Business Monday: There’s an Aspen presence in the soles of the 49ers

Aspen Surefoot manager Austin Nelson made the trek to San Francisco this year to outfit players with custom insoles in their cleats

Carolyn Sackariason

Aspen Surefoot manager Austin Nelson and his counterpart in Vail made the big leagues earlier this year when the ski boot fitters outfitted the San Francisco 49ers football team with custom orthotics.

This past spring, prior to the draft, Nelson and Jason Hardy of the Surefoot store in Vail drove to Bay Area in the company’s sprinter van and began customizing players’ cleats.

They returned a few weeks later after the draft and outfitted more players at Levi’s Stadium, including second-string quarterback Trey Lance, who had just been signed.

Surefoot founder and owner Bob Shay was contacted by Collin Meador, who serves as a resource for the team’s sports performance technology strategy.

Meador had done research on Surefoot, which is known in the industry as a leader in custom insoles for ski boots, but also outfits professional athletes in myriad disciplines.

“I told Collin how many athletes we’ve done and that our system is very proven,” Shay said. “We were able to send a team there and put it together and Jason and Austin are the two with tremendous experience.”

Nelson said it was a bit daunting at the outset but they found their groove.

“Going into it I was I was pretty nervous … these were the biggest sized feet I’d ever done,” he said, acknowledging he had not done many football cleats in his career but did his own research prior to arriving. “We scanned 35 players in the first training camp and did insoles for 14 hours straight.”

Surefoot uses a proprietary foot scanner that measures the foot in 538 places, producing a three-dimensional topographical map of the bottom of the foot. That data is then sent electronically to an insole fabrication machine.

Hardy and Nelson had those tools on site, and were able to adjust players’ orthotics in real time.

“The next day we watched them on the training field doing sprints and drills, and they were able to give us immediate feedback,” Nelson said. “The team needed someone like us to come in and get it done and no one is doing them as quickly and efficiently as are.”

He and Shay noted that Surefoot is a standout in the industry because of not only how many custom insoles they do, but no one is doing it with the precision of the scan and a three-axis CAD-CAM milling machine.

“We are the largest maker of custom orthotics in the country,” Shay said, adding Surefoot has outfitted athletes for the U.S. Ski Team, NBA, PGA and NHL and a host of other sports but never an entire team. “Skiing is our focus, but this opened the door for hopefully doing more teams.”

Nelson said a lot of the 49ers players hadn’t thought about wearing an orthotic in their cleats before, and most of them were pleased with the results.

“They were stoked,” he said. “It was a really cool experience and process to see how we helped them.”