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

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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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