.  It is extremely important to Superfeet (especially in this age of technology) that they retain person-to-person contact with their customers.

I found it fascinating that Superfeet does not have a Human Resources Department.  Instead, they have a PVC Department, which stands for People, Values, and Culture.  Superfeet, as a company, maintains a focus on their Core Values on a daily basis, and the PVC Department helps with this.  The five Core Values held by Superfeet are:  INTEGRITY, RESPONSIBILITY, EXCELLENCE, RESPECT, and FAIRNESS.  (I thought the last of these to be interesting.  Most organizations today take a “Life isn’t fair” approach, and leave the employees to fend for themselves.)

Myself, Tiffany, and Taylor at Superfeet Headquarters

Those who work in Superfeet’s PVC Department ensure that the People within the company are looked out for, maintain the ongoing focus on Values, and help to preserve the unique Culture that has been created within the organization. (Interestingly, we were told that one reason Superfeet is so successful is because the employees lack greed, so there is no arguing.  Greed is not tolerated on any level from any employee.)

Locals can see how Superfeet values Responsibility.  Most people employed at Superfeet are local, and Superfeet uses local contractors and businesses for other work.  Aside from Disaster Relief, Superfeet donates predominantly to local charities. Superfeet buys fruits and healthy snacks every Monday so their employees have healthy items to snack on throughout the work day.  They have a game room, showers (commuting, lunch-time workouts), and a medical room (to lay down when sick, etc.).  Employees’ work schedules are designed around their vacation schedule. Superfeet invests into the company, and that investment pays off in high productivity from employees.  When people have ownership, they take pride in their work. Superfeet was listed as the 6th best company to work for in the US in 2013.

While visiting Northwestern Podiatric Laboratory, we were able to participate in one of their weekly “Kaizen” meeting.  (“Kaizen” refers to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement of processes in manufacturing, engineering, business management or any process.)  This is a meeting in which employees can voice any idea(s) that might help improve the company in any way.  They focus on positivity and improvement.  When talking about eliminating WASTE, something they mentioned to specifically avoid was Unused Employee Genius.  Utilize the people you have, and utilize their specialties!  The reason this “Kaizen” works is because it is motivated by LOVE!

When talking with the founder of Superfeet, he mentioned that if you hold to your Core Values as you approach any situation, you will find success.  The strength of any organization lies in the people, and it is all about TRUST.

And now I’ll move onto the highlights of the biomechanical side of Superfeet.  There was so much information overload it’s hard to know where to start.  It is certainly much easier to go into in person (so come on in to Summit Hut!).  We learned how the feet move, why Superfeet work, and how Superfeet work.

Basically when you take a step, your foot is designed to flex and move so that as you step it can adapt to whatever surface you place the foot on.  As the foot is adapting to the surface, it is also absorbing shock.  The foot then stabilizes, and finally propels you forward. Depending on your foot structure and strength, these things happen in certain timeframes.  Measuring this will determine if a person’s foot is stable or unstable.  Eighty percent of feet are more unstable than we would like them to be.

Since feet were made to adapt to uneven terrain, and most of our world is flat, Superfeet help put the uneven ground back underneath out feet.  Orthotics should never eliminate foot movement, they will simply allow your foot to stabilize faster.  This improves body efficiency, and allows your body to function more effectively, because the foot is not overworking itself.

So what do Superfeet help with?  They can help with anything that you do on your feet—which is most of life!  And the great thing about them is if you think they might work, but you are not sure, you can try them with no strings attached for two months!  Each pair of Superfeet has a Sixty Day Comfort Guarantee, and you can figure out if they help you, and return them if they don’t.

Green F next to three kinds of SuperFeet not carried by but can be ordered by Summit Hut -  GreenWIDE F, Grey Merino, Red Outlast

What kind of shoes can you put Superfeet in?  Anything!  They make Superfeet for everything:  dress shoes, high heels, flats, casual shoes, athletic shoes, hiking shoes, sandals, minimalist shoes, hiking boots, mountaineering boots, ski boots, hockey skates, other ice skates, cowboy boots, motorcycle boots, cycling shoes, and military boots.  If I missed any, come in to Summit Hut and ask me, and we will figure it out!  If they don’t make one, we’ll talk to Superfeet about it.

Superfeet come in varieties that we don’t carry at the Summit Hut.  But we can order them!!  They have warm ones for ski boots and ice climbing boots, and soft merino wool lined Superfeet for comfortable, warm wear in cold climates.  We typically carry about 13 varieties of Superfeet at Summit Hut.

Superfeet is a great company.  Superfeet is a great product.  Come on in and have us fit you for a pair!  Your feet will thank you for it.

Gear

Race Wrap Up

by Richard Friday, April 18th 2014

8 events, two running packs, one running belt, 4 or 5 pairs of shoes and many lessons learned, it has been a great running season for me.  A few mantras carried me down the trail; relentless forward progress, pep talk!, just keep moving, it doesn't matter if you hurt you have to get back to the car, that's probably not a mountain lion…, and my latest favorite Run Hard, Eat Chili Dogs.   

 Here is a quick recap of the races and lessons learned:

 

1.       Cave Creek Thriller 31k- A great way to start the year. This race is challenging enough to let me know I need to train more but is still fun and motivating. Temps we're warm this year for October but time spent running in in the heat always pays off later.

2.       Pass Mountain 26k- I can run after I camp without too much trouble. I also need to be mindful of how fast I start.  I tried to "just relax and run" and I went out too fast. It was also a reminder to run with my head up and look for course markers. A couple of my                friends missed a turn and it cost them a couple of miles.

3.       McDowell Mountain Frenzy 25k - I learned I can run while I'm sick. Actually, I can run a lot better than I thought when I’m sick.  Also, Shoe changes are in interesting option for long events but I'm not sure if it's for me yet.

4.       San Tan Scramble 50k - I can do it!  This event was a great confidence booster for me. I learned the importance of starting to work on having a positive attitude when I started to taper. It was a 50k PR by and the confidence I got after that race carried me through OP50. It also allowed me to get over the mental challenge of running through the start/finish for another lap and was good drop bag practice.

5.       Cold Water Rumble 50k - This was a real mental challenge for me. It was my plan to start tired and I almost over did it. I learned that no matter how sloppy or heavy my legs feel, I can still hit a running stride, albeit a slow one. I also got to run with a couple of 100 mile racers.  It was interesting to hear what they were thinking about around mile 40ish.  I really worked on my mental expectation of fatigue and reminded myself that I could go farther.

6.       Elephant Mountain 22k - This event turned into a final shakedown run before OP50. I only did the 22k but it was just enough to leave me wanting more (perfect). My girlfriend also came out and ran which was awesome. It was the only race I did without a pack or belt, relying completely on the aid stations. At the last water station I grabbed a cup of water and realized how bad I had been feeling after I drank it.

7.       Old Pueblo 50 mile - my first 50 mile race. 2.5 inches of rain, howling winds up to around 45 mph, hypothermia all around me, it was an epic day.  But all said and done, it went better than I had hoped. I was ready mentally and physically and I'm actually thinking about doing another 50 mile race, maybe. 

8.       Mesquite Canyon 30k – The last event of the season.  The previous year I ran this as my first 50k so it was fun to only do the 30k this year.  The course is challenging but rewarding.  I had enough time to think about the miles ran over the past 5 months and really enjoy the day.  I was hurting a little but was still able to put down a good time and feel satisfied at the day’s effort.

All of my races and training runs can be found on my Movescount page, http://www.movescount.com/members/richardallen

 

Here are a few favorite pictures from my events and adventures:

 

Bear Canyon Arch

Bear Canyon Trail above Seven Falls

Elephant Mountain 22k

Green Mountain Trail in November

Mesquite Canyon 30k

Mesquite Canyon 30k

Mesquito Pass, half way through the Leadville Half Marathon

Sabino Canyon parking lot before a long run

Santa Rita Mountains training for the OP50 with Jeremy Davis

Sunrise over Phoenix

Tortolita Mountains

Activities | Events | Trails

An Easy Overnight Loop On Mount Lemmon

by Kirsten Tuesday, April 15th 2014

Last week I decided that I really wanted to do some backpacking on Mt. Lemmon. I wanted some water and shade to escape the heat of Tucson and my partner wanted some easy mileage as he had just done 15miles the day before we headed out.

As we approached the Catalina Highway we were still unsure of what trail we wanted to take… our indecision created a random loop of shorter trails that made for an amazing two day trip! We decided to park at the Sunset trail and take Sunset to Marshall Gulch and then from Marshall we could hike down the Wilderness of Rocks Trail to camp.

After just over a mile on the Sunset Trail we looked down the canyon to see a gorgeous series of small waterfalls! I was so excited that I made Jace hike down to the first one we saw. It had an awesome beach area and a little cave feature that made it a wonderful place to stop and relax.

We got to Marshall Gulch in no time and jumped onto the Marshall Gulch Trail – this was my first time actually taking the trail beyond just spending time in the water at the Gulch. It was incredible! I did not feel like I was in Arizona. The trail was narrow and winding, shaded and followed a stream nearly the entire way. Needless to say I was blissfully snapping way too many photos and playing in the forest like a little kid.

Next we hiked down into the Wilderness of Rocks area and ran into quite a few folks who were either rock climbing, bird watching or just out for a day hike. This area was also breathtaking, the rock formations reminded me of castles looming above the tree line in the distance or towering above us along the trail. I have definitely been inspired to try out the climbing routes there.

It was getting later in the day and we had made it as far as we had intended so we started to look for a good camp site. Jace found a pretty established area with a very large, well-built fire pit and we took our packs off there. I was excited to see that in the area there were quite a few trees that had been cut down or fell down (not excited about the death of a tree – excited about what the meant for my evening) they were perfect for shelter building! Shelter building is my favorite outdoor skill – and I had opted out of bringing my tent so I was pretty excited to have all the materials. I do not get to practice too often because I will not cut down or destroy any plants to build them – unless in a survival situation so I made it fancy.

The next day we had planned to hike up to the Lemmon rock lookout and spend another night out on the trail but we were tired and decided to head back. This time after hiking out of Wilderness of Rocks we took the Aspen Trail back to Marshalls. The Aspen Trail is now hands down my favorite trail in Southern Arizona. Sadly my camera died about halfway through but I did catch some of the amazing views.

The trail took us first to an amazing view of the Wilderness of Rocks area we had just hiked out of.

Then it wound along the side of the mountain before plunging down into the aspens that lead us back to Marshall Gulch. This was the perfect loop and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an easy overnight vacation trip!

Activities | Events | Trails | Trips

2014 Old Pueblo 50 mile Endurance Run Report

by Richard Friday, April 4th 2014

The morning started for me at 2:30 am with an alarm clock.  I managed to get more sleep the night before than I would have guessed considering what was looming for the day.  2 scrambled eggs, one Eggo and a bottle of Gatorade went down quickly and I was off to meet Jeremy Davis for the ride down to the start.  We arrived more quickly than we expected and waited in the car for a while before heading down the hill to Kentucky Camp and the check in. 

The weather would be the defining variable for everybody that day. 

At 6:00 am, we had a rather informal start and the pack of runners headed up the hill and out onto what would be a truly challenging day.  It was in the mid 40’s that morning and the wind was building quickly.  By the time the sun came up, I was on the first high point of the course and the view was amazing to the east.  Rich rose and orange colors, silhouetted mountains and low silvery clouds were everywhere.  The wind was howling but the morning was great.  I caught up to Jeremy and we were discussing if he should pick up his jacket at the next aid station or when we came back through at mile 29.  We quickly came down the backside of the ridge and found the mile 7 aid station.  Jeremy decided to grab the jacket, we topped off on water and snacks and headed off. 

Somewhere after the aid station it became apparent that someone had removed the markers showing where to turn and if you were still on course.  I was lucky to be running with a few people who had been on the training run a few weeks earlier on this section.  It was (and still is) very hard for me to understand why somebody would remove the markers.  Some runners thought it may have been some of the other people who were in the same area that day.  Other runners thought it was just random people out to cause a little havoc.  Either way, it was an awful thing to do and could have put runners in real danger if it had occurred later on the course. 

Jeremy and I made our way to the next aid station (mile 19 I think) where we found two other Summit Hut runners.  It was nice to see some familiar faces.  We didn’t stick around though, there were too many miles to cover and I was feeling really good.  We made our way up and over Gunsight Pass and started working our way back down the north side when the rain started.  The forecasts were calling for steady rain starting around 11am, wind 20-30 mph gusting to around 45 with a total accumulation of around an inch.  It was 9:55 when the first sheet of rain hit me.  There was no gentle shower first, no light sprinkle build up.  It went from dry and windy to sideways rain instantly.  The rain was cold and unrelenting for the rest of the day.  I had a very light sil-nylon jacket with me that went a long way until I got back to my drop bag at mile 33 for my real rain jacket.  Jeremy and I got to the 25 mile aid without any real problems and celebrated the half way point.  I had a really gross waterlogged PB&J and we started looping back toward the 7/29 mile aid station.  

From here on out I actually don’t remember much.  The weather dominated my thoughts as it continued to rain hard and steadily get colder.   I tried to stay mindful of eating and drinking enough to stay warm and to get moving faster at the first sign of cold in my feet or hands but it was a losing battle.  I made it to my drop bag at mile 33 and was able to pick up my rain jacket and refill some food.  The jacket made a huge difference for a while.  I was able to mostly dry out on top and got a lot warmer until the jacket was overwhelmed by the unrelenting rain.  At some point at the aid station I had unknowingly hit the pause button on my Ambit.  I covered almost 5 miles with it paused before I caught another runner who was asking how much farther the mile 40 aid station was.  When I looked down and saw the time wasn’t moving I was crushed.  Normally that kind of thing would be frustrating but no big deal but I was exhausted and cold and it was just enough to push me over the edge.   My pace slowed and I got cold and hungry as I hit my mental low for the day.  It took a few minutes but I pulled it together, ate a ProBar and got moving down the trail again.  The ProBar was close to 400 calories and I think I really needed it. 

The last few miles into the 40 mile aid station were tough.  Stream crossings started to pop up everywhere as more and more rain was washing down the canyons.  Most of the streams were swollen up to or beyond their banks.  The water was ice cold and full of mud and was really taking a toll on my ability to stay warm.  I came into the station and tried to eat some warm chicken chili but once I stopped moving I could feel the cold really setting in.  Staying still was not an option if I wanted to finish.  I topped off my water bottles for good measure and started shuffling down the road toward the aid station at mile 46.  The volunteers at 40 let me know that it was closer to 7 miles to the next aid and about 11 to the finish.  I really appreciated the honesty, the extra distance would have been a moral buster if I didn’t know about it. 

It was starting to get dark as I came into 46.  I grabbed a handful of M&M’s and kept moving.  Still raining, getting colder and the trail kept getting worse.  This section was on the Arizona Trail again and the trail is cut into the hill side above the road.  The trouble is the trail was below the ground level of the slope of the hill so it just filled up with water like a trough.  The choice was to slosh through more ice water or risk the high grass on either side.  I knew there were prickly pears in the grass and rocks on the trail so I trusted my instincts and took each trough in stride, in the water sometimes and in the grass others.  I had really wanted to finish the race without using my headlamp at the end but that was getting tough.  I could occasionally see a runner in front of me as they went through gates with their headlamp but I was convinced I could get there without another stop to dig into my pack.  I knew I was getting close to Kentucky camp and when I saw a light on one of the buildings I couldn’t believe it was almost over.  I made my way up to cheers and smiles as I crossed the line at 12 hours 40 minutes.  My girlfriend was waiting for me on the porch of the main building and I could barely keep it together as she congratulated me.  Inside there was a fire and a place to sit and that was all I could have asked for.  I got changed, ate a hamburger and started to try to process the day. 

Since the race I’ve heard that there were around 140 people who started the race but only 61 finishers.  Several people were found on the trail in bad shape from the cold wet weather and I can’t say thank you enough for the volunteers working this race.  There was always somebody at each aid station, no matter how crowed it was, asking if I need anything, filling my water bottles and helping me get moving again.  It was an amazing effort on their part, THANK YOU!!!!

Activities | Events

The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!

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