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SOLE Insoles

By Jenn (TinyChoices.com) | March 13, 2008

So I have this incredibly persistent foot problem that I’ve been living with for the past three years, which dragged me from my burgeoning triathlon hobby to my current state as semi-pro couch potato. Which is just backstory for the topic of this post: when I bought these SOLE customizable orthotics a few months ago (having read about them on Not Martha), I thought hard about the purchase from both an environmental standpoint and a personal/physical standpoint, to determine if the chemicals and plastics and who knows what else used in their production would be justified.

But, justified to whom/what? Long after the orthotics have lived their useful life for me they’ll still be not-biodegrading in a landfill somewhere, along with all the other detritus of our modern lives. On the other hand, if these orthotics would be as good as they’re reported to be, then they’ll increase my ability to walk distances and ride my bike, thus decreasing my personal pollution from taxis and buses, etc. Also, being physically active would make me healthier overall which could potentially decrease my future need for medical care, thereby potentially decreasing my future Medical Pollution Footprint.  Also, pain sucks.

So after much debate, I bought them. They’re really neat because you heat them in the oven, thereby making them custom-fitted to your foot– and for $50 they’re about $300 cheaper than my last pair of professional ones–and these work at least as well, if not better (for me).

The neat thing is that SOLE is a very environmentally aware company, well aware of the pollution they cause and working to reduce their impact. All of their corporate materials are printed on 100% recycled paper with vegetable-based inks, and they’ve taken great care with their packaging:

“Our new footbed packaging is made with a corn-based plastic called NatureWorks® PLA… NatureWorks® PLA is made from an annually renewable resource — field corn, instead of petroleum. Its sources can be regrown every year, as opposed to the millions of years it takes to create oil… Compared to traditional plastics, NatureWorks® PLA uses up to 68% less fossil fuels to produce. NatureWorks® PLA has achieved zero greenhouse gas emissions.Ecopac can be disposed of by all traditional waste management methods such as incineration, landfill and mechanical recycling. Future generations of Ecopac packaging will continue our quest to find as close to a “perfect” packaging solution as possible, from cradle to grave. We are continually looking into new materials (and rethinking old ones).”

So while the orthotics themselves are made from all kinds of unnatural materials (when baking in my oven, they smelled like a typical (offgassing) sneaker store), it’s at least good that the company is aware of their impact and is making their tiny choices where they can.  I’m not sure that corn plastics are the answer, but it’s at least better than petroleum plastic. Hopefully one day alternatives will exist which will make the product itself green, and not just the packaging.

Topics: Health, Waste | 12 Comments »

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Comment by Sarah
2008-03-13 08:46:58

Another great kind of orthotics, though pricey are cork ones. They are very comfortable and supportive. Like wearing birkenstocks in your sneakers. I would assume they are more eco-friendly, but who knows.

Comment by Jenn
2008-03-14 08:49:29

Thanks, Sarah– I didn’t even know they existed! I’ll give them a go when these are all worn out.

Comment by Claire
2008-03-13 13:37:59

I have some SOLE footbeds and they are awesome. Really easy to fit to your shoes or I even have some shoes where I wear them right out of the package. They have made a huge difference to my running and actually mountain biking… my feet don’t get numb anymore. I also heard they are coming out with really cool, sweet looking orthopedic flip flops this summer. Check out their site for more info: yoursole.com

Comment by Jenn
2008-03-14 08:50:10

Thanks for the update Claire– when is SOLE coming out with the flipflops? Keep us posted!

Comment by Adrienne
2008-03-13 15:03:31

Ooh thank you for the recommendation! I’ve been dealing with the same foot problem for nearly a year now. I’m going to give these a try.

Comment by Jenn
2008-03-14 08:51:39

You have my sympathy, Adrienne. It’s been a big part of my life for 3 years now. I’ve tried about 10 different healing modalities, and have found most relief from trigger-point accupuncture. If you happen to be in the NYC area I have the most miraculous healer ever…

Comment by Rob Nathan
2008-03-14 16:24:05

Hi Jenn:
I am the industrial designer for SOLE, and I just wanted to thank you for your praise. It will please you to know that the scrap from the manufacturing of our products is actually turned into insulation. We are also trying to increase our use of recycled and sustainable materials. I am actually working on our environmental story now and the website will have more info in the coming months. We are working hard to make sure that we fully explain our choices and don’t commit any greenwashing.

As for the sandals, I just got back from an extended work trip in South America where I wore the sandals for 4 weeks straight. I loved them. You can check them out at http://www.solesandals.com/ and they are available for pre-order now, at a discounted price. If you buy a pair, please let us know what you think!

Rob Nathan

Comment by Jenn
2008-03-16 10:31:38

Hi Rob! Thanks so much for your response! It’s so great to know that ya’ll are aware of your industrial footprint and committed to reducing it, and your transparency is much appreciated. I look forward to reading more about your environmental story as it becomes available.

Your praise of the sandals speaks volumes, and I am tempted to try them but for one thing– my extended ordeal with plantar fasciitis makes me very cautious about the footwear I choose (my options are really quite limited these days), and it’s not recommended for folks with PF to wear flipflops, because of the scrunching the toes have to do to keep them on the feet. I am tempted to buy a pair and wear them around the house as slippers in order to try them out (PF also dictates my never being barefoot) but… I’m wary of buying another pair of shoes I ultimately won’t be able to wear. I’m still thinking about it, though!

Comment by Rob Nathan
2008-03-16 13:14:46

As you know, SOLE Footbeds help a lot with Plantar Fasciitis, because of our high, customizable arch. We took the shape of the footbeds, added a metatarsal, and that was what we used for the sandals. So they have the highest arch I have ever seen in a flip and are much better for one’s foot than your average flip. The toe scrunch is probably about the same as lots of others though, so I would be psyched to hear your feedback if you do get a pair.


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