Since SOLE launched in 2001 they’ve known that, like any major industry, footwear comes at a massive environmental cost. They’re determined to innovate ways to mitigate and reverse that environmental impact. To do so they turned to a natural, sustainable material that’s unlike any other: natural cork. Join us in this SOLE Footwear Case Study and see how SOLE and Falcon Fulfillment stepped it up!

SOLE was founded by Mike Baker, who started the company after experiencing back pain from his previous career as a salesman. Legend has it, he recognized the potential of insoles to provide foot support and alleviate pain through the comfort he felt walking on cork flooring at a friends house. From there ‘ReCORK‘ was born.

Key Metrics:

  • 131,989,095 corks collected through the ReCORK program, and counting.

  • 8,097 cork oak trees planted in 2013.

  • Over eighteen million satisfied soles.

SOLE Footwear Case Study: Pioneering Sustainability in the Footwear Industry

In 2001 Mike Baker was having some back problems and started investigating insoles and realized that he could probably do something in that industry. He researched it and basically came up with the first SOLE footbed.

SOLE Footwear Case Study

How did SOLE get started?

The company embarked on its journey by creating the first SOLE footbed, which rapidly gained popularity thanks to its custom moldable design, exceptional arch support, and pain relief capabilities. Following that, SOLE extended its product range to encompass cork-based footbeds, flips, and closed-toe footwear.

“We’re the original custom moldable since 2001 and it really took off and we’ve been growing ever since from there.”
Andrew Yule, VP Operations – SOLE

When SOLE first developed their footbeds, it was important to them that they offer more than simple comfort. They needed to be comfortable of course, but they also need to be truly effective at reducing pain and fatigue.

Through an ongoing partnership with Dr. Reed Ferber and the Running Injury Clinic, they’ve been able to help fund studies of the effectiveness of insoles on injury prevention and performance.

SOLE products are effective, long lasting, and have very high customer satisfaction. Time and again, SOLE has proven to be the best over-the-counter orthotic on the market.

What sets SOLE apart?

“I think it really comes down to Mike’s willingness to push the envelope. He doesn’t want to follow trends; he wants to lead them. You’re always starting something new, doing things that nobody else has tried before, blazing a trail.”
Andrew Yule, VP Operations – SOLE

SOLE distinguishes itself as more than just a typical over-the-counter insole. They proudly showcase premium quality and the dynamic shape of their footbeds, which feature the DPO cup, high arch, and density mapping for effective foot issue resolution. Under Mike’s vision and the company’s lean and scrappy nature, they fearlessly push boundaries, consistently innovate, and pave new paths. This perpetual startup mentality empowers them to experiment with fresh ideas, including trailblazing a recycled cork supply chain.

Their belief in the transformative power of their footbeds drives their success. These footbeds provide relief and comfort to customers, rewarded with a 90-day guarantee and personalized service. SOLE’s marketing strategy targets a broader audience through sales, promotions, and leveraging Amazon’s platform. Their upcoming shoe line exemplifies their commitment to sustainability. It incorporates bison shield insulation and eco-friendly sourced wool. In a competitive industry, SOLE stands out as a trailblazer. They lead with unique and sustainable footwear solutions.

SOLE Footwear Case Study

Significant Milestones

SOLE has recently achieved several significant milestones, showcasing their commitment to innovation and sustainability. They recently securing a patent for their groundbreaking cork formulation in Portugal, where their research and development facility for cork is located. Portugal’s reputation as the cork capital of the world makes it an ideal location for such advancements. Additionally, SOLE has taken a monumental step towards eco-friendliness by transitioning all their packaging to be plastic-free, marking a significant change in their business practices.

“Another milestone is the number of corks collected, and it was 130 million. We’re working towards a circularity program to give cork a second and even a third life.”
Andrew Yule, VP Operations – SOLE

SOLE Footwear Case Study: Pioneering Sustainability in the Footwear Industry

SOLE has also made great strides in their recycling initiative, collecting a remarkable 130 million corks from all over North America, diverting them from landfills and giving them a new purpose in their innovative footwear. The company is actively working towards achieving circularity, aiming to extend the life cycles of cork products to minimize waste and environmental impact. In 2022, SOLE’s impact was emphasized by producing an impressive 8.5 million pairs of footbeds, underscoring their widespread adoption and popularity.

Finding your SOLE at Falcon

The pandemic put SOLE in the position to reevaluate their in-house shipping process.

“The difference that sets Falcon apart is really the collaboration that they are willing to do. With other organizations, it was like you fit into their system, whereas the Falcon model was, “Let’s collaborate and get our systems to work together”. That was a huge change from what we’ve experienced in the past and has really restored our belief in 3PL’s.”
Andrew Yule, VP Operations – SOLE

SOLE had started with their own fulfillment setup but the pandemic made them realize changes needed to be made. The challenges and triggers that prompted SOLE to start the fulfillment partner search were a need to reduce overheads costs and previous unsatisfactory experiences with other 3PLs.

Moving from one partner to another wasn’t seamless, and the lack of collaboration in previous setups was a major hurdle. However, when they connected with Falcon, everything changed. The collaboration and willingness to work together to integrate their systems made a significant difference. Falcon’s responsiveness, professionalism, and commitment to building a strong relationship were exceptional. Switching to Falcon took less than a month, and SOLE was supported through the troubleshooting process, making the transition during a pandemic much smoother than anticipated. It has been a highlight of their company history to work with such a willing and reliable partner, and their fulfillment process now runs seamlessly in the background as it should.

SOLE Footwear Case Study

“My focus as an outbound manager is on the relationships with my 3pl and I’d have to say from day one Falcon was very open to having weekly conversations, more if needed, right at the beginning we’re having a lot more conversations. When I send an email I get a response in an hour or less, very responsive, it’s very professional.”
Kaila Burke, Outbound and Distribution Operations Manager – SOLE

Passing the Culture Test

In any partnership, cultural alignment is crucial. Falcon demonstrated a willingness to embrace aspects of SOLE’s culture, such as switching to paper tape for packaging. This adaptability and understanding made SOLE feel valued and heard, fostering a sense of comfort in the partnership.

In the collaboration between SOLE and Falcon, the winning dynamic that stood out is the establishment of a relationship that fosters trust, accountability, and open communication. Falcon relies heavily on their dedicated Account Managers which provide unparalleled contact for customers like SOLE. This partnership allowed for better communication and a more transparent exchange of information, enabling both sides to share valuable insights and ideas openly.

The foundation of Falcon’s success with SOLE is built upon top-down accountability, starting with Kipp, Falcon’s CEO/President. Kipp’s approachable and no-nonsense demeanor coupled with an open-door policy, encouraging everyone to express their opinions and concerns without fear of retribution. This supportive leadership style enables a culture where employees are empowered to take ownership of their work and contribute meaningfully to the company’s success which directly supports the mission of satisfying the customer.

SOLE Footwear Case Study
SOLE Footwear Case Study

Next Steps

SOLE introduces the Jasper Chukka, their latest sustainable innovation, show casing their pioneering cork technology. This shoe masterfully blends style, comfort, and eco-consciousness by utilizing cork, a renewable and eco-friendly material. In a strong display of commitment, SOLE partners with their sustainability brand, ReCORK, actively reducing carbon footprints. The impending release of the Jasper Chukka represents a remarkable milestone for both brands.

The upcoming launch of their revolutionary Jasper Chukkas stands as the most anticipated step. This shoe boasts a groundbreaking natural cork midsole, a response to the surging demand for sustainable footwear. It’s a move that cements SOLE’s role as a trailblazer, leading the way in meeting environmental expectations.

The Right Fit

The smooth transition and the seamless fulfillment of orders left a lasting impression on SOLE, marking it as one of the highlights of the relationship. The willing and supportive approach from Falcon made the transition a success and cemented the partnership.

“At this point in the game, we feel incredibly comfortable with Falcon as our fulfillment partner. They are like a reliable backstop for us, always there to support us when it comes to fulfillment. It’s impressive that the issues we faced in the past have not recurred in quite a long time. Everything is running incredibly smoothly, and that’s all we could ask for from a 3PL. We have confidence in Falcon, and they have truly earned our trust.”
Andrew Yule, VP Operations – SOLE

All images courtesy of SOLE

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