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Twenty-six years of innovation and growth at OrthoLite

Visiting a footwear materials producer with an impressive presence in the global footwear industry.

High performance and comfort footwear solutions producer OrthoLite was founded in 1997 by industry veteran and entrepreneur Glenn Barrett, when he launched the world’s first open-cell foam polyurethane (PU) insole. It is acknowledged that from this point in time, the US-based company began to change the interior environment of a countless number of shoes. Barrett had a straightforward business goal, as he explains: “From day one, our mission was simple – to help brands make better, more comfortable shoes.”

According to OrthoLite, its products changed the paradigm for the entire global footwear industry by raising the bar for comfort, performance and sustainability, while delivering a cooler, drier and healthier interior environment in the footwear. The company points out that insole materials used by shoemakers had previously been generic, commodity foams – a basic filler material that did not breathe, and which compressed or flattened out too quickly, as well as causing sweat and odours to accumulate.

Today, 26 years after being founded, OrthoLite is a global organisation headquartered in Amherst, Massachusetts, while employing some 3,000 members of staff around the world. The company is marketed as the world’s leading supplier of open-cell foam technology. It is the innovator and creator of OrthoLite Cirql – a patented alternative to conventional plastics which the company points to as providing footwear brand owners and their factory partners with the most sustainable, circular choice in materials. OrthoLite’s work extends beyond its product offerings. For example, it set an early precedent in sustainable practices by prioritising the use of recycled rubber.

Having established relationships through its global supply chain and production facilities located in a number of countries around the world, OrthoLite has a commitment to sustainable, circular solutions which the company claims will have an immense and measurable impact on the global footwear industry.

OrthoLite is said to be the insole supplier of choice for over 500 leading footwear brands worldwide across all categories, including athletic, running, comfort, golf, lifestyle, and fashion. An amazing statistic is that the company’s insoles are used in more than 600 million pairs of shoes every year.

New launches

On top of continuous product innovation, the OrthoLite team is reportedly pioneering new standards of sustainability in footwear production, zero-waste operations and materials. A number of new formulations and innovations were introduced in 2022, including ‘HybridPlus-Recycled’, which features a GRS-certified blend of 7 per cent recycled rubber powder and 43 per cent recycled PU foam. The result of OrthoLite’s expanding commitment to its zero waste initiative and the creation of more sustainable footwear solutions, it is marketed as using less energy while adding less to landfills.

The company’s ‘O-Therm’ product is said to be the first and only aerogel-infused open-cell PU foam cold-weather footwear solution. Available in a thickness range of 2 mm to 20 mm, it has been designed to be applied as an insole, a Strobel layer or a lining. The product is claimed to be the world’s most insulating material, as well as being exceptionally hydrophobic and the lightest man-made material, tipping the scale at just three times the weight of air. O-Therm is aimed at manufacturers of outdoor, casual, ski, snowboard, fashion, work and similar types of footwear.


The company’s ESD Shield is said to be the world’s first and only mechanically-bonded electrostatic discharge protection insole

OrthoLite states that its ‘ESD Shield’ – created for work and service footwear – is the world’s first and only mechanically-bonded electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection insole technology, and is said to deliver full heel-to-toe ESD protection. According to the company, ESD Shield is unlike conventional electrostatic discharge insole technology that depends on a single row of stitching under the toes. In contrast, ESD Shield uses a patent-pending process that mechanically bonds – without the use of adhesives – the conductive fibres permanently from heel to toe into OrthoLite X35 foam, utilising thousands of elliptical needles.

Testing – including under ISO 20344:2011 and SATRA TM240:2001 – ‘Electrical resistance of footwear components’ has reportedly quantified the product’s performance. Test results have indicated that ESD Shield’s electrical resistance measures less than 0.01 milliohm (mΩ), which compares very favourably to the industry standard for ESD footwear requiring a figure of less than 100 mΩ.

In March 2022, OrthoLite unveiled ‘Cirql’, which is claimed to be the world’s first, true soil-to-soil and circular solution for footwear. The creation of this product was built on the organisation’s many years of expertise and innovation in foaming polymers, in partnership with the Novamont company, which had developed a bio-based, compostable and recyclable polymer. Cirql foam is a patented footwear materials solution reportedly free from ‘forever chemicals’. It is marketed as providing the first technology capable of significantly reducing the high impact of manufacturing processes with multiple end-of-life disposal options.

OrthoLite’s production plants

OrthoLite’s Cirql headquarters are in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. As a vertically-integrated company with owned and operated factories across the globe, it is engaged in implementing scalability with its brand partners and their Tier 1-based footwear factories. OrthoLite Cirql is moving from the laboratory to production scale, which the company anticipates as being ready during 2023. OrthoLite has announced that there is room to increase capacity when required at this factory and that it will work with footwear brand owners and their factory partners to meet their growing demands in the future.

Due to having a vertically-integrated organisational structure with company-owned factories which was initiated in 2007, OrthoLite is said to have established efficient supply chain solutions for its 500 brand partners. Even during the pandemic, the company was delivering record-breaking production figures with uninterrupted, on-time deliveries to its customers.

By operating a number of chemical system houses and manufacturing facilities across six countries and three continents, OrthoLite states that it has complete control and ownership of its raw materials and capacity output. According to the company, the advantage of vertical integration is amplified when the supply chain is disrupted for any reason, when the strategic locations of its factories come into full focus.

These facilities are built around a suite of environmental strategies, including a zero waste initiative to operational efficiencies, solar panels and wastewater treatment, in addition to company-owned and operated recycling facilities and research and development facilities. As a result, OrthoLite’s factories have earned scores above the 90th percentile from the HIGG Index.

As the majority of Tier 1 factory partners of the world’s biggest shoe brand owners are in Brazil, China, Europe, India, Indonesia and Vietnam, these are the locations that OrthoLite has chosen for its production facilities. This spread has been selected so that when a manufacturer needs fulfilment of an order, OrthoLite can prove to be both a local provider and having global reach and scale.


OrthoLite is frequently in the running for and receiving industry awards. So far this year, the company has received a nomination for an innovation award and earned an accolade in a ‘best insoles’ category. In addition, OrthoLite Cirql was recently named as a finalist within a ‘best sustainable initiative of the year’ award.

Working with SATRA

“We understand the critical importance of validating our claims and providing proof in transparency through third-party validation, and we work with SATRA because it is recognised as a global leader and expert in testing procedures,” says OrthoLite’s chief sales officer, CB Tuite. “SATRA has set the standard utilised across the globe that footwear brands recognise and trust, and we are proud to apply and impellent those globally-recognised standards to validate claims and testing procedures.

“For example, for our ESD Shield insole technology, conductivity testing was conducted utilising the SATRA STM 470 machine that complies with the international standard of EN ISO 20344. SATRA STM 470 testing machines have been installed in our in-house testing laboratories to provide consistency and assurance that our ESD products are ‘on spec’ and perform as promised.”

The photograph at the top of this page shows an OrthoLite Cirql injection machine.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 28 of the June 2023 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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