Why We Need an End of Life Solution for Footwear

Here at OrthoLite, we love shoes. Of course, with great love comes great responsibility. And from day one, we have challenged ourselves to consider not only how shoes are made and what they are made from, but also what happens to them at the end of their usable life.

Here is why it matters.

Worldwide footwear production has increased by 21.2% since 2010. With nearly 7.8 billion people in the world, our industry now produces over 20 billion pairs of shoes annually. OrthoLite is proud to have insoles in 550 million of them each year.

The athletic footwear market, specifically, is growing exponentially and shows no sign of slowing down. Current projections anticipate the global athletic footwear market to exceed $95 billion (USD) by 2025. That will represent a near 100% increase in nine years (2016 to 2025). 

This era of strong footwear sales has contributed to consistent growth at OrthoLite.  We celebrate the success of our brand partners who work so hard to deliver innovations and styles their customers want. Along those lines, we’re also unabashed consumers when it comes to shoes.

In this time of abundance for the footwear industry, the enormity of our collective impact becomes startlingly clear. We have an inherent responsibility to people and to the planet. We must manufacture shoe components more sustainably, and we must address what happens at the end of life for the billions of shoes discarded each year.

To understand the imperative, it’s important to understand the scale of the problem. 

If the footwear industry were a country, it would be the 17th largest polluter in the world. On the product side, most footwear made today ends up in landfills. Regardless of final destination, the vast majority of shoes cannot be recycled and will never biodegrade. Additionally, most plastics used in footwear include persistent chemicals that leach into surrounding land and waterways.

There are a myriad of ways that we, as manufacturers in the footwear industry, can (and should) improve our environmental compass and performance. We can focus on waste reduction, eliminating the use of persistent, toxic chemicals, and reducing our overall carbon footprints, just to name a few. It all matters. It all must be done.

We applaud the many manufacturers and factories making significant, positive strides toward more sustainable operations and products. We support their progress. Our observations aren’t condemnation. Instead, they’re motivation for ourselves–and an invitation to others–to relentlessly push in this direction for the health of people and the planet.

We are in this together.

If we want revolutionary change, we need to start at the end. We need products that can experience complete and non-toxic biodegradation in a reasonable timeframe. The road to a more sustainable future begins at the end of a shoe’s life.

This is a vision for a cleaner, safer, healthier environment. We believe it’s our responsibility as a company, and as an industry, to make it happen urgently.

This vision represents the evolution of a sustainability ethos that has been part of OrthoLite’s DNA since we introduced repurposed rubber into our very first insoles. In 25 years of business, that ethos has materialized in more eco-content, zero-waste production facilities, and solar-fueled factories.

It’s time to bring the vision to fruition.

It’s bold. It has the power to effect positive change on a global scale.

And on March 1, 2022, OrthoLite will re-define the future of sustainable footwear.


Comfort & Performance


We’re fueled by innovation, a deep understanding of our brand partners’ needs, true collaboration, and a dedication to limiting our impact on the planet—and it shows in every product we make. That’s how we became the global leader, and why we’re proud to partner with the best brands on earth.