With happier patients and comfortable skiing in mind, the pair were soon swapping ideas and designs in the late 1970s, and in 1981 they formed Foot Science International, the manufacturer behind more than 45 models of foot insoles called Formthotics.
Nearly four decades on, their renowned New Zealand designs are exported to more than 40 countries and endorsed by reputable athletes and medical professionals. But the established company had humble beginnings, including four years of continuous design and development before reaching its first market-ready (hand-made) model.
As Formthotics gained popularity, manufacturing needed to step up a notch, says company general manager Greg Thompson.
“We had Kiwi triathlete Steve Gurney involved in the first automated machine design. These sorts of brains are a reflection of the company’s classic Kiwi ‘build-it-yourself’ attitude to innovation.”
Before Formthotics, orthotic insoles in New Zealand needed a plaster cast, took six weeks to make in an American lab and cost hundreds of dollars. The product range today is affordable, with ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing (and customisation if required) making it highly regarded in international niche sports health markets.
Thompson says being associated with ‘New Zealand-made’ helps exports, hence the decision to use the FernMark and the NZ Story prominently in Formthotics branding and marketing.
“A lot of countries envy us as an innovative country in the South Pacific producing bloody good stuff; we stand out in a market crowded by product made in Asia.
“The clean, green image of New Zealand is important for us, but so too is our image as a healthy, active, country that in many fields, punches above its weight. Plus, the world is switching on to the fact that we produce more than just milk and meat; we’ve become much more technologically capable – we’re evening sending rockets into space.”
Thompson says Formthotics aims to continue earning respect for its Kiwi-made solutions.
“We’re determined to be the most respected company worldwide in the health and well-being of feet.”
Foot Science International has chosen the FernMark to reinforce the ingenuity and high-quality reputation behind its New Zealand-made products. The FernMark programme has over 100 New Zealand businesses and over 1 billion products and services using the Government’s official ‘country of origin’ accreditation programme, designed to protect and promote New Zealand products to the world.
This story originally appeared on NZ Story.