FootBalance wants to make your step lighter
A unique concept has allowed Finnish company FootBalance to swiftly take the global insoles market by storm.
In today’s society, we seem more focused on wellbeing than ever. We customise our workstations so that they are ergonomically correct, and follow keenly the latest news about the health benefits of various diets. But are we paying enough attention to what provides the foundation for the entire body – our feet?
Finnish insoles manufacturer FootBalance would argue that the lowest parts of our bodies have been sadly neglected.
The company has set out to correct this by making personalised insoles custom-moulded to each user’s feet. At the firm’s partner retailers – there are dozens of outlets in Finland alone – customers can have their feet analysed with the use of a podoscope, and have matching insoles produced on the spot.
And there lies the catch: while it usually takes days or even weeks to make custom insoles, with FootBalance the whole process – from analysis to having the moulded insoles in your hands – takes less than 10 minutes.
This unique advantage has allowed FootBalance to bring its custom-made insoles to the mass market, giving it the inside track over competitors – and spurring it to become a global player in the market.
The origins of FootBalance go back to the founder Erkki Hakkala’s background as a physiotherapist specialised in podiatry. He observed that patients were willing to pay hundreds of euros for custom insoles, while having to wait for them for up to three weeks.
“I realised that if we could make an insole that would be at least as good, but quicker and cheaper to make, there would be a huge market for it – not only in Finland but internationally,” Hakkala recounts.
The company first trialled its concept in 2007 with the sports retail chain Intersport, which quickly wanted to expand it to all its stores in Finland, and eventually also to shops abroad.
From there on, the company rapidly established a worldwide presence: its products are sold today at almost 1500 outlets in 50 countries, with about 90 per cent of its sales coming from abroad. As for growth, the figures speak for themselves: over the past two years the company grew 26 per cent and 28 per cent respectively, and a growth of 30 per cent is forecast for this year.
Leap into 3D
While the company’s original product continues to serve it well, FootBalance hopes its new, pioneering 3D scan technology will give it an even greater edge over the competition. Customers will be able to have their customised insoles scanned, with the point cloud output being uploaded to FootBalance’s database. From then on, the customer can order additional insoles from the firm’s online store, with the same exact mould.
“Recently the basketball player Sasu Salin, who plays in Spain’s Liga ACB, got in touch after he had bought a new pair of shoes,” says FootBalance’s CEO Klaus Rauhansalo. “Because we had a scan of his insoles, we were immediately able to make a new pair and send them to Spain.”
Although many presume that custom insoles are meant for medical purposes, FootBalance wants to stress that anyone – even people with neutral feet – will benefit from using them.
“They’re just so comfortable. From time to time I try going without, but always go back to using them,” Hakkala says. “Once you try you quickly get addicted, and you’ll always want to have that same feeling. So, it’s kind of a drug for your feet, but legal!”
Text: Teemu Henriksson