Before Libie Motchan set out to modernize arch supports through the creation of Fulton Insoles, she suffered from severe back pain. After using every known method to treat the symptoms, she was advised by her chiropractor to get insoles for her shoes.
Since custom orthotics were out of her price range, Libie found herself staring at the rows of foot care products at the drugstore, only to find the marketing to be confusing, geriatric, medically-focused and unrelatable.
“These weren’t brands or products for me,” Libie said. “These solutions were made from gels or foams. They weren’t sustainable and they didn’t provide the arch support I needed.”
“That’s when I had this idea that this space needed to be modernized.”
As a new MBA student at The Wharton School in Philadelphia, Libie met fellow business student Daniel Nelson at Welcome Weekend in the Spring of 2019. Daniel shared her entrepreneurial spirit and related with his own bouts of foot pain.
“We spent the first year of business school doing research,” she said, “not knowing if this would be a school business adventure or something we’d actually pursue afterward.”
Eventually, the co-founders flew to Portugal, the world’s leading producer of natural cork. “There is something amazing about cork,” Libie said. “There are so many benefits and we knew we had to make our insoles out of it.”
Harvested sustainably by hand and processed on machines run on renewable solar energy, cork is incredibly shock absorbing, antimicrobial, and most importantly, it will eventually mold to the shape of your foot, giving Fulton Insoles a level of customization.
“Unfortunately, the shoes we wear aren’t always meant for the foot and can cause problems in the feet, knees, hips and back. Good, supportive insoles are important to ensuring the body is aligned to prevent any pain,” Libie said. “Everyone can and should be wearing insoles!”
Fulton experienced plenty of obstacles during its launch, from long shipping delays to their vegan cactus leather getting held up in customs. “Even fundraising at the beginning was more challenging,” Libie said. “Trying to raise money for insoles is not glamorous!”
By the spring of 2020, Libie and Daniel were moving forward with Fulton, only to be thwarted by a global pandemic. “When Covid happened, we were spinning around thinking, are people even going to walk again, are they even going to wear shoes?!” Libie said.
Society did continue to walk and wear shoes, and later that summer, the duo enlisted about 1,000 Wharton students to wear their prototype insoles and put them to the test.
In addition to valuable feedback from those students, Fulton sought the opinions and approval from medical professionals, too. With the help of podiatrists, academic researchers and biomechanics experts, Libie and Daniel finally felt comfortable launching their products in 2021.
Processing orders out of Daniel’s studio apartment was “anything but practical,” Libie laughed of the launch, “but we did it.” Named after a street in Manhattan, Fulton has since grown into a much bigger fulfillment center and is headquartered in New York City.
While the brand aims to reach younger consumers, Fulton Insoles resonate with older generations just the same. “Older customers might already be wearing custom orthotics, but they are coming to Fulton looking for something new.” Perhaps the biggest attraction to Fulton is their use of all plant-derived materials, most notably, cork.
Fulton offers two styles of arch supports, Athletic and Classic, and accommodates up to Size 14. Libie advises to choose the insole with the shoe in mind vs the activity.
“The Classic insole is for everyday lifestyle shoes, where the Athletic insole has a wider toe box designed for sneakers.”
After just 10 hours or 30 miles of walking, the cork insoles will create a custom mold to your foot, bridging the gap between squishy gel insoles and expensive orthotics. Insoles last about the lifetime of a pair of shoes, or about 500 miles — with each step, creating whole body alignment from the ground up.